Students Propose Social Innovations

February 2, 2018

By Chip Underhill

Saint Anselm College students developed proposals to improve quality of life and address social inequities in a competition inspired by the “Shark Tank” television show. The Social Innovation Pitch Competition on January 27 featured five teams representing 16 academic study majors.

Social innovation develops solutions to social problems, specifically creating benefits for the whole of society versus individuals or limited groups. A premium is placed on exceeding existing solutions for sustainability, efficiency, and effectiveness. In the Saint Anselm competition, judges from the business world evaluated student teams for presentations, or “pitches,” that could be no longer than three minutes, and include no more than three presentation slides.

First Place in the Social Innovation Pitch Competition was awarded to Team FRESH START, whose pitch posed:

  • How might Saint Anselm College reduce its food waste and help the community, including distribution of leftovers to food banks, and unusable foods to farms?

Sharing a $300 prize, FRESH START members were Caroline Ihlefeld ’20 from Fairfield, Conn. (psychology); Katelyn McCoole ’20 of Epping, N.H. (finance and marketing); Brianna McLaughlin ’20, Duxbury, Mass. (international business and marketing), and Rebecca Pontier ‘18 from Long Valley, N.J. (elementary education).

Second Place went to Team BLOOM which targeted:

  • Reconnecting a disconnected generation by solving loneliness and building relationships on campus through music.

Sharing a $200 prize, Team BLOOM members were Nicholas Cadigan ’18, from Braintree, Mass. (finance and economics); Hung Mai ’19 of Hanoi, Vietnam (computer science); Jessica Kaufman ’18 Portsmouth, R.I. (economics); Sam Whalen ’18 from Kennebunkport, Maine (English).

The competition was developed by Professor Kathleen Flannery of the psychology department and Assistant Professor Dina Frutos-Bencze of economics and business, with sponsorship by CEBG and the Career Development Center. The event was also a recipient of the college’s first Diversity and Inclusion Innovation Fund awards.

Other teams in the Social Innovation Pitch Challenge included:

Team H.O.M.E., which focused on Saint Anselm College assisting with Manchester’s homeless population, with aims to look beyond stigmas, coordinate like-minded resources, and do more than simply provide funding.

Team PLAN Z addressed how the Saint Anselm community can improve productivity in everyday lives. The team’s pitch proposed an organization and/or app to help people find joy and passion in what they do, sustain and improve the environment, reduce clutter/distractions, and take care of oneself.

Team TRASH 4 CASH concentrated on “the Healthier Planet,” with strategies such as paying people to deliver trash to be turned into electricity.

Professor Flannery explained that 10 faculty from seven departments served as facilitators to explain human-centered design (understanding unmet needs and barriers) and skills for interviewing with empathy. Following a group session, the student teams deployed on- and off-campus to interview subjects, returning to share their interviewee's stories and refine the teams’ research into a social innovation pitches.

Two Saint Anselm alumni served as judges for the competition: Alexandra (Pugliese) Horton ‘11, owner, Café la Reine; and Dan Puopolo ‘98, vice president of NextShares Solutions LLC. Also judging were Amanda Grappone Osmer, President/CEO, Grappone Auto; and Michael Behrmann, director of the New Hampshire Clean Tech Council.

Professor Flannery noted, “President Steven DiSalvo gave an inspiring opening to the students, stating ‘If you are doing good, you will do well.’ Everyone -- students, facilitators, and judges -- are all looking forward to the next Pitch Competition.”