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What is GWupstart?
GWupstart is GW's central hub for social entrepreneurship training, mentoring, and funding. Based in the Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, it builds on GW’s strength as an institution that fosters the next generation of citizen leaders. It provides the know-how and support to students to turn their ideas into practical action that makes a measurable, sustained difference.
GWupstart works with both undergraduate and graduate students as they hone their ideas, construct solid plans, and set out to put those plans into action with some share of the $60,000 collectively available annually through our opportunities.
GWupstart offers six competitive opportunities:
- Commitment Maker Challenge - supports students to develop and carry out their own CGI U Commitment to Action
- Knapp Fellowship for Entrepreneurial Service-Learning - helps students connect academics to their own DC-focused projects
- Public Service Grant Commission - supports students to create social entrepreneurial projects in the local DC community
- GWupstart Social Venture Prize Track of the GW New Venture Competition - supports students to develop their own non-profit or for-profit social ventures
- GWupstart D-Prize Poverty Solutions Award - helps students pilot their viable, sustainable plan to distribute known solutions to poverty in a developing world context
- GWupstart Fellowship Program - connects GW student mentors to the next generation of high school social entrepreneurs
Contact Jonathan Butler, Senior Program Associate for Community Engagement and Social Innovation in the Nashman Center, with any questions, including guidance on which opportunities most suit your interests.
What is Social Entrepreneurship?
Social entrepreneurial projects and ventures are fueled by a conviction that in spite of all the good being done in the world, problems persist and new solutions are needed. Social entrepreneurs work with a resourceful, enterprising spirit to close the gap between the seeming intractability of local and global problems and the hope for a healthy, just world. Social entrepreneurs make change by tuning into the needs of the people and places they aim to serve, responding rapidly to feedback, and leveraging tight resources to create social and environmental benefit.
All of our opportunities (see below) are supported by programs that equip students with the skills they need to take their desire to make a difference and turn it into action that makes a difference in the local and global communities they call home. Visit the GWupstart Programs page for information about our for-credit course offering, workshop series, information sessions, and celebrations of students’ social entrepreneurial efforts.
The Commitment Maker Challenge gives GW students the opportunity to compete for funding to support their CGI U Commitments to Action. Awards are available to supplement travel to the annual Clinton Global Initiative University gathering in early March (details will be announced by CGI U in early Fall 2015) and also to directly fund their Commitments to Action, which are new, specific, and measurable social entrepreneurial projects.
The GWupstart Prize Track of the New Venture Competition offers a combined $15,000 in cash prizes for innovative venture plans. Two prizes are awarded annually: Best Non-Profit Social Venture ($7,500) and Best For-Profit Social Venture ($7,500). In 2014 and 2015, four of the ten finalists in the competition were social ventures. These teams finished in the top ten of the hundred plus teams that entered the competition. In the past two years, these teams combined have won over $80,000 to accelerate their vision and work to make a real impact on issues they care about. Watch our finalists' pitches here, including the first-place winner from 2015, the non-profit MEANS Database. Read interviews with some of the finalists here.
The Knapp Fellowship for Entrepreneurial Service-Learning provides grants of up to $10,000 annually for students to design and implement entrepreneurial service-learning projects that make a difference in the world and integrate academic research. The program, funded by President Steven Knapp and Diane Robinson Knapp, is available to GW students only. The deadline to submit a pitch for feedback is mid October - early December, 2015. Proposals are due in late January, 2016.
The Public Service Grant Commission awards up to $20,000 annually to students who need funding to make their entrepreneurial community service project in the greater Washington DC community come to life. The student-led Commission, composed of five graduate and undergraduate students, reviews and recommends student-driven, action-oriented service projects and initiatives for funding. Commissioners review and recommend proposals for funding over the course of four deadlines throughout the academic year.
GWupstart Fellows work one-on-one with high school students participating in LearnServe's programs for the school year (mid September - late April). Fellows help high school social entrepreneurs as they develop social ventures, assist the LearnServe leadership team with program development and logistical support, and co-lead lessons from the LearnServe social entrepreneurship curriculum. LearnServe inspires and trains the next generation of leaders and social entrepreneurs from high schools across the Washington, DC, area. It guides students as they design and launch their own action projects to serve their schools and communities. Most Fellows serve on a weekly basis at School Without Walls on GW's campus. Interested in becoming a Fellow? Apply here.