The UNC Social Business Conference asked student teams from across the UNC system to identify community problems, then take a business-oriented approach to solving them.
31 student teams from all 17 UNC campuses developed proposals that they hoped would both solve community problems and be self-sustaining. Students worked with faculty and staff beginning last spring, then with mentors from TiE Carolinas and the SBTDC, to develop plans that built off their knowledge of a wide variety of disciplines, and observations to address community problems related to food and agriculture, energy, job training and retraining. Some examples:
- Using videogames to retrain unemployed people;
- Improving the efficiency of the market for used medical equipment to make sure underserved markets get exactly the equipment they need;
- Rebranding a struggling rural community’s downtown area to improve economic performance;
- Using aquaponics to turn fish waste into plant food, or recycling hog waste;
- Creating a market that allows homeless people to sell their art.
During the conference, teams made preliminary presentations in front of small groups of judges, selected from across the state and the nation for their experience in community engagement and business. Judges moved forward to the finals student groups from Ellizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, NC A&T, NC State, UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Greensboro and Winston-Salem State. After final presentations in front of the entire room, NC State’s “Pennies for Progress” team finished first, followed by a plan from Fayetteville State, a proposal to convert biowaste, with UNC- Chapel Hill’s recycled medical equipment proposal finishing third.
The NC State proposal Pennies4Progress, outlines in detail a strategy for retailers to donate one penny of every purchase to supporting nonprofit work, thereby relieving nonprofits of some of the challenges of fundraising. View a summary of the plan.