OptimizeWayne is holding its second Social Innovation Challenge this year and is looking for motivated and creative students to participate. Teams will take time to perfect their ideas for community impact with workshops and mentor support before presenting them to a panel of judges, who will award top presenters with funding for their projects. The challenge is open to students of all majors and the deadline to submit is Oct. 31.
OptimizeWayne is a student-run organization that works to make ideas about social change in Detroit a reality. Launched last winter by juniors Kavya Davuluri and Limi Sharif, the group gives innovative and inspired students a way to share their ideas for the chance to receive funding to put those ideas in motion.
“This is a call to action for students who have ideas for a nonprofit, business or organization that would make a positive change in Detroit to sign up for the challenge. We are really excited about this year because the organization is growing,” Davuluri said.
The challenge will take five months to complete. Participating teams will attend a four-hour workshop once a month to work with mentors on developing their self-directed projects. Teams will then receive the support and recourses necessary for that development. The selection showcase — during which teams will present their ideas to a diverse panel of judges that will include WSU faculty — will take place in April 2018.
OptimizeWayne has received support from many groups across campus, including the Office of the Provost.
"Provost Whitfield has been an advocate of OptimizeWayne from the very beginning. He's provided us with countless resources, support and connections to help us thrive and grow as an organization," Davuluri said. "We wouldn't have the success we have had without him."
The group is also excited to be included in the university's new Innovation Hub, which will open Nov. 15.
Last year, 10 teams participated in the challenge and seven were awarded a total of $12,500. Some of the winning ideas included ToDoolie, an app that pairs high school students with odd jobs to help them save for specific purposes; Thrive, an organization that sells healthy food on campus and uses the proceeds to make care packages for cancer patients at Karmanos Cancer Institute; and Wayne State’s PERIOD chapter, which provides feminine hygiene products to impoverished women.
Davuluri said they hope to raise $50,000 to award during this year’s Social Innovation Challenge through GoFundMe, university sponsorship and nonprofit grants.
“The challenge is for students, by students. We want to see each other succeed and will do all that it takes to make sure teams who sign up get the best experience and learn what it takes to make a startup succeed in Detroit,” Davuluri said.