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Seven students jump for joy at the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge.

A social venture pitch competition for students focused on sustainable change

Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge

A social venture learning experience for students, professionals, and entrepreneurs, the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge has connected more than 3,000 innovators from 25 countries around the world - including Australia, South Korea, Rwanda, Ireland, Mexico, and Peru - recognizing their outstanding social ventures based on positive impact and financial sustainability. Teams can win a share of $78,500 in seed funding for businesses at any stage. More than $700,000 has been distributed to seed the most innovative and promising global ventures.

The Challenge invites teams to engage with one or more of the United Nation's 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Participants can address any social or environmental problem of their choice as long as it is aligned with at least one of the Global Goals.

Applicants can compete in the Fowler GSIC by participating in the St. Thomas Business Plan competition. Competitors will have the option to self-select into the Fowler GSIC special track. Visit the Business Plan page to learn more.

Participants will have the opportunity to:

  • Develop a deep understanding of a social or environmental problem
  • Identify gaps in current solutions and create a viable business alternative
  • Pitch their venture for a share of $78,500-plus in prize money
  • Receive coaching and connections to a global network of changemakers

Competition Information

February 8, 2024
Preliminary Round submissions due online via St. Thomas Business Plan Competition. Visit the Business Plan website to learn more.

March 1, 2024
St. Thomas Finals & Awards Ceremony (in conjunction with St.Thomas Business Plan Competition). Two Global Finalists Announced.

April 26, 2024
Global Finals pitch decks are due a week before the Finals to the Fowler GSIC team at hello@fowlergsic.org

May 3 - 5, 2024
Global Finalists pitch their proposed innovative solutions at a in-person Finals event hosted in Minneapolis by the University of St.Thomas.

Online Round:

To be eligible, students must first apply to the St.Thomas Business Plan competition and submit a short summary for the Fowler GSIC special track. In this round, we ask teams to step back and deeply study, or "apprentice with a problem," rather than devise a solution right away. Teams analyze a social or environmental issue of their choice that is aligned with at least one of the UN's SDGs.

  • A three to a five-page problem and solution summary. This summary should showcase a comprehensive understanding of the specific social or environmental issue studied by the team/applicant. The summary must highlight the problem and its causes, examine the current solution pool & players, identify gaps in the current service provision and highlight where opportunities for change may exist. We also ask teams to discuss a preview of their proposed solution, how it will work and why it is better or more effective than existing ones. Excellent submissions usually address a narrow enough issue to demonstrate thorough analysis and give deliberate thought to the specific community, customer, or client that will be the key beneficiary of the solution to be presented
  • A bibliography of all cited sources.

Resources: Reference this checklist for helpful reminders for your summary.

St. Thomas Finals (In-person Pitch Competition):

In the next round or campus finals, shortlisted teams will pitch their social venture idea during the St.Thomas Business Plan competition for the chance to be among the two teams that represent St. Thomas at the Global Finals.

  • A 10-minute pitch of your innovation
  • A 60-second elevator pitch of your idea
  • Accompanying slides

Resources: Visit the Fowler GSIC Students Page for resources on preparing your pitch for the campus finals round.

Global Finals:

Up to two finalist teams from each participating college or university will convene for Global Finals on May 3rd. All global teams will have the opportunity to pitch in a preliminary round for the chance to be among the top global finalist teams. All in-person pitches will be held May 3-5 in San Diego. Pitch decks are due on April 26th to the Fowler GSIC team. Finalists must demonstrate well-defined next steps, a realistic implementation plan, and their team's commitment to implementing the venture. Additional guidance for Global Finalists will be available.

  • Live/virtual10-minute pitch, to a panel of judges by at least one member of the Finalist team. For virtual teams, a recording of your pitch will be requested in the event of technical problems.
  • A 60-second recorded/live elevator pitch. While the 60-second pitches are not factored into the final judging decision, we encourage teams to put their best foot forward since a recording or live version of the top teams' pitches will be shared with the audience for voting and a cash prize during the finals Awards Ceremony.
  • An accompanying pitch deck/slides for the 10-minute pitch. No slides used/required for the 60-second pitch.

First, sign up and upload your entry to the Business Plan Reviewr platform then share your FGSIC summary here on the portal.

Prizes awarded for the FGSIC Award at the Business Plan Competition are as follows.

  • First Place: $6,000
  • Second Place: $3,000
  • Third Place: $1,500
  • Fourth Place: $1,000
  • Fifth Place: $500

Global Finalists will also have the chance to compete for a selection of prizes ranging up to $25,000 for first place at the May Finals.

Visit the Business Plan website for eligibility requirements.

Questions about the Challenge? Email Billy Mzenga at billy.mzenga@stthomas.edu, Director of the Institute of Social Innovation to schedule a meeting.

2021 Global Finals video

2021 Global Finals

St. Thomas was honored to host the 2021 Global Finals. Twenty-seven universities from 15 countries convened virtually to push boundaries, build bonds and inspire change. Catch the moments from the Awards Ceremony streamed live from Minneapolis, MN.

2020 Global Finals

2020 Global Finals

Forty-three finalist teams from 26 universities around the world pitched their social innovations virtually in 2020. Watch the 2020 virtual Global Finals broadcast live from San Diego, CA.

Upcoming Events

Fowler GSIC & St.Thomas Business Plan Info Session

The Fowler GSIC (FGSIC) is for the trailblazers, the dreamers, the doers. Whether your passion lies in helping alleviate hunger or stopping environmental degradation, the FGSIC invites you to engage with one or more of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals by developing an innovation that responds to an environmental or social challenge at the local or global level.

Learn more about the Business Plan Competition requirements and resources, as well as the new opportunity for social ventures to compete in the Fowler Global Social Innovation Award special track. Learn about the deliverables, deadlines and the path to becoming one of two teams to represent St. Thomas on a global stage. There will also be an opportunity for Q&A with a mentor and judge of the competition.

Missed the info sessions? Watch the recording here!

1:1 Mentoring Sessions

1:1 Mentoring Sessions are 30-minute meetings per individual or team with faculty to receive help or feedback on your submission.

Schedule a General Business Mentor Session Here.

Schedule a Social Venture Specific Mentor Session:

  • With Kelsey Joson Here
  • With Kelli Nelson Here

St. Thomas Finals and Awards Ceremony

Finalist teams will pitch their social venture ideas for the chance to be among the two teams to represent St.Thomas at the Global Finals and win prize money for their ideas.

Friday, March 1, 2024
9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Schulze Auditorium, SCH 120, Minneapolis Campus