For over a decade, the Ideas to Serve (I2S) competition has been a platform to support, educate, and celebrate Georgia Tech students’ ideas around social innovation. Teams have tackled problems as diverse and vital as sanitation in developing nations, improving access to clean water, and mitigating food deserts.
As the COVID-19 public health crisis accelerated, all of us at the Institute for Leadership and Social Impact (formerly known as the Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship) knew that while our approach to the competition needed to change, our focus on innovation around social, economic, and environmental equality should not.
With the help of so many of our Georgia Tech colleagues, community collaborators, and the wider Atlanta social innovation network, I2S 2020 has come together as a fully-virtual competition.
“This entire effort is an extraordinary demonstration of the adaptability, resilience, and commitment of the entire Georgia Tech and Scheller community,” says Dori Pap, I2S Lead and Managing Director of the Institute for Leadership and Social Impact.
“We are excited to see the I2S competition shine a spotlight on a brand new crop of impressive and dedicated servant leaders as they work on projects that address many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”
Converting a program of this size into a virtual event with such a quick turn-around time was a true demonstration of collaborative impact and the power of servant leadership. Michael Smith and Jacqueline Garner of the Scheller College of Business advised on how to convert the competition to digital while maintaining access and equity. The Scheller MBA Net Impact Chapter assured us that a virtual competition would meet our goals of sustainability in an even more efficient manner. Our I2S student leaders, MBA students Brittany Beisner, Joshua Burr, and Peter Flaaen, worked around the clock to ensure smooth communication with our participants who are now on three different continents.
We reached out to our storytelling workshop leader Joey Asher of Speechworks, and he converted his presentation to a virtual format in two days. And our sponsors, who give generously to support this important and impactful work, joined us in the experiment. We are exceptionally grateful to The Cecil B. Day Program for Business Ethics, Steven A. Denning Technology & Management Program, Center for International Business Education and Research, the Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain, Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, LEAD Program, Hands on Atlanta, Richard Hill, Innovation and Design Collaborative, Moseley Ventures, and Speechworks.
Lastly, the I2S competition would not be nearly as valuable without the contribution of our judges, a panel of enthusiastic and motivated social innovators, entrepreneurs, community advocates, and educators.
Individuals from the private sector, from organizations such as The Coca-Cola Company, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, from non-profits like Building What’s Next, global NGO’s like Agenda for Change, educational institutions such as Emory and Kennesaw State, and public officials from the City of Atlanta, will join us to lend their perspective and advice (see the full list of judges on the I2S website).
We are grateful that these individuals have been flexible and willing to adapt to our new virtual format, and honored that they will continue to dedicate their time to mentor and advise our students.
After much hard work from everyone named above and many more, we look forward to raising the bar and delivering upon our commitment to building the next generation of servant leaders. These students will be on the front lines identifying and tackling global issues in their effort to build a more just, equitable, and sustainable world, long after this crisis is over.
In 2019, I2S emerged with a new approach: focusing on helping students obtain an in-depth understanding of the social or environmental issue they are most passionate about. This led to the creation of our “Problem Discovery Track,”where students examine a problem comprehensively to enable a more holistic problem-solving approach. The Problem Discovery Track completes the full vision of what has always been intended with Ideas to Serve, ensuring that those with passion and skills to serve, but who have not yet identified how to approach effecting change, have the support, mentorship, and resources to identify their role.
In I2S 2020, students will be delving into the history and root causes of problems like racial nutrition disparity, hydroponic agriculture, female hygiene, fast fashion, and quite a bit more.
Of course, we also maintained our “Solutions Track," for teams who have already completed their problem discovery journey and are forming a solution. We have accepted teams with ideas for solutions in fields as diverse as neurobehavioral psychology to sustainability, education, and energy inequity. For a full list of participating teams see the Teams section on our website.
In total, students from across five Georgia Tech Colleges and ten majors will compete in the two Tracks.
This detailed and intentional approach to systemic problem-solving is one that our past successful winners have naturally gravitated toward. I2S Judge Jasmine Burton, founder of Wish for WASH and 2014 “Best Poster and Pitch" winner, recently shared, “As creators, designers, engineers, and other makers, we need to make sure we are designing for problems that truly exist for the end-users that we intend to be creating for.”
The competitor roster will close on April 7, the deadline for the 2020 Application form submission. Finalists will be announced on April 13 and the Virtual Finals will run on April 15 and April 16.
The Award winners will be announced on April 20. That includes the People’s Choice Award, for which we will be calling for input from all of our community beginning on April 14.
Winners will receive between $2,500 (First Place) and $250 (Finalists) cash prizes to support their continued exploration of their chosen issues or to support their work with community organizations. Continue checking back on the I2S home page for announcements and People’s Choice voting.
Finally, we were thrilled to bring in a new partner for this year’s competition, the Skoll Center for Social Entrepreneurship at the Said Business School at Oxford. This summer, the top I2S team(s) will represent Georgia Tech at Oxford’s Map the System Global Challenge and compete (also virtually) with teams from universities around the world. We can't wait to see our students take on this new challenge and shine!