The UpPrize Social Innovation Challenge engages the community in producing innovative solutions to meet the critical needs of our region’s nonprofits and people. In its second year, UpPrize is the most significantly capitalized social innovation competition focused on improving the quality of life for residents in Southwestern PA. The challenge is organized by The Forbes Funds in collaboration with BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Bridgeway Capital, Comcast Business, UPMC and NEXTpittsburgh. After this cycle, approximately $1 million will have been invested in sustainable solutions proposed by local entrepreneurs and nonprofits.
During the final two weeks of this cycle, we interviewed each of the finalist teams. Our next spotlight features Economic Development South. Interview responses provided by Stephanie Miller, former Deputy Director at EDS.
Why did you apply to UpPrize?
EDS and our team applied to UpPrize as a way to showcase an innovative idea that needed exposure to many audiences and partners. And we are firm believers in the principles of social innovation.
How did you develop your idea? How will it impact the lives of vulnerable populations in Western PA?
The idea for the cornerstore model was born in the community after several months of meetings about the food access and food security. Innovation is birthed from failure and every other food delivery model in the past had not worked in Clairton, so we decided to innovate and approach the problem with a different solution. Several food partners were organized around the development of a cornerstore model - by working with the experts on the issues, EDS and our team were able to secure programmatic funds to operate a cornerstore for six years. At present, we are still looking for funds to acquire a space and purchase equipment - that's what lead us to UpPrize. What lead us to prioritizing this project is that 40% of the population below the age of 5 are living below poverty. Families do not have access to fresh foods and we want to provide consistent access to address that. Access to fresh food is a critical piece in the overall determinant of the health of a community. The cornerstore will directly impact the residents of Clairton, but we hope to establish a scalable and replicable model that can be used to address similar concerns in other food deserts.
What have you learned about yourself or your team as a result of the process?
As a team, I think we've honed in our strengths and our weakness and we've learned how to adjust and reflect on those attributes. It has been a great teambuilding exercise for us and our entire team (they served as the audience to help us prepare throughout the different phases).
What advice do you have for anyone considering applying to UpPrize?
Just go with it. It may not all make sense, but you are working in a space that is already outside of the box and the process to the end forces you beyond your comfort zone and you come out of it knowing more and having a better appreciation for all those involved. You'll also meet great people!
Where can people learn more about your idea?
Anything you'd like to add?
Thank you for the opportunity, we've enjoyed the process!
Economic Development South won $140,000 at the UpPrize Community Showcase on March 30th, 2017. To see the other grand prize winners, click here.