Thanks to Community Foundation support the Social Innovation Challenge is set to make an impact on the Lubbock community.
During the spring 2022 semester, Texas Tech University's Innovation Hub at Research Park partnered with local organizations to launch the Social Innovation Challenge for nonprofit startups.
The competition's aim is to support socially impactful startups by offering a place in the year-long Texas Tech Accelerator program and a generous grant sponsored by The Community Foundation of West Texas.
“The Social Innovation Challenge was designed to support trailblazers who use their passion to find innovative solutions to society's most complex problems,” said Taysha Williams, managing director of the Innovation Hub.
In February, nine startups applied for the prestigious award and three finalists were selected to present their ideas to the community at the Texas Tech Accelerator competition.
The Innovative Guidance, Entrepreneurship, and Outreach Center (GEO) led by Chief Empowerment Officer Jaafar Abdullah was announced as the winner at the Discoveries to Impact Conference in April. Abdullah joins eight other startup founders in the sixth cohort of the Texas Tech Accelerator program.
The Accelerator program provides startup founders $25,000 in seed funding, access to expert industry mentors and co-working space during the year-long program. The Community Foundation of West Texas' gift of $6,250 will support GEO as a part of its seed funding.
Focusing on character building, entrepreneurship, life skills, family re-unification and accountability, GEO offers an innovative and community-driven approach to helping former inmates successfully re-enter society through educational programs.
“The funding from the Social Innovation Challenge will help me scale GEO's operations and revamp our programming in the Lubbock County Detention Center,” Abdullah said. “We are now able to strengthen our workforce development for those re-entering society.
“A plan without viable opportunities for growth and financial prosperity leads to increased recidivism. Empowerment, accountability and opportunities to utilize newly acquired skillsets and a new knowledge base lead to personal mastery for these individuals and collective healing for our local community.”
To make the Social Innovation Challenge possible, the Hub worked with numerous partners from Texas Tech and the Lubbock community. Alongside the West Texas Community Foundation, the Social Innovation Challenge was supported by Open Door, the United Way of Lubbock, Texas Tech's Office of Outreach and Engagement and the YWCA of Lubbock.
“It has been a great pleasure working with local nonprofit leaders to develop this program,” Williams said. “Without the commitment of community leaders like Glenda Mathis at the YWCA of Lubbock, Devein McCain of the Lubbock Area United Way, Tami Swoboda and Stephen Warren at the Community Foundation of West Texas and Chad Wheeler at Open Door, the Social Innovation Challenge wouldn't have been possible.
“Their passion for this community is evident. I am looking forward to seeing how our quest to harness the power of social innovation will impact our local community and help build strong social entrepreneurs!”
Applications for the next Social Innovation Challenge open Aug. 1. Those interested in competing in the next challenge can find all the information needed to apply here.