Budding social entrepreneurs now have space in the heart of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus to build, accelerate and scale up their initiatives. The Social Innovation Incubator opened its doors Monday, Jan. 23, on the third floor of the historic YMCA building, home of the Campus Y. The incubator will provide physical space, seed capital and equipment to its first class of resident teams as well as legal, tax, communications and other expert advice.
The following four teams were selected for residency in the incubator for the spring semester and were announced over the weekend at the TEDxUNC conference. They are:
• KM Water Solutions.The mission of KM Water Solutions is to develop, evaluate and commercialize the Compartment Bag Test, which tests for fecal bacteria in water, foods and on hands using a color-changing agent that can be easily read and scored by eye. This social innovation has the potential to improve the lives and health of the more than 1 billion people worldwide who do not have access to clean water.
• SEA. SEA Brand, LLC, is an apparel company that fundraises for the social sector. By associating colors with causes, SEA enables consumers to tastefully identify with and support the cause of their choice. SEA donates at least 25 percent of all profits to charity. This social innovation makes supporting a cause fashionable.
• HOPE Gardens. HOPE Gardens is a community space in Chapel Hill that uses sustainable agriculture to address the persistent challenge of poverty. Through the gardens, local low-income residents can develop important skills and network with other members of the larger community. This social innovation is focused on addressing the issues of access to healthy foods and unemployment in the Chapel Hill community.
• Musical Empowerment. Carolina Music Outreach pairs children from underprivileged backgrounds with UNC students who volunteer to teach free music lessons. The Musical Empowerment initiative seeks to support this program through a musical instrument lending program. This social innovation will bring the varied benefits of a musical education to low-income children who would otherwise find the cost of such an education to be prohibitive.
The Social Innovation Incubator supports the Innovate@Carolina Roadmap, UNC's plan to help Carolina become a world leader in launching University-born ideas for the good of society. The incubator is made possible through strategic campus partnerships with the minor in entrepreneurship, the Center for Global Initiatives, the Community Development Law Clinic at UNC School of Law and the Center for Sustainable Enterprise at Kenan-Flagler Business School. To learn more about the Innovate@Carolina Roadmap, visit the website.
Since 1860, the Campus Y has been a center for social justice at UNC. At the Campus Y, students have engaged in highly entrepreneurial and increasingly sophisticated approaches to social justice in the areas of public health, human rights, education, youth development, poverty alleviation and environmental advocacy. For more information about the Campus Y and the incubator, visit the website.