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The Fowler GSIC gives each institution flexibility on deliverables and timing of preliminary rounds. Please consult with your advisor for specific campus guidelines. 


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Problems studied in the first round and solutions proposed in later stages of the Challenge must address at least one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Because the goals are interconnected, some teams find that their problem area touches as many as three SDGs.



This video provides a quick overview of the goals:


What's your Problem Workshop:

Originally presented by Dr. Andrea Yoder Clark at the University of San Diego in 2017, this workshop provides students with a framework for analyzing the problem they plan to address with their social innovation. It covers all the necessary components that teams will need to include in the problem analysis for Round 1.


What is Social Entrepreneurship? Podcast with Sally Osberg

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Sally Osberg, former President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation shares on social entrepreneurs, why they matter and their role in the era of Covid in the Skoll Center’s Reimagine Podcast Series.

Student teams are encouraged to “apprentice with” a social or environmental issue of their choice in this round. Jessamyn Shams-Lau, Director of the Peery Foundation, used the term “apprenticing with the problem” in courses she taught at Brigham Young University. The phrase is a call to invite students to work with, learn from, or do hands-on research in an existing organization or community effort as a means of learning more about a problem and the system holding it in place. Using this approach, students are enabled to find opportunities and contribute to change, rather than initially jumping in to take the lead on starting a new venture to solve it. A great tool to help you apprentice with your problem is Daniela Papi-Thornton’s  Impact Gaps Canvas which she highlights in her report, Tackling Heropreneurship. We encourage you to use the Impact Gaps Canvas to help answer questions about your problem,  study existing solutions and help you develop an idea that offers sustainable impact.

Impact Gaps Canvas


Systems Practice - Acumen Academy Course


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Identify specific points in the system where you can make a big impact

Starts January 19, 2021, 11 weeks, Free






These deliverables are recommended by the Fowler GSIC for Round 1. Please check with your university for campus specific requirements.

  • Problem Summary: A one-page analysis of the problem outlining three areas: the problem landscape, the existing solutions landscape, and the current gaps and opportunities. 

  • Infographic/Visual Aid/Chart of Problem Analysis: A visual representation of the problem landscape that shows a deep and nuanced understanding of the specific social or environmental issue studied by the team. This document should cover the problem and its causes, examine the current solution pool and players, identify gaps in the current service provision, and highlight opportunities for change. Excellent submissions usually address a narrow enough issue to allow for thorough analysis. A narrower focus also provides more flexibility to give deliberate thought to the specific community, customer, or client that will be the key beneficiary of the solution to be developed in Round 2. 

  • A bibliography of all the sources cited in the executive summary or the visual map. 

Submission Portal


To submit your Round 1 materials, create an account with your school email address on the submission portal and upload your entry. This brief tutorial video shares some helpful tips on how to access and use the platform. Please note that some universities use alternative submission portals. Confirm with your University Lead to make sure your entry is received.



Round 1 Samples

Round 1 of the Fowler GSIC requires students to analyze the problem that they are trying to solve, and map the current problem and solution landscapes prior to proposing a solution.1

Examples of Executive Summaries

Note: As of the 2020-2021 academic year, this requirement has been updated to a submission of a one-page summary.

Executive Summary Example 1

Executive Summary Example 2

Examples of Round 1 Infographics

Infographic Example 1

Infographic Example 2

1 “Mapping the issue” as the first step for social entrepreneurship began as part of the “Oxford Global Challenge” hosted by the Skoll Center for Social Entrepreneurship at the Said Business School at the University of Oxford (



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Depending on each university’s current programs or course offerings, this round can consist of two stages. An online round to produce a final shortlist of teams who go on to compete in a live pitch/Campus Finals for the chance to be among the two Global Finalist teams. Or one stage consisting of a live pitch event featuring all teams that moved on to Round 2 from which the top two will be selected.  

The suggested deliverables for Round 2 include:  

  • An  8-minute pitch/video about their social innovation.

  • A completed Social Business Canvas (Recommended).  The Social Business Model Canvas helps students capture and design their business model. Note: Students will be judged on their 8-minute pitch only.

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Through the University of San Diego's Center for Peace and Commerce partnership with Acumen Academy, your student teams will be able to access an exclusive online library of resources ( provided by Acumen, sharing expert guidance through the process of building a successful social enterprise. 

There are a limited number of free codes to on-demand Master Classes for students of participating Universities, reach out to us at for more information.

Plus, the Fowler GSIC winners will be invited to join Acumen Accelerators, a social innovator network hosted by Acumen where they can connect with peer innovators and receive ongoing support.

Developing Original Ideas - Generate ideas and pick the most promising one to act on.

On Demand, 2 Hours

Lean Startup Principles for the Social Sector. Map out your customers’ pains, gains, and jobs to be done. Starts February 16, 5 weeks, Free.

Business Models for Social Enterprise Develop a business model that drives financial sustainability and social impact. Starts March 16, 5 weeks, Free.


Center for Peace and Commerce, University of San Diego


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Created by the Founders of the Business Model Canvas, you can create an account to access free PDFs (recommended), or purchase their project based software to be able to make tweaks and see real-time projection changes ($299 or a free 30-day trial).

Business Model Canvas Explained  

Strategyzer's Value Proposition Canvas Explained

Inspired by the Business Model Canvas, the Social Business Canvas Model is an excellent tool for designing a model for your social enterprise.



IDEO on Human Centered Design

What is human centered design?


In Round 2, teams submit a solution to their chosen problem that is feasible, acceptable to the community/target population, and has a demonstrable possibility of impact, sustainability, and scalability. Finalists must demonstrate well-defined next steps, a realistic implementation plan, and their team’s commitment to implementing the venture.

For help on creating your solution, check out Adam Grant’s Masterclass on Acumen Academy:” Developing Original Ideas” for help on developing your winning innovation. 


Examples of Sample Decks

Sample Deck 2

Sample Deck 1



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While the Fowler GSIC recommends an 8-minute pitch deliverable in this round to better prepare teams for the Finals, each University has flexibility of the pitch design/length for their Campus Finals. Whether you’re crafting a 5 or 10-minute presentation, you’ll find this selection of tools and resources helpful to perfect your pitch and tell a compelling story.


How to take your Social Venture to the Next level

Acumen Academy Blog

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11 Inspiring Examples of Social Entrepreneurs Pitching their Social Ventures

Acumen Academy Blog

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The top two teams from each participating institution will convene for this this year’s hybrid Global Finals the week of June 7.*  All teams will pitch virtually in a preliminary round of pitches over designated Pitch Days. Following the first series of Pitch Days, judges will shortlist the top teams for a final pitching round from June 10 to 11. All Global Finalist teams will have the opportunity to showcase their venture during our virtual showcase event prior to the Finals Awards Ceremony on Saturday, June 12. Additional details on the venture showcase will be provided in the Global Finals Guide in the spring.

A note on the 2021 Finals

Depending on current state Covid guidelines, we will plan for a reduced in-person presence for the Finals Awards Ceremony and networking/learning events for universities that can travel to Minneapolis. With the exception of the fast pitches, all Finalist pitches will remain virtual to offer an equal playing field for teams that cannot attend in-person. In the event that guidelines do not permit any in-person gatherings, the Finals will be presented as a full virtual event.

The Pitch (Format, Deliverables & Design)

All Finalist teams are asked to prepare a 10-minute pitch (with accompanying slides) and a 90-second elevator pitch for the Global Finals. Recorded elevator pitches will be shared during the Awards Ceremony. While the 90-second pitches are not factored into the final judging decision, we encourage teams to put their best foot forward since it will be shared with our virtual audience for the Audience Choice voting during the Awards Ceremony. During the Pitch Days, teams will present using a slide deck and answer questions from a panel of expert judges.

Each team will be assigned a 30-minute pitch block on either day and can expect the following in their allotted time:

  • Live virtual 10-minute pitch (Or sharing of your pre-recorded 10-minute in the event of technical/connection issues)

  • 10 minutes Q&A

  • 10 minutes feedback


Three components make up the Global Finals submission:

  • Long Pitch: 10-minute pitch, delivered (virtually on in-person) to a panel of judges by at least one member of the finalist team.

  • Fast Pitch: 90-second pitch, presented by the shortlisted finalist teams prior to the awards


  • An accompanying Pitch Deck: For 10-minute pitch only. No slides used/needed for the 90-second pitch.


The order, content, and design of slides are up to each team’s discretion, but we recommend following the best practices for presentations and avoiding too much text and content on each slide. We also recommend avoiding the use of too many slides. Successful pitches generally have between ten and twenty slides, although more slides may be appropriate in some cases.

The Top 12 from the first round of Pitch Days will be invited to present their pitches again. A new set of judges will review their pitches to determine the final winner(s) of the seed funding prize pool of $60,000+.


June 8-11, 2021

Innovation Week runs concurrently with Pitch Days in the week leading up to the Awards Ceremony. The itinerary will feature a celebration and showcase of all Global Finalist innovations. Students and Administrators will also have the opportunity to participate in virtual tours, workshops and networking events.

90 Second Fast Pitch Guidelines

The hybrid Finals Awards Ceremony will be held on Saturday, June 12 and will feature the 90-second pitches of all top shortlisted teams. For teams attending the Awards Ceremony in-person, one student team member will have the option to deliver the 90-second pitch with no notes, slides, or props. Recorded fast pitches will be shared for any Finalist teams participating virtually.

Tips for Teams  

  • Start with a hook for the audience (a brief story, quote, or question) and focus on the problem, the idea, the team, and the plan. The financial ask does not need to be included.

  • Practice several times to be sure the pitch sounds authentic, inspiring, and confident.

Watch examples from prior years:

  • May 11, 2021: Global Finals Guide Distributed. The guide will provide details and information about the 2021 Global Finals for the Finalist teams.

  • June 4, 2021: Global Finals Submission Deadline. Recorded pitches are due to the Fowler GSIC team.

  • June  8-11, 2021: Innovation Week & Global Finals Pitch Days. Global Finalists from all participating universities present their pitches prior to participating in the Awards Ceremony. Workshops and virtual tour offerings for teams participating virtually.

  • June 12, 2021: Finals Awards Ceremony. A showcase of the Top 12 teams and distribution of seed funding.

  • June 13, 2020: Networking & Professional Development. Programming for teams attending in Minneapolis, including networking and visits to Twin Cities attractions.


Please Note: As the Fowler GSIC is a not-for-profit initiative, we aim to keep costs as low as  possible for students and participating universities. However, at this time, we are not able to sponsor student trips to the Global Finals. Therefore, it is the teams’ or participating universities’ responsibility to fund travel costs to the Finals. We will provide information for budget-friendly lodging options in the Global Finals Guide to be distributed in the spring.

Global Finals Rubric

View and download the Global Finals judging rubric:


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