The Rockefeller Foundation-Acumen Student Social Innovation Challenge 2020

Develop an innovative solution to a problem associated with poverty and pitch for a chance to win up to $20,000 plus an invite to a community of entrepreneurs and investors who’ll help turn your idea into a successful venture.

Acumen, with the support of The Rockefeller Foundation, is equipping student innovators to solve problems associated with poverty through a global challenge platform. Student teams from around the world are coming together to explore areas of opportunity, develop ideas, and pitch for funding and mentorship.

Are you a university student that wants to solve problems that matter? You’re in the right place.

  • Learn about social challenges from experts in the field
  • Form a team and an idea for solving one of them
  • Refine your idea through online courses and Learning Labs
  • Pitch your idea for a chance to win funding, mentorship, and support

Challenge Areas:

Today’s issues are too complex to tackle alone. Through our platform, students are forming teams and coming up with solutions to the challenge areas they’ve outlines below:

  • Workforce Development
    Making decent work and quality education accessible and affordable for people with barriers to employment.
  • Financial Inclusion
    Reducing poverty through financial products, services, and platforms that build and protect wealth.
  • Health
    Improving access to and experience of care, and incorporating social determinants of health into a holistic definition of well-being.
  • Food and Agriculture
    Improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, combating food insecurity, and increasing health and nutrition.
  • Energy
    Accelerating access to clean, affordable, reliable energy through off-grid solutions.

The Competition Phases:

Phase 1 — All Participants: Register for Lean Startup and Submit Your Idea

  • Register for the Lean Startup online course before March 3, 2020.
  • Complete the course and submit your social venture idea before April 14, 2020
  • Top teams will be invited to join the Student Social Enterprise Accelerator

Phase 2 — Finalists: Student Social Enterprise Accelerator

  • Online Student Social Enterprise Accelerator will begin on June 8, 2020
  • Develop your idea with one-on-one coaching, peer mentoring, and case studies
  • Pitch your social venture to a panel of judges before August 18, 2020




  • Winning teams will receive up to $20,000 from a funding pool of $100,000
  • Winners will also be invited to join Acumen’s Community of Social Innovators to receive ongoing support from a network of Acumen Fellows, social entrepreneurs, and change-makers


  • Must be a student enrolled in a higher education institution
  • Must form a team of at least two people (at least one member but be a student)
  • Complete 4 of the 5 assignments in the Lean Startup course (including the final assignment) and submit an application for the Accelerator program. At least two team members must complete the Lean Startup course.
  • Interview for and be selected to participate in the Student Social Enterprise Accelerator program.
  • Participate in at least 7 of the 8 Accelerator Learning Labs and submit all assignments, including a final pitch deck. The pitch deck must include a budget for the prize funding and a three-month work plan including key milestones and dates.
  • Must not be a student of any of the following Universities:
    • Australian Catholic University
    • Bethel University
    • CETYS Universidad, Campus Tijuana
    • Davis College Akilah Campus
    • Duke University
    • Ewha University-Industry Collaboration Foundation Center for Entrepreneurship
    • Fordham University
    • Haverford College
    • Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    • Heritage Christian College
    • Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administracion – Venezuela
    • International Islamic University Malaysia
    • Makerere University (Uganda)
    • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    • National University of Management (International College)
    • NewSchool of Architecture & Design
    • North Dakota State University
    • Swarthmore College
    • The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda
    • Trinity University Dublin
    • UC Berkeley
    • UC Davis
    • UC Irvine
    • UCLA
    • UC Merced
    • UC Riverside
    • UC San Diego
    • UC San Francisco
    • UC Santa Barbara
    • UC Santa Cruz
    • Universidad de Antioquia
    • Universidad de Desarrollo
    • Universidad Francisco de Vitoria
    • Universidad de la Americas – Ecuador
    • Universidad del Pacifico
    • University College of Technology Sarawak
    • University of Kentucky
    • University of Michigan
    • University of Minnesota
    • University of San Diego
    • University of St Thomas
    • University of Texas at Austin

Eligible Regions: Open for all

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