More Cash, Prizes Added to Pure MI Social Entrepreneurship Challenge

The Pure Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge, a statewide competition to advance innovative solutions to social challenges, has added $40,000 in new prizes, for a competition total of $90,000. It has also extended its idea submission deadline to April 10.

Billed as the nation’s first coordinated, public-private effort to advance social entrepreneurship, the Pure Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge is administered by the Michigan Corps, the Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest (GLEQ), and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

The new $25,000 MEDC Community Ventures Award will be presented to the entrepreneur who makes the most effective impact on “structural unemployment” by hiring at least five new employees from Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, or Saginaw.

Elizabeth Garlow, Michigan Corps’ Executive Director, says the structurally unemployed are those who have struggled with unemployment for a long time and are usually in need of job skills—including those returning home after incarceration, adults without high school degrees, people without a solid work history, and at-risk youth. The Community Ventures Award is part of a larger effort spearheaded by the state to hire at least 1,000 structurally unemployed residents from distressed neighborhoods in the previously mentioned cities.

The utility company Consumers Energy and a nonprofit organization called The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW) are sponsoring the Fostering Energy Affordability category to encourage scalable solutions to reduce energy consumption and the development of tools that reduce energy costs in low-income neighborhoods. Consumers Energy and THAW are offering a $10,000 prize to an emerging company with market traction in these areas and a $5,000 prize for the best new business idea.

Social entrepreneurs who want to participate in the challenge should go online to submit their ideas for how to tackle issues like structural unemployment and reducing energy costs using sustainable solutions that provide clear societal benefit, Garlow says. Once individuals or teams submit their ideas, they’ll be able to access coaches from GLEQ’s network to help develop those ideas. Online and in-person events will also be offered along the way to further assist participants in refining their submissions before the final May 20 application deadline. The winners will be announced at a June 18 event.

The Pure Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge began accepting idea submissions in early February, and Garlow says so far the response has been “amazing,” with several hundred submissions from across the state.

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