A Chain of Positive Change – U21 RISE Award winners announced

From enabling more refugees to gain language support to assisting young education leaders to further mitigate the academic impact of Covid-19, U21 is delighted to play a role in furthering the impact of student social entrepreneurs via the RISE showcase and Award.

With the introduction of the Real Impact on Society and Environment (RISE) awards in 2019, U21 sought to enable the development of projects seeking to make a positive impact on global challenges related to the Sustainable Development Goals. This year, despite the significant challenges the pandemic has posed to universities and students, a further 20 student projects, involving 75 students were nominated to the Showcase and Awards taking the total number of student social entrepreneurs supported to 332 in just 3 years.

91 student projects supported, involving 332 students and more than 230 pledges of support

An international panel from the world of social entrepreneurship and innovation had the unenviable task of choosing the best teams from the selection of inspirational video pitches, and we’re delighted to share the winning entries below.  

Most Impact: ADUX - Leaders for Education, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico.  

ADUX: Leaders for education seeks to promote quality education and reduce educational gap produced due to COVID-19

Most Innovative: The Moon Beam Co., National University of Singapore, Singapore

The Moonbeam co. is a Singaporean impact start-up that is changing the way food waste is treated: upcycling cooked rice to create sustainable beer and granola.

Most Potential: Delta Waterways, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Delta Waterways is using the power of high-tech satellite data and advanced data analysis techniques to revolutionise the way the world monitors waterway health.

Most Collaborative: Public Health Beyond borders, University of Maryland, USA

Public Health Beyond Borders is a start-up non-profit that aims to empower families and communities, both locally and globally, to achieve their best health through health education workshops and advocacy.

U21’s Provost Jenny Dixon was so impressed by the quality of projects submitted that she funded an additional Provost award, bringing the total number of awards granted to five.  

Provost’s Award: AILEMapp, Hong Kong University, Hong Kong

AILEM is an app that aims to provide language education for refugees and asylum seekers to help integrate in a foreign country.

Xinyao Liu from AILLEMapp commented “The impact and support through U21 will be the next step for more refugees and asylum seekers to gain language support, this is our ultimate goal. The seed funding will allow us to expand our app to support refugees and asylum seekers in Hong Kong […]. Our app organization employs many refugee families that help us from art to translations, our goal is to help families through financial support along with the language support we already provide. Therefore, the seed funding will also support the refugee families that help us with our app.”

On top of the seed funding awarded to the winners of the RISE Awards, the RISE development programme, open to all projects nominated to the RISE showcase, also offers a unique opportunity for student entrepreneurs around the world to connect, share knowledge, and create a global community of those taking action for good.

“Being part of U21 RISE has been a great opportunity for ADUX to obtain a global perspective of implementing innovative solutions for the different problems as a society,” commented Eréndira Rodríguez from ADUX, Leaders for education,  “It has given us a valuable network of connections with other students and social leaders, so we can cooperate in our projects and have a better and bigger impact with our solutions. Thanks to this experience, ADUX will be able to give access to quality education to more youth, and create a chain of positive change

The founders of Moon Beam Co. concurred “U21 RISE has connected us with other like-minded student founders from whom we have learnt so much. These inspiring leaders have shared how they are tackling different social and environmental issues in their communities. We are even planning a collaboration with the other group from Singapore and we are excited to see how this U21 network will connect us.“

What’s more via Pledges all RISE finalists can receive support from the U21 global network of academic, professionals and industry experts in order to further progress their projects.

“U21 RISE has given us the opportunity to expand our network across the world, which is essential for our global business outlook. We have talked to data scientists passionate about social change from Mexico and made contacts in the Singapore space industry to give just a few examples.” (Morgan Dolfing, Delta Waterways).

All of the projects, including the winning entries, can be found on the U21 RISE Showcase pages on our website. RISE finalist projects are open to pledges of support until the end of May; this could be an offer of mentoring, some expert advice or even some hands-on support. Whether you can offer an hour over Zoom to share your expertise, or you are inspired to get involved with their work yourself, your support could make all the difference. You can find out more about pledging here

Later this year U21 will launch a new programme to further support aspiring student entrepreneurs. The programme aims to support even more students to convert their passion for a particular social issue into project ideas and to set up a social enterprise like those featured in RISE. We asked Sara Hatfield from Public Health Beyond Borders for their advice for students thinking of entering RISE in the future:  "If you're uncertain as to whether to pitch your project, always go for it. You never know what opportunities await you or what individuals and organizations are interested in supporting your work. You never know, you just may find an international community dedicated to supporting and growing your initiative!"

Amber Bartlett