For 412 Food Rescue, it means a big boost in rolling out ready-to-eat and fast food that is “actually good and actually cheap.”
For the South Clairton Corner Store Project, it means saving residents of the community a 45-minute bus trip to access fresh food. There is none available now.
For BlastPoint, it means using technology to level the playing field and allow everyone to access big data insights, a luxury typically reserved for groups with resources.
These three groups were among the 10 finalists announced yesterday for the UpPrize Social Innovation Challenge. Each will receive $10,000 and compete for the final prizes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Organized by The Forbes Funds, the competition engages the community in producing innovative solutions to critical issues facing the region and the world. It kicked off last year by finding ways to help the visually impaired, victims of human trafficking, and other vulnerable populations.
The second UpPrize challenge focuses on two key areas: Impactful Technology and Healthy Food Access. The finalists were selected from a field of 175 applicants by the challenge partners, BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Bridgeway Capital and Comcast.
And the finalists are . . .
Representing the Impactful Technology category:
– BlastPoint, a company that uses technology to unlock big data insights for everyone, a luxury typically reserved for organizations with resources
– Community Data Roundtable’s Parent Portal, which allows caregivers to access their child’s medical information directly
– Expii, Inc., a novel self-organizing platform that delivers on-demand and personalized education for free
– HiberSense, a former Blast Furnace cohort that uses a self-learning thermostat system to save up to 40 percent of HVAC costs and increases comfort for individuals
– Rubitection, a CMU spinout company that developed a medical device designed to prevent pressure ulcers, more familiarly known as bedsores
Representing the Health Food Access category:
– 412 Food Rescue’s Good Food Project, which transforms fresh, healthy rescued food into affordable prepared meals
– South Clairton Corner Store Project, a brick-and-mortar store aimed at eliminating food insecurity in Clairton
– Black Urban Gardeners and Farmers of Pittsburgh Co-op (BUGFPC), a farming collective that addresses food insecurity in Homewood and Uptown
– Knead Community Cafe, a New Kensington asset that’s set to become the first pay-what-you-can café in Pittsburgh
– Bible Center Church’s Oasis Project, an organization that trains Homewood youth in urban farming through the launch of the Oasis Farm and Fishery
“It’s extraordinary in that this is really a community effort and represents the unique assets that we have in this region,” said Kate Dewey, president of The Forbes Funds, at a reception at BNY Mellon yesterday.
“In 2014 BNY Mellon came [to us] and said we really want to drive social innovation in this community in a way that makes a difference not just in terms of world hunger but in terms of the very people that are our neighbors in this community.”
Putting up close to a million dollars got people’s attention.
Why are we doing this? asked Dewey. “It’s so important because in this community alone the nonnprofit sector—community-based organizations—employ more people than manufacturing and construction.”
There are 2,200 nonprofit groups, she noted, who are facing the tremendous challenge of a growing deficit and a redistribution of funding dollars at the government level while experiencing rising needs. “So we are in this unique place on the community level and nationally that we have to do something different,” she adds.
“There is a real impetus for all of us to think freshly about the solutions using technology and leveraging community assets that can meet our most daunting challenges.”
As a result of the UpPrize competition, universities, venture capitalists, accelerators and people from the community have identified issues and come up with fresh ideas.
“This is as much a celebration of creating an ecosystem in the community as it is a celebration of us joining forces and to say there’s no reason why we can’t do this,” said Dewey, who cited the support of partners Bridgeway Capital, UPMC and Comcast in making UpPrize happen.
The 2016 UpPrize winners of large awards will be announced at the showcase event on March 30.