Community Changemaker Challenge (High Schools)

Community Changemaker Challenge (High Schools)
students receiving awards

What is the Community Changemaker Challenge?

The Community Changemaker Challenge is an idea-stage competition for High School students, in which entrants identify a social, environmental, or economic problem in their community, region, or somewhere else in the world, and use an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to address it. Submissions require no formal business plan, making the barrier to entry low and room for creativity high.

The UNH Sustainability Institute, the UNH Cooperative Extension, and the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center (NH SBDC), are partnering with New England high schools to launch the Community Changemaker Challenge. This annual program engages high school students, teachers, and community members throughout the region in entrepreneurial and innovative thinking to solve community challenges. We will collaborate with teachers to provide support for students entering the Challenge, and provide quality professional development to our teacher partners so they are best prepared to use the curriculum. We are seeking more high school partners so we can continue building this exciting new program. Let us know of your interest to participate in 2022 by filling out this form.

This challenge model is based on the highly successful NH Social Venture Innovation Challenge, held annually at UNH. Over the years, the SVIC had many high school teams enter in its Community Track (indicating interest and demand on the part of high school teachers and students) but few have succeeded competitively due to the seasoned abilities of their older competitors. For the last few years, we have been piloting a High School Track in order to level the playing field for these students, and use it as an educational opportunity to teach skills in design, empathy, research and civic engagement. Today the SVIC High School Track has evolved into the Community Changemaker Challenge!

Important Dates & Reminders

February 15, 2021
Schools commit to participation

April 28, 2021
Entries due

May 14, 2021
Culminating event
Recording coming soon!

October 15, 2021
Schools notify 2022 participation interest

Interested in participating in 2022?
Submit the interest form


See past participants videos

Challenge Details

competition process graphic

The Challenge is built on three pillars:

  1. Facilitator Training: We will train teachers, Extended Learning Opportunity (ELO) coordinators, and other youth-serving community leaders to work with students to address challenges in their communities.
  2. Curriculum: Facilitators will use our curriculum and materials that are based in design thinking to help identify and develop solutions to their community challenge. They will have access to a wealth of resources and activities that they can put their own personal spin on.
  3. Culminating Event: Facilitators and students from around New England will come together to present their unique solutions and meet like-minded changemakers.

The Community Changemaker Challenge has the potential to enrich the education of many high school students and enhance the professional development of teachers. We would like to further the success of this program by making it available to more public schools, especially schools in districts lacking non-traditional learning opportunities for students, such as the project-based learning the competition provides.

2021 Participating Schools

Phillips Exeter Academy, Oyster River High School and Exeter High School are participating this year. We are seeking to increase the number of partner schools for 2022.

Benefits for Teachers/Facilitators
  1. School Stipends: All participating schools would be eligible for a stipend ($500-$1,000 depending on program funds) paid after submission of their teams’ materials. This money would partially compensate teachers for the time and energy spent engaging with our curriculum, provide resources for school programming, and even potentially allow for the implementation of student ideas within their schools and communities. In this way, funding would directly and tangibly provide contributions to New England high schools.
  2. Professional Development Day for Teachers at UNH: We envision the development and delivery of a professional development day for teachers and facilitators at UNH, supporting them with a “train the trainer” approach. This would be a CEU-granting training upon request, from which all educators can benefit.
  3. Web Resources: In these uncertain times, making our curriculum available online (via Canvas) ensures that all participants have uninterrupted access to program materials such as readings, recorded presentations, and activities. 

The Sustainability Institute has partnered with the UNH Cooperative Extension and NH Small Business Development Center (NH SBDC) to make this program even more robust and far-reaching than the piloted SVIC High School Track.

Each member of this partnership has unique skills and connections that will work to create a sustainability-focused entrepreneurial ecosystem that is of great benefit to students, teachers, and community members.

  • The Sustainability Institute brings diverse people and ideas together to make UNH a model sustainable learning community that reaches beyond campus to engage state, regional, national, and international partners to advance sustainable solutions
  • The NH SBDC offers programming and consulting for budding small businesses, and is a vital part of entrepreneurial development in the state.
  • UNH Cooperative Extension Community and Economic Development team is focused on connecting and supporting entrepreneurs, developing sustainable innovation spaces, creating communities that support entrepreneurs, and increasing entrepreneurship among individuals throughout New Hampshire. 

Contact Faina Bukher, Director of UNH's Changemaker Collaborative for more information and to take on the Challenge!