NH Social Venture Innovation Challenge

NH Social Venture Innovation Challenge
SVIC past winners


Student finalist teams


Open to any USNH college student


Cash prize categories

The 2023 Social Venture Innovation Challenge is a wrap!

And the awards go to....

Meet the winning teams and watch their videos

What is the NH Social Venture Innovation Challenge?

The annual NH Social Venture Innovation Challenge (SVIC) invites students (as individuals or in teams of up to 4 members) from any University System of New Hampshire school to identify a sustainability problem (as defined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals) at the state, national or global level, and develop creative, sustainable, business-oriented ideas to solve them. 

This is an IDEA competition and an excellent applied learning project; no detailed business plans or financials needed. Contestants write a 2-page paper and create a 3-minute video explaining their innovative solution to the problem they identified. All of the rules, eligibility and judging criteria, important dates, prizes, and resources to help your entry can be found below. 

The SVIC was founded by UNH in 2013 in partnership with Nobel Peace Prize winner, and father of the microfinance movement, Professor Muhammad Yunus, who was also the inaugural keynote speaker, attracting over 700 people, and serving as the inspiration for the UNH Social Innovator of the Year Award. It has become an annual signature event which powerfully demonstrates the keen interest of students and community entrepreneurs and activists in helping address some of society’s most pressing social and environmental challenges, and their creativity in designing novel, sustainable, business-orientated solutions.


We have plenty of materials, activities, and other supports to help you integrate the SVIC into your curriculum! Make an appointment to learn more.

High School Educators

Community Changemaker Challenge - the annual idea competition for high school students.
Learn more

Important Dates & Reminders

2023 Event Scheudule

November 21
Finalist teams announced and Audience Choice Awards OPENS!

December 5, 9 - 11:30 a.m.
LIVE Final Round
Strafford Room

December 5, NOON
Audience Choice Awards CLOSES

December 6, 12-1 p.m. (online)
Awards & Keynote
Recording coming soon!

Watch the inaugural SVIC keynote by Professor Muhammad Yunus:

Congratulations to the 2023 SVIC Winners!

See the Winner Announcement and watch their videos

Thank you to our 2023 SVIC Lead Sponsors

Logos of Alnoba, Impax Asset Management and Kennebunk Savings

Thank you to our 2023 SVIC Sponsors

Logos of Cirtronics, Prime Buchholz, Unitil, CCA Global Partners, NH Businesses for Social Responsibility, The Recycled Planet and UNH ECenter Maurice Prize

All the Competition Details

NH Social Venture Innovation Challenge

Step 1: All contestants will identify any sustainability problem (as defined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals), create a 2-page summary and 3-minute video explaining the problem and an innovative, sustainable, business-oriented idea to solve it and submit their materials online by the submission deadline.

Step 2: Preliminary Round: After the submission deadline, all contestant's entries will be reviewed and scored by a large panel of online Preliminary Round Judges using our Judges' Rubric. The top 9 teams will advance to the Final Round.

Step 3: Final Round: The finalist teams will present and pitch their idea to a panel of Final Round Judges who will score using the same Judges' Rubric and will determine the award prizes. Immediately following the Final Round presentations, there will be an opportunity for finalists to meet with judges and get direct feedback on their ideas. Awards will be announced the following day online via Zoom.

2023 SVIC Timeline Day Date Time
Deadline to submit entries Monday November 13, 2023 NOON EST
Finalists announced (all contestants will be notified by email) Tuesday November 21, 2023 NOON EST
Presentation Coaching available for all Finalists TBD



SVIC Live Final Round
Strafford Room, MUB



December 5, 2023

9 - 11:30 a.m.

Awards Announcement & Keynote
Wednesday December 6, 2023 12 - 1 p.m.

The SVIC is open to any current full-time or part-time matriculated student (undergraduate or graduate level) enrolled in any USNH university or college.

Students may enter as individuals or as teams (no more than 4 on a team).

Students may enter more than one idea in the competition, but will need to submit each idea using different email addresses, as our online system does not allow more than one entry per email address.

All entries must: 

1. Be in one of the following stages of development:

  • a new initiative/idea
  • an existing early-stage social venture (less than one year old)
  • a major new social entrepreneurial initiative for an established venture 

2. Meet the criteria of a "social venture":

  • an innovative solution to a defined social or environmental problem facing New Hampshire, the region, the nation, or the world.
  • aim to be market-based and aspire to be as fully financially self-sustaining as possible through earned revenues and profits, decreasing the reliance on grants or donations
  • harness the best of market-based approaches, but have a primarily social, rather than financial, objective.

In order to compete in the 2023 SVIC, teams must agree to the following:

  • Complete the online forms: Step 1: SVIC Profile. Once your SVIC Profile has been completed, you will then be able to complete your application as Step 2.
  • Submit all entry materials through the Submission Application Form by Monday, November 13, 2023, NOON EST.
  • If selected to advance to the Final Round by the Preliminary Round Judges, finalist teams must commit to present to our panel of Final Round Judges during the Final Round events on Tuesday, December 5, 2023. Winners will be announced during the Awards Presentation online on December 6, 2023.
  • Certify that you own, or have the owner's permission to use/present, all intellectual property utilized in your entry materials, including any technology.
  • Agree to allow all submission materials, team members' names, description of your entry, photos of your team and video footage of your presentation from the Final Rounds to be used on the Social Venture Innovation Challenge website and in future publicity, including social media.
  • Agree to abide by UNH/USNH IT and Acceptable Use Policies.
  • For winners, the cash prize amount will be divided equally to each team member listed on your registration form, unless written permission is provided by each team member for an alternative distribution of funds. 

Finalist requirements for the Final Round:

  • A maximum of two (2) representatives from each finalist team are allowed to present, although other team members are encouraged to attend and answer questions during Q&A.
  • The two team members representing each finalist team are required to meet the morning of December 5th (8:30 a.m.) with our staff prior to presenting to the judges for check-in and sound/video quality check.
  • The two members representing each finalist team are also required to be in attendance for the Keynote Address and Award Presentations .
  • Each team will have a total of five (5) minutes to introduce their team members and play their video and speak in front of a panel of the Final Round Judges.
  • The Final Round judges will have five (5) minutes for Q&A with each team following their presentation.

Contestants must prepare two components as part of their entry, a 2-page summary and a 3-minute video and upload them during the Submission Application step. Submissions will be judged partially on the viability of the initial proposal; that is, fully developed business plans are not to be submitted and are not within the scope of the competition.

2-page Summary

A written summary "pitching" your idea which solves the identified social, environmental or economic issue. Your summary will be one of two key components of your entry and will be reviewed by judges in both rounds of the competition. This document gives you the chance to expand a little more on some of the important components and key concepts found in your three-minute video.

Summary technical specifications:

  •  PDF uploaded to the Submission Application form (Name the document the SVIC Idea Name)
  • Strict maximum of 2 pages (not including citations)
  • 12 pt. font, Times New Roman
  • margins 1 inch or more
3-minute Video

The video is the primary tool for summarizing the nature and scale of the problem you want to address and for "selling" the innovativeness and effectiveness of your social venture solution. (View the Video Production Workshop and see the additional Support & Resources section below to create your video.)

Video technical specifications:

  • .mp4 file
  • Strict maximum of 3 minutes

1. All entrants are encouraged to contact UNH’s Parker Media Lab (PML) with questions about video formatting
. PML is located in the Dimond Library on UNH’s Durham Campus. 

You can contact them for advice by phone at (603) 862-1747 to speak with any of the staff team, or by email to reach PML’s manager, Micheal McIntire.

2. Public domain videos, photos or other content can be included in your three-minute video. Written permission is required for all copyrighted and protected source materials.

Both the Preliminary and Final Round Judges will take into consideration the 5 categories (equally weighted) in the Scoring Rubric. The strongest entries determined by the Preliminary Round Judges will go on to the Final Round. Finalists will be eligible to win cash and prizes as determined by the Final Round Judges. 

Judges will award prizes on December 6th, in partnership with our Alumni Webinar Series.

One winning team in each category (teams may win multiple categories):

  1. Most well-articulated problem | $2,750
  2. Most innovative solution | $2,750
  3. Most impact potential | $2,750
  4. Most financially sustainable solution | $2,750
  5. Most impressive presentation | $2,750
  6. Best overall first-year student submission | $500 (awarded to an individual or team comprised of first-years)

Audience Choice Award $1,000

Cash, gift cards and gift certificates of any amount are taxable when provided to a recipient, regardless of classification as an award, gift or prize.

New for 2023! Each category winner will receive 1 hour with a GoodWork Certified Professional Coach or New Hampshire Small Business Development Center Representative to discuss the development of their SVIC idea.

  1. Review the SVIC competition dates, guidelines, rules, judges’ criteria, scoring rubric and utilize the resources found on this page to plan a strong entry.
  2. Produce a 2-page summary and a 3-minute video which identify a pressing social, environmental or economic issue at the state, national or global level and explain your innovative, sustainable, business-oriented idea to solve it.
  3. Submit your FINAL entry materials through the Submission Application Form.

Judging will take place in two rounds, the Preliminary Round (which is judged online by a large panel of judges from around the world and will determine the finalists) and the Final Round

  • The Preliminary Round of judging takes place virtually by an impressive panel of judges from around the world. 
  • The Final Round is where nine (9) finalists will present their entries to an illustrious judging panel of social venture experts. 
  • Finalists will be offered optional Presentation Coaching the week prior to the Final Round to help prepare for their Final Round presentation.

Submissions will be evaluated by all judges using the Judges' Scoring Rubric, which includes the following equally weighted criteria:

  1. Identification of Social or Environmental Problem
  2. Originality and Uniqueness of the Proposed Social Venture 
  3. Social/Environmental Impact Potential
  4. Business Model/Financial Sustainability
  5. Presentation Quality 

SVIC Scoring Rubric


In this section, there are many wonderful resources available for contestants which will help strengthen your entry and hone your pitch. In addition to library research guidance and video production support, we recommend Idea Coaching through the UNH ECenter (see next section).

1. Defining the problem & your solution

As you begin, ask yourself some of these questions as they pertain to your idea:

Defining the Problem:

  • What specific social (or environmental) problem does your innovation address?
  • Why is this social problem important and who benefits from addressing it?
  • What is the scale of the problem?
  • Is the problem localized or is it of national and/or global importance?
  • What is/are the root cause(s) of the problem?
  • Are there additional contributing factors to the problem?
  • Are current solutions to the problem offered?
  • Are they effective?
  • Why or why not?
  • Are any of them market-based?

Describing the Solution(your social venture idea):

  • As briefly as possible, what is your vision?
  • What change do you ultimately want to create in the world?
  • Why do you believe a market-driven solution will be most effective at addressing the problem?
  • How will you achieve your vision through your social venture? (In non-technical terms, briefly describe the strategic approach of your social venture innovation.)
  • How will you bring your social innovation to the intended market?
  • How will your social venture be financially self-sustaining within a reasonable time period?
  • What is the geographic area and size in terms of number of people served by your social innovation?
  • What is your social venture "value" proposition, that is, what are the recognized benefits the social innovation brings to the market?
  • Why is your solution innovative?
  • Why is your solution more effective than existing solutions aimed at addressing your identified problem?
  • How do you know that your social innovation is actually addressing the root cause(s) of the problem, and not just a symptom?
  • How will your solution create the intended impact?
  • How long will it take for your social innovation to have a lasting and meaningful impact on addressing the problem and at what cost? (Note: Social innovations that are closer to being implemented and at a lower cost in addressing the problem will be judged more highly than those that require significantly more time to bring to market and at a higher cost.)

2. Library Resources

The Dimond Library is great resource for background data gathering and to define and document the nature, scope, causes, and consequences of the environmental/social problem you are aiming to help solve and for researching other existing solutions to these problems. Check out UNH's Library SVIC guide.

3. External Library Resources

Solutions Journalism is a database of news stories about envisioning and building a more equitable and sustainable world. Solutions Journalism investigates and explains, in a critical and clear-eyed way, how people try to solve widely shared problems.

4. Video Production Support

For UNH students:
For registered UNH students, the Parker Media Lab (PML) supports students and faculty in production of rich media. Staff of the PML have the expertise to guide you through the project and the PML also provides you with all the guides and equipment to help you plan, shoot and edit your media assignment.

For all contestants:
Although the services of the Parker Media Lab at UNH (PML) are available only to UNH students, they have a number of web-based resources to help any competitor with your video submission. In particular, we recommend the “Forms & Guides” section of the Media & Collaboration Services website:

Find out more online or stop in to the UNH Parker Media Lab.

  • Video Making Process Tips
    • Click HERE to view the archived Video Production Workshop (offered to SVIC contestants by UNH’s Parker Media Lab on 11/04/14).
      • Please note: Since the date of this recording, responsibility for circulating Parker Media Lab equipment has changed. You must have an active UNH account (ITID) in order to check out equipment.
  • Survival Guide
  • What are Intellectual Assets?



The ECenter provides one-on-one idea coaching and consultation for business ideas, no matter where you are in the process. Whether you're looking for coaching for competitions or the next steps to take with your idea or start-up, the ECenter will provide one-on-one advising to get you started.

The ECenter offers 1:1 coaching and mentoring from entrepreneurs who have built successful ventures. Everything from a quick question to on-going weekly sessions are available at no cost to you!  

Learn More and Request a Meeting

Muhammed Yunus posing with students

The NH Social Venture Innovation Challenge was founded by the University of New Hampshire in 2013 in partnership with Nobel Peace Prize winner, and father of the microfinance movement, Professor Muhammad Yunus, who was also the inaugural keynote speaker, attracting over 700 people. It has become an annual signature event which powerfully demonstrates the keen interest of students and community entrepreneurs and activists in helping address some of society’s most pressing social and environmental challenges, and their creativity in designing novel, sustainable, business-orientated solutions.

Past events have showcased the idealism and ingenuity of students and community change agents, with over 90 entries from across the state of New Hampshire. In the student track, team members represented more than 30 different majors, suggesting that students from a variety of disciplines are interested in how entrepreneurial tools can be a force for good. 

The SVIC was designed to be different from other traditional business plan competitions. Rather than full business plans, the Challenge is interested in unlocking and jumpstarting innovative thinking among students and community members who want to “make a difference.” The SVIC is designed to complement the annual Holloway Prize Innovation-to-Market Competition which takes place at UNH each spring. Students are eligible and are encouraged to enter both competitions, with the Holloway prize providing an excellent follow-up to the SVIC, helping students develop their social venture ideas further.

“To me, social entrepreneurship is a continuous improvement process that starts with thinking differently. I am a big fan of the NH Social Venture Innovation Challenge because it effectively encourages young entrepreneurs to be more opportunistic and expansive in thinking about the potential impacts of their enterprises. Regardless of whether or not the participants win the competition, all benefit from the encouragement to think bigger and more optimistically. This process is positive and hopeful and can only catalyze more and better social enterprises.”

- Gary Hirshberg, President and Founder, Stonyfield Farm | 2015 SVIC Keynote Speaker

"Incorporating SVIC as a semester project in my Sustainable Engineering course has been valuable and interesting for the students and an easy process for me.

I find students are more motivated and willing to challenge themselves because they are able to choose their own passions and get quick and meaningful feedback on their ideas. Some of the students have even continued working on ideas after class ended, participating in other UNH programs and beyond.

- Kyle P. Kwiatkowski, Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

"The day I spent presenting my idea at the SVIC changed the way I view my power as a student at UNH because of how inspirational each finalist team was to me. Some may say they were my competitors, but I quickly realized we were all collaborators on a systematic level." 

- Past student competitor