Social Innovation Opportunities

Make your own positive impact on the world!

Do you have amazing ideas that you want to put into action? Do you want to help design a social innovation idea that will positively affect the lives of others? If you answered yes, check out these resources to help you get started!

Opportunities and Resources:


Clinton Global Initiative University

Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) is a gathering of nearly 1,200 students, youth organizations, and topic experts that come together to discuss and develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges. Students make a “Commitment to Action,” a concrete plan that addresses a pressing challenge in one of CGI U’s five focus areas.

UC San Diego is part of the Clinton Global Initiative University Network, a consortium of colleges and universities that support, mentor, and provide $10,000 in seed funding to leading student innovators and entrepreneurs on their respective campuses. Ryan Crawford, a staff member in the Center for Student Involvement’s Community Service area, is UC San Diego’s Liaison for the CGIU Network.

E-mail Ryan Crawford at to learn more.

Check out this blog post highlighting UCSD Alumni Melissa Vajanaphanich’s experience to learn more about CGIU!

Examples of past projects from UCSD students:

A novel rapid HIV test for U.S./Mexico border community. A novel, rapid HIV test capable of handling whole (fingerstick) blood is needed to meet the needs of high-risk, indigent populations along the U.S./Mexico border. Such a test would permit truly mobile testing and would deliver critical health information to vulnerable and stigmatized persons who are unlikely to return to traditional healthcare sites for results. A test that eliminates venipuncture and the associated need for a trained phlebotomist would also represent cost savings and increased deployability in the community. Our miniaturizable testing methodology for HIV protease I, a necessary enzyme for viral replication, represents a novel solution. By Elaine Skowonski

Easily Accessible Clean Water for Siruvani. The project under CORDUSA (Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development) aims to facilitate integrated and sustainable solutions to help a rural community within India progress and empower themselves. The specific goal of this project is to provide easily accessible drinking water to a rural community in Siruvani, Tamil Nadu. This will be achieved in two ways; an initial number of water filtration systems will be set up and the community will be taught how to create and maintain these systems in a sustainable way themselves. By Ashwin Kannan, Lennart Langouche, and Tanvi Sheth

Uniting Mother and Child: A Battle Against PPH. Saving Sara has developed a medical device that improves the standard of care device used to stabilize bleeding women who give birth outside institutional settings. This condition, postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), can kill a woman from excess blood loss after childbirth unless she is immediately stabilized. By improving the efficacy of the standard of care, our device ensures that fewer women die en route to a clinic, where they can receive further treatment. By Sandeep Prabhu

Grand Challenges

Grand Challenges fosters innovation in global health research.


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed

$100 million to encourage scientists worldwide

to expand the pipeline of ideas to fight our greatest health challenges.

Examples of grants awarded:

Michael Schrader of Vaxess Technologies Inc. in the U.S. will develop a microneedle patch that stabilizes vaccines and can deliver multiple doses through the skin at defined times thereby reducing cost waste and the need for repeat immunizations. Vaccinations delivered intradermally via microneedles are at least as effective as intramuscular delivery via injection but reduce the requirement for needles and trained health workers. The patch uses a silk fibroin protein that protects the vaccine against high temperatures removing the need for cold storage and controls the timing of release through the skin. They will refine the material for delivering two doses of inactivated poliovirus vaccine evaluate its safety and activity in animal models and optimize the manufacturing process to ensure reduced costs.

Big Ideas@ Berkeley

Big Ideas is an annual contest aimed at providing funding, support, and encouragement to interdisciplinary teams of students who have “big ideas.” Since its founding in 2006, Big Ideas has inspired innovative and high-impact student-led projects aimed at solving problems that matter to this generation. By encouraging novel proposals and then supporting concrete next steps, Big Ideas is helping contest winners make an impact all over the world.


Are you interested in social impact, entrepreneurship & innovation, or public service? The Big Ideas Contest, open to all 10 system UC campuses, is seeking highly-motivated students interested in social impact and entrepreneurship across the UC system to serve as Big Ideas Innovation Ambassadors.

Apply today:

Past UCSD Big Ideas Winners:

One Village Philippines is a multidisciplinary team of fifteen engineering students within the UC San Diego Global TIES program. This team is working together with the non-profit organization Gawad Kalinga to support its mission of alleviating poverty for communities across the Philippines by providing humanitarian solutions via engineering services. Due to limited lighting, nighttime travel is especially difficult for residents and they often feel unsafe. Additionally, power outages often occur within the community due to electrical failures. Through the development of a sustainable lighting solution, the SolarE team addresses the need for sufficient lighting throughout the village at night and catalyzes social entrepreneurship within the Filipino community by empowering villagers to produce and sell the solar light locally.

Movement Exchange at UCSD is part of a global community of dance diplomats creating positive social change through dance. The chapter was founded last year, and notably brought diverse cultural dance to partnered orphanages in Panama for the first time this summer. Dance education benefits child development and cross-cultural understanding, particularly in the second largest city in California, San Diego that is cross-border and majority minority by census. This project will develop the first informed curriculum for free and child-friendly culture and dance lessons, spearheaded by a diverse team of dancers. The team intends to trial evidence-based lesson plans, host an inaugural community-sponsored showcase, and expand internationally.

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The Basement, UC San Diego Innovation

The Basement provides creative innovation space, mentorship, entrepreneurship programming and resources in support of UC San Diego’s innovation, entrepreneurial and change maker focus. Alumni-founded, The Basement was launched in 2015 with the support of Jeff and Kim Belk ’83, Forecast Ventures, Aryeh Bourkoff ’95, LionTree LLC, and Mark Suster ’91 of Upfront Ventures. In the spirit of UC San Diego’s entrepreneurial DNA, The Basement brings together students, and alumni, ideas and inspiration, earnest ambition, and real-world experience. All students can gather and be nurtured, and with alumni support and visionary leadership, they can grow companies and social innovation ventures that become the fabric of our community, creating jobs and inspiring a culture of ingenuity and impact with help from The Basement. All university students – regardless of college or department affiliation can access the resource. Community-facing entrepreneurship workshops and programs offered by The Basement provide opportunities for alumni and community members to get involved. Professionals are invited to volunteer, join The Basement network or attend open event programs.


Bay Area Global Health Innovation Challenge

The Bay Area Global Health Innovation Challenge is an annual competition founded by the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, and the HealthRoots Foundation for Global Health, which sponsors the $10,000 HealthRoots Grand Prize. This core partnership has now expanded to include


the UCSF Institute for Global Health Sciences and UC Davis. We offer student teams from all schools, disciplines, and degree levels (undergrad through post-doc) the opportunity to present their ideas for low-cost, high-impact, and scalable global health solutions to world leaders in health, tech, design, and impact investing.

2017 Winner:

Global Water Labs. Katya Cherukumilli, a recent graduate from a doctoral program at the University of California, Berkeley, proposed a novel defluoridation technology to provide affordable and clean drinking water to communities throughout India. The innovation is locally-sourced, highly effective, culturally appropriate, and technically in a rural setting, and requires minimal manpower to operate and maintain the system. She is developing and piloting the technology through the 2017-18 year

Funding Resources:

Global Health Program Funding Request

The Global Health Program encourages outstanding Global Health students to present their research papers and projects at educational and professional conferences.  Current Global Health majors and minors may apply for up to $200.00 to support conference travel.

Applicants must be current UC San Diego Global Health student at the time of the conference/event attendance, proof that the paper/project has been accepted by the conference must be included with the application, and students must apply for, and be approved for, funding before attending the conference.

Please complete the funding request form here.

Please note that funding will be awarded via reimbursement; receipts must be submitted to the Global Health Program after the applicant attends the conference.

Social Innovation Fund

The Social Innovation Fund is a partnership between UCSD’s Office of Research Affairs, Office of Student Life, Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and Council of Provosts to promote, guide, and support student-driven ideas that address specific challenges in the local or national community and abroad.

Funding is available for individual and group commitments that combine theoretical understanding, applied skills, and experiential learning as agents of change. Commitments are eligible for funding up to $3,500.

Applications due: April 20th at 8am

Check out more resources on UC San Diego’s Social Innovation Funding Page to find ways to kickstart your project!

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