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GW Invests $350,000 to Support Student Social Entrepreneurs

‘GWupstart: Social Innovation Lab + Prize’ Includes Funding and Workshops for Students as Part of GW’s Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action
September 18, 2013

Kurtis Hiatt
202-994-1849; [email protected]

Dave Andrews
202-994-5631; [email protected]

GW Invests $350,000 to Support Student Social Entrepreneurs

‘GWupstart: Social Innovation Lab + Prize’ Includes Funding and Workshops for Students as Part of GW’s Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action

WASHINGTON—Budding student social entrepreneurs now have added support from the George Washington University, which will invest $350,000 over three years to fund workshops and prize money for students who champion causes that address societal problems.

The plan to grow social entrepreneurship at GW is outlined in its Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action. As part of GW’s CGI commitment, the university will create a new program called “GWupstart: Social Innovation Lab + Prize.” GWupstart will:

  • develop workshops specifically geared toward social entrepreneurship to give students the tools they need to implement their ideas,
  • add a social entrepreneurship track in the annual Business Plan Competition where students can compete for $15,000 in prize money during the first year (prize money will increase to $25,000 in years two and three) and
  • hire GW’s first-ever coordinator for social entrepreneurship to help manage the entire program.

“By joining the Clinton Global Initiative and launching this innovative program, we will be giving our students the tools and resources they need to become successful social entrepreneurs and, in turn, help them shape the future of our nation and the world,” said George Washington President Steven Knapp.

Dr. Knapp will attend the ninth CGI Annual Meeting in New York City next week. The Annual Meeting convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. GW’s commitment also makes the university the newest member of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI University) Network, a consortium of colleges and universities that support, mentor and provide seed funding to leading student innovators and entrepreneurs on their respective campuses.

The idea for GWupstart began in 2012 when GW hosted CGI University, bringing to campus 1,000 of the world’s up-and-coming student social entrepreneurs. Students spent three days networking with successful entrepreneurs and listening to inspirational leaders including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Ms. Clinton and President Clinton. During the event, President Clinton encouraged Dr. Knapp to find other ways that GW could support student social entrepreneurs beyond CGI University.

The university has already taken its first steps in fulfilling the commitment, recently hiring Melanie Fedri as its coordinator for social entrepreneurship. Ms. Fedri and Amy Cohen, executive director of the Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, have developed workshops for students that will address business plan development, project management and community collaboration. Students who participate will be well-positioned to compete in the Business Plan Competition.

“It is exciting to be able to bring more focus and expertise to GW’s work in social entrepreneurship,” Ms. Cohen said. “Adding GWupstart to the existing programs that support social entrepreneurship, the Steven and Diane Robinson Knapp Fellowship for Entrepreneurial Service-Learning and the Public Service Grant Commission, will strengthen all of these programs. In addition, it is great to be able to bring the social problem-solving focus to the GW Business Plan Competition. Melanie Fedri brings great knowledge, experience and enthusiasm to the position.”

The Office of Entrepreneurship and the School of BusinessCenter for Entrepreneurial Excellence will work with the Center for Civic Engagement to implement the commitment.

The commitment aligns with GW’s new Strategic Plan, which emphasizes the continued importance of service as a hallmark of a GW education and giving students the knowledge and tools to better society.  During the 2012-13 academic year, GW students participated in more than 250,000 service hours. Giving these students the knowledge to help move their projects forward will enhance their ability to effect change.

For more details, visit the GWupstart website.

The George Washington University
In the heart of the nation's capital with additional programs in Virginia, the George Washington University was created by an Act of Congress in 1821. Today, GW is the largest institution of higher education in the District of Columbia. The university offers comprehensive programs of undergraduate and graduate liberal arts study, as well as degree programs in medicine, public health, law, engineering, education, business and international affairs. Each year, GW enrolls a diverse population of undergraduate, graduate and professional students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and more than 130 countries.

The Clinton Global InitiativeEstablished in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an initiative of Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 150 heads of state, 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. To date CGI members have made more than 2,300 commitments, which are already improving the lives of more than 400 million people in over 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued at $73.5 billion.

CGI also convenes CGI America, a meeting focused on collaborative solutions to economic recovery in the United States, and CGI University (CGI U), which brings together undergraduate and graduate students to address pressing challenges in their community or around the world, and, this year, CGI Latin America, which will bring together Latin American leaders to identify, harness, and strengthen ways to improve the livelihoods of people in Latin America and around the world. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @ClintonGlobal and Facebook at

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