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SPARK A community-based social innovation challenge


The SPARK Community-Based Social Innovation Challenge offers Grinnell organizations and students the opportunity to work together to address poverty related challenges faced by the larger Grinnell community. Community partners identify challenges unique to their work and agree to work with groups of students to identify short and long term solutions to their challenge. Students apply to work on particular challenges. The Wilson SPARK Committee reviews the applications and selects the students best suited to each team. (Students may apply either individually or in teams of 3-5.) These student teams then consult with their community partner, conduct relevant research, and utilize their and their Community partners’ knowledge and connections to create solutions that are innovative, practical, well-thought out, and beneficial to the community.

In early April SPARK will hold a pitch contest where the teams will be given 5-7 minutes to explain their challenge and pitch their solutions to a team of community judges. This event is open to both the campus and larger community. The judges offer constructive feedback on the solutions and, taking into account audience excitement and participation, determine which solution will receive up to $15,000 of implementation funding from the Wilson Center for Innovation and Leadership. With these funds and through the support of the Center for Careers, Life, and Service and the Service Learning Work-Study Program, SPARK Community-Based Social Innovation Challenge winners and their community partners may implement their solutions over the course of the following year.

SPARK Short Course

This year there will be a short course to help support the SPARK Challenge. This course, taught by Professor Monty Roper, will provide a series of workshops to help students build their skills in researching and effectively presenting solutions to social problems. Topics that will be covered include working ethically in the Grinnell Community, Design Thinking, project management, sustainability, and public speaking, among others.

The SPARK course is NOT a required part of the Challenge, though it may serve as an invaluable resource. Additionally, anyone is welcome to drop in for individual sessions and people who are not participating in SPARK are welcome to join the class as well.

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