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On the Way to India

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acara-group.jpgPlans for businesses that would organize benefit dinners for good causes, convert waste into fuel, and improve the safety of street food took top honors last week at the Acara Challenge Finals, a competition held each year by the IonE-sponsored Acara program to discover and encourage international teams of student social entrepreneurs.

This year's competition involved 12 finalist teams made up of students from 10 universities and other institutions across the U.S. and India. The winning teams receive scholarships to the Acara Summer Institute in Bangalore, India, where students will refine their business plans for real-world application.

Winning projects teams and the goals of their proposed enterprises:

Gold ($1,500 cash award, up to $1,500 matching award, Summer Institute tuition and room and board for two):

Eat4Equity (University of Minnesota) - bring a community-driven model for organizing monthly benefit dinners to raise money for good causes to cities across the country. (A team from Acara's recent Winter Institute, E4E is not eligible for the scholarships, but Acara will work with the team to acquire other scholarships.)

Rot2Roti (U of M, TERI University in India) - convert compost waste from the Azadpur Mandi market in Delhi into fuel for the adjacent Shalimar Slums.

BlueFood (University of Minnesota, TERI University in India) - provide consulting and marketing services to street food vendors in Delhi communities to improve the safety of street food for consumers.

Silver ($750 cash award, up to $750 matching award, Summer Institute tuition and room and board for two)

Ujjwal (Cornell University and K. J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research, SIMSR) - address the gap in prenatal care knowledge and guidance among pregnant women in Mumbai, India.

Nirmal (Xavier Institute of Management, XIMB) - purify and remove excess iron content from drinking water.

Bronze (up to $1,000 matching award, Summer Institute tuition for two)

Renew Waste Compactor Service (University of Cincinnati and IIT Roorkee, India) - provide an efficient, profitable way to collect waste while providing income to community members.

Green Caps (Vellore Institute of Technology) - develop biodegradable lids for plastic water bottles.

Aahar (Tata Institute of Social Sciences,TISS) - improve the condition of landless marginalized poor in Odisha by allowing them to farm on leased land.

Anvita (TISS) - develop low-priced splints and distribute them in Tier II and Tier III cities in India to address disability due to amputation, paralysis or deformity.

Honorable Mention (invitation to the Summer Institute)

Food Miles (TERI University, U of M) ­ ­- mitigate the effects of food on the wallets of New Delhi consumers while increasing the income of farmers through a produce-delivery service.

Dharohar (Xavier Labour Research Institute) - provide producer groups and artisan clusters in Jharkhand with marketing linkages and training modules to enhance their skills.

Vidyut (XIMB) ­- increase processing speed and efficiency and reduce waste for post-harvest processing of chilies and turmeric.

Congratulations and best wishes to all!

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  of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.