First-Ever Ideathon Sparks Ideas to Societal Challenges

Co-hosted by Tufts Entrepreneurship Center, the Virtual Social Impact Entrepreneurship Ideathon awarded prizes to four teams passionate about driving change through innovation and entrepreneurship.

Following the conclusion of the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center’s first-ever Virtual Social Impact Entrepreneurship Ideathon, four teams were recognized by judges and fellow participants for their innovative ideas. The event – which spanned 48 hours from Feb. 19 through Feb. 21 – was hosted in partnership with Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and The Fletcher School. 

“As we live through these extraordinary times, the need to build community and solve problems together, and with diverse teams, has never been greater,” said Elaine Chen, Cummings Family Professor of the Practice in Entrepreneurship and Director of the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center. “With our first-ever Ideathon, we are happy to help our community members make some of those connections and take the first step towards solving societal problems we face every day. We hope our participants will continue what we began together and keep working on these problems through new venture creation.”

Drawing inspiration from hackathons, the Ideathon sought to bring a diverse group of community members together – including Tufts students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends – to collaborate on ideas that address challenges in environmental sustainability, improve access to basic needs for underrepresented groups, and to foster effective civic discourse.

Participants met for the first time during a virtual kickoff session on Day 1. Guest speakers with domain expertise in environmental sustainability, food and nutrition policy, and civic discourse outlined problems in the field. On the second day, participants formed teams over their shared passions and interests and worked with mentors to fine-tune their ideas. They presented their pitches to a panel of judges on the third day. 

"Tufts entrepreneurs don’t look for the billion dollar idea, they look at how they can make the world a better place. It was fantastic to be a part of the Ideathon, an event where the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center was able to impart this version of the entrepreneurial spirit onto the community," shared Joshua Kapelman, A12, a judge for the event; TEC Advisory Board member; and Executive Vice President, Managing Director of Hilldun Corporation. "The solutions that came out of this weekend were inspiring."

Gallery View of Ideathon Participants
The Ideathon drew attendees from across the university and beyond.

Four teams were recognized for their ideas at the conclusion of the Ideathon:

  • First Place: First2College, a group helping first-generation, low-income students navigate the college application process. 
  • Second Place: Berry, a group providing peer support and access to mental health resources for BIPOC college students.
  • Third Place: CoffeeWrap, an idea to convert coffee grounds into paper packaging, reducing food waste in communities near and far.
  • Audience Favorite: Intra-National Exchange, a concept bridging the suburban, urban and rural divides with summer exchange programs for high school students.

“We hope all who joined will be inspired to continue to tap their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to make this a better world,” said Kevin Oye, Executive Director of Tufts Gordon Institute; Director, MS in Innovation and Management Program; Professor of the Practice.

In initial feedback following the Ideathon, participants highlighted the engaging experience and opportunity to connect with individuals across the university. With the foundation for transformative ideas in place, Ideathon participants may choose to continue developing their ideas through competitions and programs including this spring’s $100k New Ventures Competition

Congratulations to all the winners and participants! We can’t wait to see all that you accomplish. Learn more about competitions and programing at Tufts Entrepreneurship Center through their portal here.