Population Health

September 16, 2019

Social Entrepreneurship Fellows program creates business models for faculty projects

The Population Health Initiative’s summer 2019 Social Entrepreneurship Fellows Program concluded in August with the fellows presenting their findings to students, faculty and staff from schools and colleges across campus. The fellows spent 10 weeks analyzing population health innovations developed by University of Washington researchers to determine how these innovations could be financially sustainable while also having a substantial societal impact.

Image of the three fellows

R – L: Esborn, Dey, and Masciel.

The Social Entrepreneurship Fellows Program was developed by the Population Health Initiative – in partnership with the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance and CoMotion – to expand opportunities for students to gain real-world experience in social entrepreneurship while providing UW investigators with a road-map to sustainability for their population health-related innovations.

This summer, students selected for the program were:

Name Degree Program School
Saswata Dey Master of Business Administration Foster School of Business
Elizabeth Esborn Master of Public Administration Evans School of Public Policy & Governance
Karissa Masciel Master of Social Work School of Social Work

The fellow’s final presentations and reports offered the UW investigators a detailed analysis in customer discovery, markets, competitive landscapes and a final recommendation for a business model to move their projects forward.

Dey’s analysis of FOCUS, a mobile app for serious mental illness developed by Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences professor Dror Ben Zeev, explored how the app might be deployed to Medicaid patients with serious mental illness, a vulnerable population that is often overlooked by other more commercially-minded digital mental health companies.

Esborn’s work with Project EMAR, a social robot to reduce stress in high-school teens developed by Elin Bjorling of the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering, led her to interview teachers, school administrators, social entrepreneurs in education, mental health professionals and engineers to figure out the best way to introduce a technology like EMAR into schools.

Masciel was able to synthesize a comprehensive business plan for Communities that Care, a framework to train communities to reduce risky behavior in youth, developed by David Hawkins and Richard Catalano and now led by Kevin Haggerty of the School of Social Work. The business plan will be used by CTC to grow and continue to thrive as a Center within the UW in a sustainable manner.

The three Social Entrepreneurship fellows worked as a cohort along with three ITHS/WRF Summer Commercialization Fellows, MBA student Vivian Wei, Master of Applied Bioengineering graduate Jacob Nazarian and Molecular and Cellular Biology PhD candidate Fred Yeboah. These students were conducting similar projects assessing commercial prospects for biomedical technologies invented at the UW. Each student had responsibility for their own project, but the two summer fellowship programs enabled them to work as a team, contributing their disciplinary expertise to all projects.

The application period for the summer 2020 Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship program will open in winter 2020.