Population Health

September 14, 2021

Social Entrepreneurship Fellows develop strategic roadmaps for UW innovations

Image of student engaged with a virtual reality headsetThe Population Health Initiative’s summer 2021 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 working on 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.

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 from all disciplines 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 year, the program was conducted remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This summer, students selected for the program were:

Name Degree Program School
Daaniya Iyaz Master of Environmental Health School of Public Health
Shawn Swanson Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering College of Engineering
Fred Yeboah Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology School of Medicine
Nick Mager Master of Public Administration and Master of Business Administration Foster School of Business, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance
Burren Peil Ph.D. in Human Centered Design & Engineering College of Engineering
Tyler Vasquez Master of Public Administration Evans School of Public Policy & Governance

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.

Swanson worked with the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic (ELC), which offers services to minority, low-income, and diverse entrepreneurs throughout the Pacific Northwest to overcome the barriers that they face in starting and growing their businesses. Swanson assessed how to best grow to serve the needs of its clients as well as create sustainable solutions for the team. He developed relationships with stakeholders, conducted 42 interviews to understand how to best serve underserved clients and provided recommendations on how to move forward with the various relationships he built throughout the summer. The ELC has tremendous potential for sustainability and increasing their reach in communities who are historically underserved.

The Brotherhood Initiative empowers undergraduate males of color to thrive on campus and graduate prepared for a lifetime of leadership, service and success. Yeboah spent the summer working to examine the best practices for a positive social change curriculum. He assessed programs locally and nationally to identify opportunities for experiential learning for students who are tackling key social issues and interviewed stakeholders of existing programs to learn from their experiences. Yeboah provided specific recommendations on how to structure the pilot program to maximize practical experiences and how to explore various funding opportunities. Yeboah’s work is being used in partnership by the UW’s Brotherhood Initiative and Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship to inform their pilot program in 2021-22 and how to best enable experiential opportunities for students in the program.

Mager spent the 10 weeks in the summer identifying sustainability options for the UW Taskar Center for Accessible Technology’s Open Sidewalks (OS). OS enables cities to create digital tools to map pedestrian accessibility and support personalized pedestrian routing at a whole city scale. Mager conducted 26 stakeholder interviews in the private, public, and nonprofit sector, examined the current market and competitive landscape and identified solutions to create sustainability. Mager created a four-phase path to success strategy to generate interest in data standard standards as well as built an operational model that can sustain and expand OS’s impact.

Iyaz’s spent the summer examining the best way to deploy Caring for Caregivers Online (COCO) to market to benefit caregivers from burnout, particularly those from low-income and from marginalized communities. Iyaz conducted an extensive customer discovery process interviewing 25 stakeholders to determine how COCO can be best adopted by various stakeholders and examined the market to determine how it compared with similar technologies, and researched and created an extensive business plan. Iyaz also designed a roadmap for COCO to follow in their first years to develop a sustainable partnership and revenue while maintaining the overall goal of providing social benefit to caregivers in low income and marginalized communities.

Peil and Vasquez examined how best to complete the groundwork for CROP, a non-profit established by formerly incarcerated prisoners in California that helps other paroled and released individuals to find meaningful jobs. CROP brings innovative programs that focus on four pillars for successful reentry: Leadership for Life; Skilled for Life; Equipped for Life; and Home for Life. CROP is in the process of developing a social enterprise that will hire trained, formerly incarcerated individuals to work on tech projects procured from the tech industry. Peil and Vasquez worked with the CROP team to complete the planning work that included the fundraising deck and marketing pitch that lays the groundwork while also creating a holistic solution to their social enterprise.

While the fellows all had primary responsibility for one project, the cohort structure enabled the students to work with each other and contribute their disciplinary expertise to all the other projects.