By Fred Rose, Co-Founder and CEO, Acara Institute

After the Acara Challenge finals, this is a good time to reflect a little on what has happened. As was written earlier, Acara had eight great plans in the finals. We did choose a winner each in Clean Water and Energy for Cooking, JAL Water for Life (Vellore Institute of Technology and University of Illinois-Chicago) and Bioserv (IIT-Roorkee and Minnesota) respectively, but all eight finalists were worth pursuing further. At this point six of those teams are continuing in some way with Acara’s help. That’s terrific and speaks to the real passion these students have for making an impact.

Acara Institute itself has been named a finalist in Social Venture Partners Minnesota’s Social Entrepreneur’s Cup. If you check this out on Facebook, you will see many nice comments from Acara participants. It is great to see the impact participation in Acara has made on people (students, mentors and professors), in addition to the business ideas that will impact many more people. It was also cool to see in people’s own words, description of what the Acara philosophy is. Words like practical, empowered, gave me a structure in how to think about changing something. Words like that are simple in theory but powerful in practice.

Acara has grown much faster than we certainly envisioned and has practically dragged us along for the ride. Acara itself has a great operating model for social entrepreneurs. The core group of people is very diverse, comprised of employees and volunteers, and is spread over 5 or so cities in several countries. But has one major thing in common, namely that they want to make a difference. Many of the people who “work together” daily have never met face to face. And even those in the home base of Minnesota, rarely see each other face to face. Acara doesn’t have a tagline but if we did, I think it would be “cool, yeah I can do that”. You may start at Acara with one job but it changes pretty rapidly to several jobs. People get asked to do something new, and they just try it. If it doesn’t work, we look at why, try to fix it, and try again. With a small staff and lean budget, it forces people to be innovative in how to get things done and makes us empathetic to the student start-up businesses.

Look for practical solutions. Try things. Leverage other organizations and solutions. Allow people to pursue their passion. It’s not rocket science, it’s just thinking creatively and working hard.

It’s going to be an exciting summer, we’ll make sure to keep the blog updated with how the businesses are doing.