Archives for category: Finals

The Acara Challenge 2011 results are out! Four teams of student social entrepreneurs have been chosen to receive Acara scholarships of $5,000 and tuition for the Acara Summer Institute in India to advance their business: TextRA, Sewasan, Swach and Ankur Initiative.

Over the last semester, as part of the Acara Challenge 2011, 21 teams involving about 175 students from 12 participating universities in the U.S., India and Mexico worked to develop business ideas to tackle global challenges of food and water security. For this they received a lot of support from their professors, industry mentors and international university partners. Of these 21 teams, eight were chosen to present at the Acara Challenge Finals this Monday, May 16, 2011 at the Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota.

At the Acara Challenge Finals, these eight teams pitched their business idea to a panel of judges composed of domain experts, investors, and business and nonprofit leaders. The judges then selected the teams to receive the Acara scholarships. While all eight teams have great ideas and potential to have a large impact, four teams were selected to receive a grant of $5,000 and tuition for the Acara Summer Institute, a business accelerator to be held in June-July 2011 in Bangalore, India.

Here is a summary of the four teams:


A partnership of the University of Minnesota and TERI, this team has developed TextRA, a network that will instantly deliver key information on food and water availability at various locations to the hands of malnourished and resource-deprived individuals, saving them precious time and energy.

Sewasan, another UMN-TERI team, is a community-directed cooperative that will create and maintain toilet facilities in urban slums and charge residents to use them, either on a pay-per-use basis or through a monthly subscription fee. The presence of these facilities will decrease the spread of food- and water-borne illnesses, increase quality of life, and provide employment opportunities for local residents.

Students at Cornell and the K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management in Mumbai created Swach to improve the efficiency and efficacy of the midday meal audit process in schools. Swach would provide testing kits and the communication infrastructure to test for food quality issues and report them to authorities, allowing time-strapped government auditors to focus where they are most needed.

The Ankur Initiative
The Ankur Initiative, a collaborative effort between students at Duke and the India Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee, aims to combat water stress in parts of rural India by selling affordable polytunnels – lightweight plastic miniature greenhouses – to subsistence farmers in order to reduce water loss and increase crop yields.

We wish the teams success with their ventures. To read more about the program and all the student plans, check out Acara’s website.

Stay tuned for more about these teams’ progress at the Summer Institute and beyond!

Acara is glad to announce the details of the Acara Summer Institute 2011 and Acara Corps Fellowship 2011 programs. We encourage all interested students to apply for these programs. Here are the details as Q&A. If you have additional questions, please leave a message here or reach out to Arun/Sri/anyone of us at Acara.

Acara Summer Institute 2011
The Acara Summer Institute (SI), a program of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, will be held June 27-July 15 in Bangalore, India. The SI will be hosted by Honeywell, with participating organizations including Quicksand, India Institute of Management – Bangalore, Covenant Centre of Development (CCD), Samuha, InKlude Labs plus others.

The SI is an intensive program to help budding social entrepreneurs refine their plans and prepare to turn them into reality. It consists of classroom and field experience, including time with successful social ventures in South India.
Who should attend?
Social entrepreneurs and leaders of socially-oriented organizations. Acara does not make a distinction about what constitutes a social entrepreneur. Acara develops leaders interested in social change by helping them to view their challenges through the eyes of an entrepreneur. These leaders may be in NGOs, businesses, or any other kind of organization, but all have the opportunity to be a change leader.
Participants from India: INR 25,000 per person. Includes mid day meal, local group transportation. Does not include lodging but  Acara can provide help with local arrangements.
Participants from outside India: $1500 USD per person. Includes mid day meal, local group transportation. Does not include lodging but  Acara can provide help with local arrangements.
Acara-sponsored teams receive a substantial scholarship, please contact us for further details.
Acara does not recommend individual attendees but at least two attendees per team. If you want to bring more than two, please contact us. Teams must also have spent at least a week in the field in the community where they are planning their venture.
  • Three to four days onsite with CCD or Samuha to observe in depth a successful social venture
  • Two day design thinking workshop taught by Quicksand.
  • Half day workshop on community relationships taught by Sridhar Pabbisetty.
  • Half day workshop on rural innovation in India by Narayan Ramachandran, InKlude labs. Narayan is former managing director of Morgan Stanley Emerging Markets team.
  • Several lectures from IIM-Bangalore faculty.
  • Regular interactions with technical and marketing experts from Honeywell
  • Interactions with venture experts from the University of Minnesota, including post the SI.
  • A final presentation to a panel of potential investors.
To Apply:
Contact Arun Patre, at for more information and to apply. Attendance is limited.

Acara Corps Fellowship 2011

What is the Acara Corps Fellowship?
Acara Corps Fellowship is an opportunity for all Acara Challenge participants, current and previous editions, to continue to engage deeply in social entrepreneurship. Acara Corps Fellows are selected students that we think have a large potential to make impact, now and in the future. The Fellows will be involved in an intense form of leadership and skills training. This year’s edition will includes an intrapreneurship opportunity also, as social enterprises begin to attract the attention of larger conglomerates.
Who is eligible?
Any participant from a current and/or previous Acara program (Acara Challenge and Sales for Social Impact) can apply. In 2010, only India students were eligible for the Fellowships, but this year we’ve expanded to include US and Mexico students too. All Fellowships are based in India.
What will the Fellows do?
In Acara’s effort to create youth leadership to meet developmental challenges the 2011 Acara Corps Fellowship has outlined a variety of areas where this can be fulfilled. A short summary of the project areas are:
  • Review and assessment of a CDM project (Clean Development Mechanism, ie global carbon credits): Study a CDM-funded changeover to more-efficient stoves in rural Indian households. The fellow will get to be part of a research team that is studying the health impacts of indoor air pollution due to use of traditional versus improved stoves. A social enterprise is carrying out a massive CDM-funded stove changeout program will be part of the exercise. The Acara fellowship would entail a study to see how both objectives of changing to efficient cookstoves can be financed by CDM’s in order to subsidize the cost to customer. We are also interested in how the existing venture could be broadened to include other ongoing social venture ideas.
  • Media  engagement of the social enterprise movement: At Acara we want to strategise our engagement with the various forms of media and disseminate our philosophy and approach. The assignment would involve research work on the best forms of social media campaign along & working out partnerships with the mainstream media on Acara programs.
  • myRain: One of Acara’s incubatee’s who are piloting their drip irrigation sales distribution system in Uttara Khand have been working on their idea since last year. This assignment would evolve an on the ground perspective of rural marketing management in India, assessment of viability of drip irrigation in different terrains / vegetation and other variables.
  • University – NGO relationship management: A leading university in India, and Acara participant, extends relationships with at least 100 civil society organisations in India. Acara’s crucial inputs comes from their understanding on the ground. This assignment would focus on strengthening our ties with NGO’s and creating a harmonic relationship between Acara students and them to build on each other’s strengths. An enriching experience awaits the fellows to work on creating a platform for exchange for students with civil society.
  • Acara Challenge management: This fellowship helps you gain an understanding of what happens behind the scenes of the Acara Challenge. Get to be part of the team which prepares the ground for the upcoming fall semester challenge. The range of activities you would get to so are working with universities on the course curriculum preparation / designing program manager’s response matrix / scouting for mentors and subject matter experts etc.
  • Intrapreneur: Here is an opportunity to be part of a conglomerate which is experimenting with a new idea within their R&D initiative. Learn the nuances of being part of a nascent idea (off grid energy) which is being prototyped into a large business unit/service to serve the BoP market.
What if I’m selected as an Acara Fellow and my team is one of the selected teams?
You have to choose between working with your team and the Fellowship; the decision is yours. If a team is carrying forward an idea, we anticipate that usually the student would elect to stay with their team rather than work on the Fellowship.
What are the benefits of the Fellowship?
You get an opportunity to work with a startup social business idea. An opportunity to be mentored and trained by the best in the fields of entrepreneurship and business, network with other entrepreneurs and get a stipend during the tenure.
What is the duration of the Fellowship?
The fellowship would be during your summer break, typically for ~6-8 weeks.
How will the Fellows be selected?
Selection is based on an application and interview. To the extent that your passion for social entrepreneurship and your leadership skills are reflected in your work in the Acara Challenge, that experience may also play a role in our decision.
Is this paid?
We pay a (modest) stipend, to help cover living expenses in India. The Fellow is responsible for travel and living costs, as appropriate. Acara can help with logistics such as finding an apartment.
How to apply?
Please send in an application by April 11, to  Based on your application, we’ll invite people for interviews. Please use the following format for an application (in PDF or Word format).
Contact information
Year in college, Major field of study.
Acara Challenge Participation Discussion
Previous Work or other relevant experience
Why are you interested in this Fellowship and social ventures in general?
What is your career objective?
Do you have a preference for one of the topics described above for the Fellowship?
Please limit to 1-2 pages.