New diagnostic centers that provide care to low- and middle-income patients in Africa. Small hydroponic gardens to improve the diet of Pacific Islanders and provide them with a little extra income along the way. And a method to attack corruption in India by making governmental financial transactions transparent to citizens.

Woman speaking at podiumThose were among the student projects featured Thursday as the Social Innovation and Change Initiative (SICI) held its 2019 Social Innovator Showcase.

Harvard Kennedy School launched SICI three years ago to support social innovation, through research, teaching, and educational programs. Held in the Wexner Commons, the Social Innovator Showcase brought together individuals and organizations that share SICI’s commitment to advancing innovative solutions to pressing social problems. The event featured short presentations by 13 recipients of SICI’s Cheng Fellowship, a rigorous program that supports students developing social innovation projects during their time at Harvard.

The projects were divided into three themes: redefining health and healthcare; driving market and economic development; and scaling impact through government.

“No significant social change ever occurs at the hands of one single person—what it needs is a movement,” said Julie Battilana, SICI founder and faculty chair, Alan L. Gleitsman Professor of Social Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School, and Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. “Tonight, we are hoping to both shape the communities working with social innovators as well as the social innovators themselves.”

Among the students presenting were Manivannan Ponniah MC/MPA, a senior civil servant of the Indian Administrative Service in Bangalore, who has been working to improve waste management in the city using blockchain technology to make governmental transactions more transparent and therefore reduce corruption.

Man speaking at podiumDavid Walfish MPP 2019 spoke about Ho’oulu Pacific, the organization he co-founded to improve nutrition, self-sufficiency, and holistic health in the Pacific Islands by distributing hydroponic systems to households, allowing them to grow vegetables and fish in small “gardens” about the size of a minivan.

And Genevieve Oni MPA 2019, who is pursuing a concurrent MBA at MIT Sloan School of Management, is the co-founder and chief financial officer of MDaaS Global, which provides convenient, affordable, and high-quality diagnostics and primary care in Nigeria.

Read more about the Social Innovator Showcase, the Cheng Fellows, and their projects here.

Photography by Ally Schmaling Photography

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