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Project Enterprise Contest

Vote for your Favorite below!

More than 100 people were nominated for the Project Enterprise Contest, including entrants from New Zealand, South Africa, and Latvia. Their projects were equally diverse. Nominees were conquering homelessness, fighting deadly illness, supplying electricity, and improving literacy, just to name a few.

Our expert judges generously donated their time and expertise:

  • Lucy Bernholz, the president of the philanthropy consulting firm Blueprint Research & Design
  • Paul Ellis, a financial advisor who specializes in socially responsible investing
  • Beverly Schwartz of Ashoka, an organization that finds and fosters social entrepreneurs around the world

NOW IT'S YOUR TURN. Which social entrepreneur are you most interested in watching over the coming months? The winner will be announced in early November.

The winner will share their experiences over several months through updates and short videos on this website, and an appearance on one of NOW's broadcast segments.

Select your choice and then vote below!


Nominee: Benevolence Farm

Tanya Jisa
Tanya Jisa
Problem: Incarcerated women leaving prison typically have few resources to rebuild their lives, which increases their risk of returning to prison.
Solution: A holistic transitional living program based on an organic farm that provides opportunities to develop skills in organic farming, small business practices, food preparation and presentation in an environment that fosters improved physical, spiritual and financial health.
Details: The project will be partially, and perhaps eventually fully self-supporting through growing its own food, selling the harvest at local farmer's markets, at a community-support agriculture (CSA) program, and at a farm stand. It will also forge mutually beneficial partnerships with local restaurants. Benevolence Farm is unique in that it addresses a multitude of issues - health, housing, work readiness —which can be barriers to women leaving prison and establishing a successful livelihood.
Operates out of: Durham, North Carolina
Nominee: Materials Matter

Jason McKinstry and Alison Riback
Jason McKinstry and Alison Riback
Problem: Nonprofit housing organizations often waste money and resources buying expensive building materials.
Solution: Creation of a regional center that coordinates the solicitation and distribution of large donations of building supplies and secures bulk purchasing deals on behalf of nonprofit organizations.
Details: Not only does a regional center make it easier for donors by serving as a single point of contact, it provides valuable coordination services, harnessing nonprofits' collective buying power to secure bulk purchasing deals. In 2005, founders McKinstry and Riback moved their operation to a large facility in Corona, Calif., and launched a social enterprise venture to secure its future. Named the Home Improvement Outlet, the venture is a discount and surplus store open to families who otherwise may not be able to afford home improvement options.
Operates out of: Corona, California

Nominee: Intelligent Mobility International

Rudy Roy
Rudy Roy
Problem: Twenty-million people with disabilities in developing nations lack mobility because wheelchairs are not readily available nor are capable of traversing rugged terrain.
Solution: A nonprofit organization that converts mountain bicycles into low-cost, durable wheelchairs to help the disabled find sustainable employment and new hope in their lives.
Details: IMI intends to produce 50 wheelchairs during its first year. IMI combines talent from Caltech and the Art Center College of Design to bring appropriate design to wheelchairs for the developing world. Committed to supporting local economic development, IMI will train at least 20 disabled workers at its shop in Guatemala to make the chairs it has designed. The wheelchairs will be distributed in Guatemala, thereby supporting local economic development and keeping manufacturing costs low. To enhance its distribution system and supply chain, IMI will develop additional partnerships and enlist the cooperation of at least one major bicycle company.
Operates out of: Pasadena, California
Nominee: Speak Shop

Clay and Cindy Cooper
Clay and Cindy Cooper
Problem: Educated citizens in developing countries struggle to make a living.
Solution: The creation of a scalable language tutoring marketplace that uses tutors from developing nations and Internet videoconferencing to meet the growing demand in industrialized countries for language and cultural skills.
Details: Through Speak Shop, customers ages 7 to 70 and from Japan to Chile are taking one-on-one Spanish lessons with tutors in Guatemala. Going forward, Speak Shop will expand to other countries and languages. By democratizing access to economic opportunities and cross-cultural language learning, Speak Shop solves several problems. Speak Shop empowers tutors to become entrepreneurs by providing training, access to technology and access to markets. Tutors gain 21st century skills in business and technology, prosperity, and independence, setting their own hours and rates and bringing income into their homes and communities.
Operates out of: Beaverton, Oregon

Note: The winner will not receive monetary compensation of any kind.

Enterprising Ideas is a project of NOW on PBS, with support from:

PBS Foundation
Skoll Foundation