The Zahn Social Innovation Ideas Challenge offers an opportunity for the ENTIRE City College community (students, faculty, staff and alumni) to pitch their big ideas on how to change the world through social enterprise.

Teams will compete for up to $30K in prize money to help develop their innovative ideas into viable solutions to social and environmental challenges. This is your chance to submit an innovative solution to a problem you see in the world – from healthcare to education, gender equality to clean water, sustainability to urban architecture. This is your opportunity to activate large-scale change.

Throughout the summer and fall, the Zahn Center will offer funding, extensive mentorship from CCNY and the NYC social ecosystem, and pro bono legal services, all in an inspiring collaborative workspace to develop the ideas of change maker finalists.

The Ideas Challenge will accept first round entries through April 4 and semi-finalists will be announced by April 11. The selected semi-finalist teams will pitch at the Final on May 8.

  • Eligibility

    Teams applying for the Ideas Challenge must meet the following criteria:
    • At least one CCNY community member: students, faculty, staff, or alumni.
    • A team must consist of 1-6 members.
    • Entrepreneurial idea may be a for-profit, nonprofit or a blended business model BUT must include a viable plan for financial sustainability.
    • Commitment of the team to continue developing the program or venture after the competition.
  • Judging Criteria

    Semi-finalist teams will be selected based on the following:
    • Demonstrated understanding of the core societal challenge
    • Uniqueness and innovation behind the proposed solution
    • Awareness of similar organizations and why proposed solution is distinct
    • Early planning for financial sustainability
  • Competition Timeline

    March 7: Application period opens
    April 4: Submission deadline for Ideas Brief
    April 11: Semi-finalist teams announced
    May 8: Final Pitch Night and finalists announced
  • Information Sessions

    Information sessions will be held every Tuesday and Thursday until the deadline of April 4th.

    Tuesdays: NAC 5/101, 12:30-1:30pm
    Thursdays: NAC 5/109, 12:30-1:30pm
    Pizza and refreshments will be provided at all information sessions.

    *If you are interested in participating but do not have a specific idea, or have an idea and are looking for partners, the information sessions are designed to allow for networking and partner building.

    1. If you are looking to build a team around your idea, please add your pitch and your information to this form.
    2. And if you are looking to join an existing team, please add your contact information to this form.
  • Semi-Finalists

    In just four weeks from launch to the deadline, we were inundated with amazing applications which ranged from local initiatives to international, grant-funded ideas to revenue-based ventures, and tackling issues as varied as education, energy, human rights, healthcare and beyond. Congratulations to all teams who entered the competition - you made the selection process very difficult for our judges!

    We are pleased to announce the teams that will advance in the Zahn Social Innovation Challenge as our semi-finalists:
    1. 2x3
    2. Amenawon Solar School
    3. Bugs on Purpose
    4. Grant Answers
    5. Homer Delivery
    6. IEEE Haiti
    7. Kuumba Academy
    8. Museum of Your Art
    9. Physics Interactive
    10. Polyvote
    11. Salus
    12. Waste No Space

    Semi-finalist teams will be required to meet the following criteria:
    • Meet three times with Lindsay Siegel (the Zahn Center’s managing director for social entrepreneurship) before the Final Pitch Night to develop your final presentation
    • Attend the Final Pitch Night on Thursday, May 8th to present to a panel of judges
  • How to Enter

    To enter the competition, complete our application. There is the option to add a YouTube video (3 minutes or less), which is greatly encouraged by the judging committee.
*If you would like to enter the competition but do not have an idea or team, be sure to attend the information sessions. They are designed to allow for networking and partnering. If you are looking to build a team you can visit the following links to connect with other students.

1. If you are looking to build a team around your idea, please add your pitch and your information to this form.
2. And if you are looking to join an existing team, please add your contact information to this form.

If you have questions about the competition, feel free to stop by the Zahn Center. You can also send an email to Lindsay Siegel at