Step Up to Justice wins top prize at Social Impact Pitch Competition

Oct. 17, 2017


The winners of the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship’s first Social Impact Pitch Competition aim to expand the availability of free civil legal services, increase community literacy and service learning opportunities, and make it easier for millennials to give to charities. The three winners of the Oct. 16 competition collectively walked away with $30,000 in funding for their social impact startups. 

First Prize and $15,000 was awarded to Step Up to Justice (SU2J): Bridging the Justice Gap. SU2J increases access to justice by delivering $1,000,000 per year in donated civil legal services to low-income individuals in Pima County. 

"Winning the first Social Impact Pitch Competition was incredibly affirming and energizing for our hard-working staff and volunteers," said Stacy Rupprecht Butler, SU2J Board President, who presented the pitch. "We are so grateful to the sponsors of this event for recognizing the need for innovative social justice solutions and for their belief in our ability to efficiently and effectively deliver quality free civil legal services. This award allows us to implement much-needed software technology into our service delivery model, so that we can continue to connect volunteer attorneys with the low-income clients who truly need their help. Our program is providing $1 million in free civil legal services to low-income individuals in Pima County this year, and we can't wait to show the community how much further we can reach with the help of this new technology."

The judges were impressed by the SU2J presentation, which clearly addressed all three components of the judging criteria: scalability, sustainability and capacity to solve a need.

“The potential for immediate impact is huge,” said Tony Penn, President/CEO of United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, who served as a judge along with Mike Miles from Microsoft, Scott Nance of ImpactAssets, and Peggy Hutchison of The Primavera Foundation. 

Second Prize and $10,000 was awarded to a Literacy Connects program, Stories that Soar! High, a new addition to high school drama curriculum focused on community literacy, leadership, and service learning. The judges were drawn to the program's two levels of impact: literacy education for elementary school students as well as leadership training and the development of transferable workplace skills for high school students.  

“My head has been down working so hard and it’s so nice to have the opportunity to talk about innovation again,” said presenter Sharon O’Brien, artistic director of Stories that Soar! and a 2005 graduate of the McGuire New Venture Development Program. “I really appreciate the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship for providing that opportunity.”  

Third Prize and $5,000 was awarded to Natio, a startup that will enable digital news consumers to quickly donate to vetted nonprofits impacting the specific issues covered in news articles. The judges saw value in this startup’s aim to address multiple needs, and appreciated that it targeted millennials and offered them easy access to act upon their charitable intent. 

“This makes it real,” said Cole Lanning, who is a local high school senior. He was among the first round of students accepted to the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) and then participated in Thryve, an incubator run by Startup Tucson, but this was his first win in a pitch competition.

The Oct. 16 competition, part of the McGuire Center's inaugural Social Impact Summit, was sponsored by Microsoft, United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, and The University of Arizona Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice, and was open to individuals, nonprofits, and social ventures that are starting new programs or services to solve needs in local communities or around the globe.

The six finalists that presented at the Social Impact Pitch Competition were selected from a competitive applicant pool of 22 social impact proposals. The other three finalists were:

  • Community Resource Warehouse: GAP Community Warehouse brings reclaims product from large corporations and redistributes those items to nonprofits and individuals in need. Presenters: Bekah and Tom Collins.
  • Creating a Modern Community for Arts Engagement:  The “Arts Engagement Platform” is a digital platform transforming connections between seekers and providers of arts and cultural experiences. Presenters: Julie Lautenbach-Colby and Dillon Walker.
  • Global Permanent Investment Account income for generations and generations coming: KaizenRhino Solutions International designed GPIA dividend paying stocks to address entrenched multigenerational poverty and being unbanked. Presenter: Wacinque Amistad Kaizen BeMende.

The Social Impact Pitch Competition was the culminating event of the McGuire Center’s Social Impact Summit, which was held at the University of Arizona Student Union Memorial Center and featured expert panelists from around the state and country, as well as  from as far away as Colombia and Uganda. The Social Impact Summit was part of the TENWEST festival, a weeklong celebration of entrepreneurship, technology, arts and communities. 

The Social Impact Summit was presented by Microsoft, co-sponsored by United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona and the Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice, and received additional support from Social Venture Partners (SVP) Tucson, Conn-Selmer, Inc., Moves the Needle, and the University of Arizona Office of Research, Discovery & Innovation.




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Photo credit: Great Bear Media