A student points to a glowing lightbulb, symbolizing an idea.

Change the World UC Social Innovation Challenge

The UC International Change the World UC Challenge brings together students from all over the world to create an innovative product, service or initiative. Create a sustainable, locally-based solution for a globally-scaled problem.

The international office of the University of Cincinnati, a Carnegie-1 public research university, is proud to host this global innovation challenge for students from UC and our strategic partner institutions.

  • The Change the World UC challenge unites students in international teams to develop innovative ideas with real-world impact.
  • You will work for one project partner, but your ideas will become sustainable, scalable solutions that can serve many communities around the world.
  • The challenge offers multiple pathways, so whatever your skills and passion—technology, education, health sciences, design—you can make a difference!
  • The winning team will receive paid travel to Botswana to implement their solution on-site for our partner or to Cincinnati's innovation district to consult with startup experts at UC's 1819 Innovation Hub. Travel is slated for December 2021, dependent on international and university travel policies. An alternative award will be funded if necessary.
  • All participants will gain experience with international virtual teamwork and a social innovation business model canvas process.
We're excited to see what the creativity, diverse skills, and multicultural perspectives of our international student teams will bring into the world for this challenge.
The intersection of cultures is where change happens. Diverse viewpoints drive innovation and problem-solving that have an impact in every part of the world.

Dr. Raj Mehta Vice Provost for International Affairs

Our Partner

A class of elementary school children in blue uniforms turn and smile and wave toward the camera as two adults stand in the back; a map of Africa and other colorful materials are posted on the walls.

A classroom at The Dow Academy during a UC delegation visit in January 2020.

Our partner for the pilot UC the World challenge is The Dow Academy, a private primary and secondary school in Mochudi, Botswana, a village 40 kilometers north of the capital, Gaborone.

The Dow Academy has been a developing partner of UC since 2019, and its owners, including Botswana's former Minister of Foreign Affairs Unity Dow, have longstanding ties with UC's College of Law. The University of Cincinnati is partnering with The Dow Academy to help provide opportunities for students of both schools—at UC, especially in the School of Education and the Arlitt Center for Education, Research, & Sustainability.

The Dow Academy’s vision is to reimagine education to nurture well-rounded global citizens who build sustainable communities.

Project Pathways

A student in a blue uniform sits at a laptop that is labeled TDA Tech Series. She is wearing a blue uniform and a face mask pulled down to her chin, and she is smiling widely.

A fourth grader works on a coding exercise in an after-school tech class.

The Dow Academy has identified four areas where they would like your creative solutions, and they have provided a few more details on each below. The challenge process will give advancing teams a chance to ask academy representatives further questions as you refine your ideas.

You may design technological solutions, awareness initiatives or groundbreaking products. These might look like: 

  • A campaign to increase funding or volunteering for after-school activities.
  • An app for teachers to share resources on different curriculum topics. 
  • An interactive game that can detect common learning barriers.  
  • A technology recycling program with a global marketplace for non-profits.
You are not limited to these suggestions! Let your team's creativity and skills be your roadmap. Remember that your ideas may solve the same problems for other schools around the world.
The end goal is to make it possible for every student to get a quality education. 

How can we provide more after-school activities for our students without using additional operational funding?

Paying for instructors, tools and materials all take extra resources that The Dow Academy cannot currently support. We could ask parents for additional money, but that’s a barrier for quite a few families. 

Is there a sustainable solution that either funds itself, or gives students access to quality after-school activities in a unique, low-cost way?

How can we supplement the knowledge of our teachers and our textbooks as information is ever-changing and culturally nuanced? 

The Dow Academy dreams of a future where students can have access to updated content and multiple cultural perspectives. 

What does the future of K-12 learning look like without a teacher-only or book-only methodology?

How can we screen students for potential learning barriers in under-resourced schools? 

Even common issues, like hearing or eyesight problems, are difficult for our teachers to spot. 

Is there a novel way to identify students with potential learning barriers so teachers can provide the right curriculum or interventions?

How can we build a circular economy for technology and get secondhand devices to institutions (like The Dow Academy) that could use them? 

The Dow Academy hosts a “Build a Laptop” program where students learn the parts of a computer, build their own using recycled technology and get to keep the result. It’s a highly valuable experience, but we have trouble accessing secondhand devices. 

Is there some way to connect organizations that can utilize recycled devices with companies or consumers who refresh them?

Competition Overview

If you are a student from the University of Cincinnati or one of our strategic partner universitiessign up to be part of the challenge.

The competition has three parts:

  1. Submission round
  2. Top teams mentoring
  3. Final presentation

Timeline: April 7 - August 27, 2021

  • Enrollment open: April 7, 2021
  • Teams announced: May 3, 2021
  • Submissions due: June 25, 2021
  • Top teams announced: July 9, 2021
  • Mentorship round: July 9 – August 20, 2021
  • Final presentation: August 27, 2021

Submission Round

  1. In this round, you'll sign up to be part of the challenge and have a chance to indicate your interests and skills.
  2. You'll be assigned to an international team of up to five students from a variety of backgrounds and locations.
  3. Your team will have roughly two months to brainstorm and prepare a submission document that details your unique idea for adjudication. You'll receive a template to guide you step by step through this brainstorming and submission process.
  4. Your submission must outline the tangible product/service/campaign/program that your team will produce for your proposed solution. That solution is what you will produce during the mentoring round if your team's submission is chosen to advance.
  5. Representatives from The Dow Academy and from the University of Cincinnati will review all submissions and choose a maximum of five teams to advance to the mentoring and presentation rounds of the competition.

Mentoring Round

  1. Once the top teams are announced, each will have a one-on-one coaching session with an assigned faculty/staff mentor. Your mentors will help your refine your plans in anticipation of your video submission and final presentation.
  2. During this period, your team will prototype or otherwise build out your solution.
  3. Teams will have the opportunity to connect with teachers and high school students at The Dow Academy to gain insight into nuances of the challenge, cultural norms and project feasibility. 
  4. You'll also get a chance to meet with all of the teams and learn more about each other's projects in a peer networking session.  

Final Presentation

  1. In the last round, your team must submit a two-minute video prior to the final presentation to help the judges understand your idea and explain the model.
  2. Your team will give a final, virtual presentation to the challenge judges. Judges will be announced later in the challenge. You will have 15 minutes to present, with an additional 10 minutes for questions and answers.
  3. Winners will be announced later that day or the next, depending on time zone.
  4. The final challenge award will be made based upon the nature of the winning project (for example, whether it is something needing production or R&D) and upon travel conditions.


  • You must be a student at the University of Cincinnati or one of our strategic partner institutions to participate.
  • Students from all disciplines are welcome. Full-time undergraduate and graduate students 18 or older are eligible.
  • Students must be prepared to apply for international travel documents, such as a passport or visa.

More Questions about Change the World UC?

You will find the answers to many of your questions in the challenge packet, which you will receive by email after signing up. If you have any further questions, you can email our program administrator, Natalie Ochmann.

Headshot of Natalie Ochmann

Natalie Ochmann

Assistant Director, Marketing + Publications, UC International