CGI U Programs

Verizon and CGI U 2021 Social Innovation Challenge

We’re excited to partner with Verizon on this inspiring initiative that will help us reach more diverse students and engage the CGI U community in harnessing technology to develop innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Through this new partnership, the next generation of leaders will gain access to enhanced tools, resources, and opportunities to help them turn their ideas into action and make a difference in our society.” —Kevin Thurm, CEO, Clinton Foundation

About the Social Innovation Challenge

This Challenge encourages teams of current undergraduate students, graduate students, and CGI U alumni to develop leading-edge technology-based solutions—including those leveraging the power of 5G—to address significant societal challenges related to education, health, and climate justice. The initiative is part of Citizen Verizon, Verizon's responsible business plan for economic, environmental, and social advancement. Finalists will be invited to participate in a summer program of hands-on entrepreneurial training from accelerator partner VentureWell, through which they will also receive approximately $20,000 per team for seed funding and living stipend.

In partnership with CGI U and VentureWell, Verizon will support social entrepreneurs, innovators, and commitment-makers to develop leading-edge tech-based solutions that explicitly aim to tackle pressing challenges within three issue areas:

If you have a strong desire to propel your changemaking journey to the next level, we want to review your application! The project submission deadline is Thursday, April 1, 2021.

Apply now

How to Apply

Prospective applicants are encouraged to review the rubric to help prepare application answers, form teams of 2-3 with complementary skills, and ideate on project concepts.

Interested students may also join our Social Innovation Challenge Slack channel as a way to find team members and ask our staff questions directly. To join, please email your full name and email address to CGI U Partnerships Manager, Jordan Ashwood, at [email protected]. Once added, you will receive an invitation from our team with instructions on how to access the channel.

We welcome all applicants, and strongly encourage students enrolled at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and community colleges to apply. Teams with up to three participants are highly encouraged. Team members are not required to attend the same institution and CGI U alumni may partner with current students.

Applications will be reviewed by the Social Innovation Challenge Selection Committee. All applicants will be notified of their application status in April 2021.

Prepare Your Application Through the DESIGN SPRINT

If you are interested in applying, we strongly urge students to watch the recordings from the Design Sprint co-hosted by CGI U and Verizon from March 8-12, 2021. The design sprint was intended to prepare applicants to submit their most competitive ideas by the April 1, 2021 deadline - sessions included a Challenge overview, social innovation overview, introduction to 5G technology and the power of connectivity, and a deep dive into the three topic area prompts.

Top teams, comprising 2-3 members per team, will be selected and will receive:

  • Access to project seed funding and living stipend from a pool of $350K.
  • An exclusive spot in a startup accelerator with VentureWell for tailored, hands-on entrepreneurial training from May 2021-August 2021. Teams will work closely with VentureWell’s experienced trainers to develop a nuanced understanding of the particular need being addressed, identify gaps in the approaches currently deployed, improve the technical and business aspects of the solution, and create a viable business model. This includes membership in the VentureWell E-Team program and access to E-Team alumni programming, network, and resources.
  • Expert mentorship and access to networking opportunities through CGI U, Verizon, and VentureWell communities.
  • Opportunity to pitch their venture in September 2021 to a panel of experts.
  • Access to the CGI U 2021 curriculum and invitations to the annual meeting, for those awardees not currently in the CGI U 2021 program.


  • Open to early-stage social entrepreneurs and innovators, including CGI U Alumni, 2021 CGI U Students or students currently enrolled in undergraduate or graduate coursework. No prior CGI U community engagement is required.
  • Current students who have applied to CGI U 2021 but have identified strong overlap within one of these tracks are strongly encouraged to submit an application for the Verizon and CGI U 2021 Social Innovation Challenge as well.
  • Prospective teams should closely review the research prompts tied to each of the tracks (IMMERSIVE EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY; CLIMATE JUSTICE; HEALTH EQUITY), prior to applying, to ensure that there is clear alignment.
  • We encourage participation from students with disabilities. If you have a disability and need a reasonable accommodation in completing the application or participating in the design sprint, please contact [email protected].

Apply now

Information Sessions

In an effort to support students and schools interested in the Challenge, CGI U, Verizon, and VentureWell will host a series of in-depth information sessions to guide applicants through the process of preparing competitive submissions. We invite all who are interested in applying to tune in to the following recordings!

Previously Recorded:

Information Session with North Carolina A&T State University recorded on February 23, 2021 with a focus on health equity
0:05: Overview of Challenge
15:30: Overview of Leading-Edge Technology and Social Impact
51:00: Deep Dive into Health Equity 

Information Session with Morgan State University recorded on March 4, 2021 with a focus on climate justice
0:07: Overview of Challenge
21:40: Overview of Leading-Edge Technology and Social Impact
54:40: Deep Dive into Climate Justice

Information Session with Spelman College recorded on March 4, 2021 with a focus on immersive education technology
0:17: Overview of Challenge
20:27: Overview of Leading-Edge Technology and Social Impact
41:00: Deep Dive into Immersive Education Technology