Fellowships and Initiatives

The David Lingren Fellowship

The David Lingren Fellowship for Social Innovation was established in 2007 to support first-year students at the Heinz College who have demonstrated a commitment to further developing the field of social innovation and entrepreneurship.  Students have used the fellowship, for example, to develop a social venture, conduct research in a relevant area, and craft new public policy solutions to pressing problems.

Mr. Lingren is a graduate of the Tepper School who is committed to using social entrepreneurship to address many of the challenging issues facing society.

The Anne V. Lewis, HNZ 1990, and Edward J. Lewis Post-Graduate Fellowship in Social Innovation

The Anne V. Lewis, HNZ 1990, and Edward J. Lewis Post-Graduate Fellowship in Social Innovation was established in 2010 to provide necessary physical space and seed capital to select Heinz College graduates launching financially sustainable organizations addressing social needs. The 5-year initiative provided critical support to early-stage social ventures spinning out of CMU before the establishment of of a variety of ISI partnerships with accelerators and incubators, both regional and national, catering to social entrepreneurs.  

As a result of David Lingren and the Lewis' foresight and commitment, as well as a variety of campus-based initiatives, a number of social ventures launched from CMU continue to have significant impact in the communities that they serve including:

GTECH Strategies

Based on research conducted at the Heinz College, three graduates passionate about the green economy and community development launched GTECH Strategies (Growth Through Energy and Community Health) in 2007 to reclaim idle land and create both renewable energy and jobs. The founding team quickly put ideas into action and started farming, by hand, Pittsburgh's largest remaining brownfield, the Almono site and successfully piloted the concept of growing crops to remediate land and produce biofuel feedstock.  The process elevated property values and served as a bridge to commercial and residential development, and the overall effort proved successful in both catalyzing change in place and bringing together diverse and complimentary partnerships to create scale.

In 2008, the GTECH management team received the prestigious Echoing Green Fellowship, an international award supporting the work of early stage social entrepreneurs and their vision for social change. In addition, in 2010, Co-Founder and CEO Andrew Butcher received an Hitachi Foundation Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneur Award.  Both awards catalyzed the growth of GTECH into a change-making organization and a community leader on both a regional and national level. This enabled the organization to expand their reach, increase the size of their team, and focus on applying innovation and environmental equity to the community development system.

In nearly a decade of development and impact, GTECH has innovatively addressed a variety of issues including vacant land, residential energy efficiency, waste cooking oil, green infrastructure, green jobs, brownfield reuse, and community capacity building.

Talk, The New Sex Ed

Samantha Bushman founded Talk, The New Sex Ed during her time as the ISI's inaugural Lewis Fellow in response to several pressing, unmet needs among young people: the practical knowledge and skills to effectively navigate the complexity of teenage life, the opportunity to ask “real questions" about sex, and the support necessary to make informed, responsible choices about their relationships and sexual health. The two-fold model she designed addresses the pitfalls and limitations of existing approaches, empowers parents to convey their beliefs and values to guide teens' decisionmaking, and leverages the contributions of highly-trained educators. The parent program provides strategies for creating a productive, meaningful dialogue with their child and the teen program combines best practices with the concept of a near-peer educator who is both old enough to be credible, and young enough to readily connect with participants. Talk’s mission is to create a national corps of recent college graduates dedicated to this effort.

Sam conceived and began to develop her idea during the spring 2008 offering of the Social Innovation Incubator class.  After conducting three successful pilots, Sam forged school partnerships, adapted the teen program to be delivered in the classrooms, and raised additional investment capital.

EarthSpark International and SparkMeter

EarthSpark International, launched in 2009 by Dan Schnitzer, a PhD student in CMU's Engineering and Public Policy program, is a non-profit incubator for clean energy enterprises that deliver sustainable energy services in off-grid Haiti.  The organization works with Haiti's unelectrified communities to expand access to high-quality, low-cost solutions through both energy retail activity (supporting dedicated local entrepreneurs selling solar products and improved cookstoves) and innovative pre-pay micro-grid systems.

SparkMeter, a for-profit social venture established by Schnitzer in 2013, has developed a microgrid metering system that enables utilities to implement pre-payment as well as real-time monitoring and control on microgrids and central grids. The low-cost system consists of four hardware components, a cloud-based operator interface, and a mobile money or cash-based pre-payment system.

In 2015, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency awarded a grant to EarthSpark's spin-off Haitian social enterprise, Enèji Pwòp, for a feasibility study to assess and rank the viability of developing pre-pay microgrids in approximately 100 Haitian towns. This grant will support Enèji Pwòp and EarthSpark’s shared goal of building 80 microgrids in Haiti by 2020.  In addition, EarthSpark inaugurated the EKo Pwòp micro-grid which provides clean, reliable power to 430 homes and businesses in downtown Les Anglais in the South of Haiti. The newly installed grid is powered by a state-of-the-art hybrid generation system, which includes a 93kW solar PV array, 400 kWh of battery capacity, and a small diesel backup generator. The system is also serviced by SparkMeter smart meters which enable customers to pre-pay for electricity and shift load limits, a ‘smart’ system that facilitates metering and billing and enables a more efficient grid operations. With 75% of the population of Haiti currently lacking electricity access, this town-sized, solar-powered smart grid is providing residents and businesses in Les Anglais with clean, affordable, reliable electricity from a grid that can serve as a model to be refined and replicated in other rural towns across the country and around the world.


SponsorChange was started by Raymar Hampshire (Lewis Fellow '12) with a simple question:  "How can I increase volunteerism in the social sector?"  He wanted to understand why people volunteer at nonprofits and, importantly, why they don't volunteer.  After considerable research, surveys, and direct interviews conducted as part of his course work at the Heinz College, he concluded that the ability to volunteer is a privilege that not everyone has the time and resources to afford.  

The resulting social enterprise, SponsorChange, empowers volunteers by creating a pathway to meaningful skill-based project opportunities at social impact organizations while helping them raise funding (through Sponsors or "philanthroteers" (philanthropists + volunteers)) to pay down their student loan debt.  

Open Curriculum

Open Curriculum is a nonprofit social venture developed by Arun Arora (Lewis Fellow '13) focused on creating the place where teachers can find the best K-12 curriculum including standards-aligned and curated lesson plans, activities, and exercises.  He was a grantee of the Points of Light Foundation, member of the inaugural class of Pittsburgh-based start-up incubator Thrill Mill, and part of the first group of nonprofit ventures accepted into the famed Silicon Valley tech accelerator Y Combinator.