Social Innovation and the Art of Storytelling

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BB12_Deb_SpeakingAs leader of Dell’s global giving efforts, I see the many ways our team members, technology and funding help bring the dreams of others to life. We support nonprofits in countries around the world: bringing technology access to students, supporting young social entrepreneurs, accelerating cancer treatment for children, and providing relief in times of disaster. Meeting our partners doing this work and hearing their stories is the best part of my job, and a true gift.

Last week, I shared some of those stories with a group of professional storytellers, the Austin Association of Women in Communications. Specifically, I spoke about the Dell Social Innovation Challenge, an ongoing competition that rewards aspiring entrepreneurs for developing ideas that address environmental and societal problems; Dell sponsors this program with the University of Texas at Austin. In June, we will meet high-potential students from around the world who pitch their ideas with hopes of taking home a portion of the $150,000 in cash prizes and Dell technology to help bring their dreams to fruition.

Last year, we met Malo Traders, two brothers who work to ensure that rice farmers in Mali are better nourished; they fortify rice with minerals and vitamins, creating a brand of Malian rice that adheres to international export quality standards. We met Daniel Paffenholz, a London School of Economics student and founder of TakaTaka Solutions, which provides affordable and responsible waste management services to Nairobi residents by recycling and composting up to 85 percent of collected waste. And we met two students from India providing hygienic sanitary napkins to women in slums across Delhi, while also giving them a sustained means of livelihood.

It is truly inspirational to meet university students who are moved to act and make their ideas a reality. I think back to my college days, and I can’t imagine going to school and starting an entrepreneurial venture. This year’s competition has more than 1,500 entries from 90 countries. Amazing!

In 2011, Dell committed $5 million over five years to enhance the program, moving it to a year-round, web-based community with resources and support for students at every level — whether they merely have a dream, or they’ve already built a business plan and are raising funds for a pilot. Dell team members engage as judges and mentors; more than 500 have helped this year. And a new web platform invites anyone in the world to participate. You can read about projects, offer comments and support, vote for People’s Choice Award winners, and sign up as a mentor at

Getting their stories told well and often is a big key to the students’ future success. So if you are looking for some inspiration and an opportunity to share your knowledge, please join us!


On the left is Julie Tereshchuk, President, AWC Austin on the right is Deb Bauer, Director of Giving, Dell.

About the Author: Deb Bauer

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