Y-Prize: Social Innovation Solutions

Y-Prize: Social Innovation Solutions Competition (SISC) offers BYU students from various disciplines the opportunity to come together and apply their skills to help solve real-time issues for an organization that has partnered with the Ballard Center.

What is the Y-Prize: Social Innovation Solutions Competition?

This solution competition is an event, much like a case competition, in which teams of three to five students join together to present a solution to a social entrepreneurship organization’s real-world problem. Solutions will be judged by a knowledgeable panel and winning teams are awarded cash prizes.


The Y-Prize: Social Innovation Solutions competition will focus this year on Elevate, which is a financial literacy company for loan recipients in Latin America. Learn more at https://elevate.global.

At the kickoff event, you will be provided with a challenge document that outlines the selected social venture history and culture–including the founder’s vision, initial growth, and plans for expansion. It will present the key organizational challenges the social venture currently faces. The document is written by the directors of the competition, who met with the organization to gather data from its various stakeholders and build a comprehensive summary of its inner workings. This allowed the directors to become content experts on the issue so they can serve as mentors to you and your team throughout the competition. Participants will have the first couple days of the competition to ask any clarifying questions to the directors, who will then answer them in a document shared with all participants.

Hard copies will be given to each team present and email copies will be sent to all participants. The challenge document will be about five pages, with additional appendices. In teams, participants will perform research on the challenge to identify potential solutions. Teams will create a presentation of their recommendations and pitch them to a panel of three knowledgeable judges. The kick-off event will include a brief overview of best practices in developing recommendations and creating presentations for a case competition.

Info Sessions:  We will host information sessions for prospective participants to learn more about the case structure and logistics, meet potential team members, and enjoy good food. You can pick from the following three dates: 5 February @ 5:30-6:30pm (W408 TNRB), 13 February @ 6:00-7:00 p.m. (210 TNRB), and 15 February @ 12:00-1:00 p.m. (2107 JKB).

Registration: Full teams (between three and five members) can register here beginning Tuesday, February 5th. Complete teams must be registered no later than Tuesday, February 19th at 11:59 p.m. This ensures that there will be enough food at the kickoff which will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, 21 February, where teams can ask final questions and start collaborating. 

Round 1: Teams will have until Wednesday, 27 February, at 11:59 p.m. to submit a copy of their presentation (Powerpoint) and one-page executive summary of their solution.  Judges will review the executive summaries, and the top twenty teams will be assigned to a fifteen-minute slot between 5:00-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, 28 February to present their live pitch to a panel of judges, including a member of the Elevate team. Each presentation should be fifteen minutes or less, allowing for five minutes of Q&A. The three teams with the highest scores on the judging rubrics, will be announced as finalists later that evening. 

Round 2 (finals): On Friday, 1 March, each of the three finalist teams will present their solution to judges from Elevate’s leadership team for fifteen minutes and answer questions from the judges for five minutes. This event will be open to anyone on campus  and all SISC participants are encouraged to attend. The winning teams and any other competition participants are welcome to a thirty minute Q&A session with the Elevate leadership team to better understand their current business model as well as hear stories from the field.

Come meet others looking for a team at one of our info sessions! We’re also happy to connect you with students who are interested in participating but don’t have a team – fill out your information HERE to indicate you are searching for teammates. 


  • You’ll learn to look at the world differently by developing solutions for complex challenges.
  • You’ll work with a team of BYU students whose ideas will spur and improve your own.
  • Whether you are a finalist or not, your ideas will be passed on to Elevate for consideration and implementation.
  • Whether you are a finalist or not, you are invited to participate in a thirty minute Q&A session with the Elevate CEO, CFO, and Peru Managing Director.
  • You’ll be able to present your ideas to several qualified judges in person and receive personalized feedback.


Finalists will be invited to lunch with the Elevate team after the final competition on Friday, 1 March. The three finalist teams will be awarded a share of $6,000 in prize money: $3,000 for first place, $2,000 for second place, and $1,000 for third place.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us at sisc@byu.edu. Seriously, we’re interested in your concerns or questions and want to do our best in resolving them in a timely manner.

Past Competitions

The Y-Prize: Social Innovation Solution Competition focused on The Other Side Academy, which is a vocational school for people experiencing drug abuse, homelessness, or incarceration. More info at www.theothersideacademy.com

The Problem

According to the International Rice Research Institute, rice is a staple food of over 3.5 billion people and 91% of all rice is grown and consumed in Asia. Every four tons of rice grain that is produced is accompanied by six tons of straw, about 550 million tons each year. Unlike rice husks, which are often converted into fuel, rice straw is typically seen as useless and is both costly and time-consuming to gather up and remove. All over the world, farmers often resort to burning the straw, which pollutes the air and leads to a host of environmental and health issues for the local communities. Vietnamese native Trang Tran grew up experiencing this problem firsthand and, after receiving her MBA from Colorado State University, decided to launch Fargreen, a social venture that partners with rural farmers to produce premium organic mushroom products from the leftover rice straw. This model both discourages harmful environmental practices and reduces rice farmers’ risk for poverty by providing a sustainable cash crop option. 

Fargreen has established partnerships with a group of small-scale farmers who collect the rice straw after harvesting and produce premium, organic mushroom products that are then sold to Fargreen’s customer network. This model both discourages harmful environmental practices and reduces rice farmers’ risk for poverty by providing a sustainable cash crop option. 

Trang Tran is the CEO and founder of Fargreen. In just a few short years, she has seen much success. Echoing Green, a social innovation fund, identifies transformational leaders around the world for fellowship opportunities that include mentorship, networking, and seed-funding. In 2014, Trang was nominated as an Echoing Green Fellow. In 2015, she was chosen as the first TED Fellow from Vietnam.  

The Problem

Grappling with homelessness isn’t a position most of us expect to find ourselves in. But for thousands of Americans, it’s their reality and is found to some degree in virtually every community any of us will ever live in. This year, SISC is partnering with an innovative organization in San Francisco to provide BYU students with the opportunity to learn deeply and present impactful solutions while helping to shatter stereotypes and change the conversation around those experiencing homelessness. 

Homelessness is a very complex social problem calling for involvement from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. To work on homelessness in a broad sense can be overwhelming and bring accusation of a lack of focus and impact that can’t be measured. To slice up homelessness and work on a specific piece of the puzzle is much more quantifiable but can be difficult to scale up–considering how unique the experience of homelessness can look from place to place and person to person.

Lava Mae is an organization formed in 2013 with the specific intent to serve in the “emergency service” slice of work within homelessness by bringing mobile hygiene to the streets of San Francisco. To do this, founder Doniece Sandoval spearheaded the effort to acquire recently retired city buses and repurpose them into shower and toilet stalls.

The showers are critical, and the dignity that they help restore builds resilience for those experiencing homelessness. Four years later, Lava Mae has been asked by over 1,500 communities for their help in bringing the same service to their communities. The need is clear, but Lava Mae is being very intentional about how to grow in ways that make it easier for partners to implement quickly, overcome financial barriers, and run operations in a way that is customized to succeed in the communities that adopt the model.

The Competition

This was the very first domestic Social Innovation Solution Competition that BYU has ever hosted. Twenty-three teams and over one hundred students from a variety of disciplines competed to come up with the most feasible and innovative solution for Lava Mae. Due to the great success of this first domestic competition, it will continue annually every fall semester. 

The Problem

Social entrepreneur and Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree Nathanael Molle founded an organization named SINGA with a vision of helping refugees in Paris integrate into the local community by connecting them with French citizens who share similar interests. He set up one-on-one meetings between a handful of refugees and Parisians and found that these regular meetings helped refugees develop a network and learn the language. All of the refugees in this initial group gained confidence, developed friendships, and found jobs to match their skill set.

SINGA has since grown in Paris to 20,000 active volunteers. SINGA now hosts and facilitates advertising for events that connect local citizens and refugees in addition to connecting refugees with housing via hosts who have similar personal interests and professional ambitions. Because SINGA was so successful in Paris, it expanded to other French cities and has launched in five other countries with different programs suited to the most impactful results in each.

The Competition

Over one hundred and fifty students from over thirty different majors across campus came together to learn about SINGA and apply their skills to solve this problem. This was by far the largest Social Innovation Solutions Competition BYU has ever hosted.

The Problem

Fairtrasa is a social enterprise that builds honest, fair and rewarding connections between the consumer and the farmer, based on a shared commitment to high-quality and nutritious food. In partnership with Fairtrasa, subsistence farmers lift themselves out of poverty and grow to be successful agro-entrepreneurs. However, in view of the massive challenge to lift millions of small-scale farmers out of poverty, Fairtrasa needs to take a fresh look at its scaling strategy in order to accelerate its expansion process both on the supply and the sales side.

The Competition

About eighty students from thirty different majors across campus came together to learn about Fairtrasa and apply their skills to solve this problem. Undergraduate students competed alongside graduate students in the semifinal round, which included ideas ranging from creating a spotlight metrics program, generating joint ventures with banks, and taking part of government anti-cocaine programs to give a sustainable alternative to farmers.

The Problem

The 2015 case competition featured Skoll Foundation awardee, Fundación Paraguaya. Since 1985 this organization has grown to include a highly successful microfinance program, a self-sustaining agricultural school, and many other programs to support its clients. In spite of establishing a strong track record for increasing incomes and having a 98 percent repayment rate on all microloans, people were not getting out of poverty.

In order to make getting out of poverty more manageable and measurable, Fundación Paraguaya created Poverty Stoplight. This program is both a metric and a methodology, breaking poverty down into fifty indicators that clients self-assess as being red, yellow, or green. Now that the organization had a way to track and define poverty, it needed to figure out how to motivate people to take action and begin to transition their indicators to green. 

The Competition

About one hundred students from twelve different majors came together to learn about Fundación Paraguaya and apply their skill set to this problem. Undergraduate students competed alongside graduate students in the semifinal round, which included ideas ranging from bike rental and lottery programs to a poverty stoplight Olympic program that gamified the process to leverage the positive social capital and competitive spirit of the people.