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The optiMize Challenge


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The optiMize Challenge


You can become a social innovator. 

Whether you're passionate about mental health, inclusive education, sustainable energy, or something else entirely, our programs are for you.

We provide workshops and events, access to mentors, and up to $20,000 in funding for your team.

Most importantly, whether you're a beginner or an experienced innovator, you'll find a supportive community of like-minded students and mentors who want to help you succeed.

Here's how it works:

This Challenge is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Contact us if you want to launch optiMize in your area!

October-February: Workshops and Events

Workshops bring in entrepreneurs and thought leaders to lead action-based sessions where you learn new skills and apply them to your project. Topics include value propositioning, positive visioning, prototyping and pilot testing, storytelling, and pitching.

Innovate Nights are casual events to eat and hang out together as a community, test prototypes, and bounce ideas with peers and mentors in a collaborative working space. 

Mentor Check Ins bring together Challenge teams and local mentors in a supportive small group setting. Instead of only pitching what's going great, we delve into the challenges we're facing. Everyone at the table commits to share openly and give honest, caring feedback to help each other find a positive way forward.

 
optiMize is the first place where we’ve really felt like everyone wanted to help us learn new skills, face our challenges, and grow as a company and as individuals. Every event helped us move forward, and this community is so inspiring!
— Jordan Golshan, StepFor Co-Founder
 

February: Pitch for up to $20,000

In February, you'll tell your story: where you started, how far you've come, your vision for sustainable impact, and your key next steps.

If selected for funding, your team will receive up to a $5,000 grant, plus living stipends for each team member to work full-time on your project in the optiMize Summer Fellowship.  

Funded teams present at a Year-End Showcase to an audience of hundreds of people from the Michigan community.

Miss the October deadline? We still want to help you! Submit your idea and we'll be in touch.

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Summer Fellowship Program


Summer Fellowship Program


Once you complete the Social Innovation Challenge, the optiMize Summer Fellowship gives your team the opportunity to work full-time on your project from May to August. With guidance from mentors and support from other Fellows, you get to spend all your time on what matters most to you.

Weekly Events for optiMize Summer Fellows

After making it through the school year with so many distractions, it was incredible to spend the summer dedicated fully to making our project a reality. I was amazed at how much progress we could make when we had time to focus and so many people around us to support and help!
— Laura Murphy, ADAPT Co-Founder

optiMondays bring together fellows, mentors, and anyone else from the optiMize community to share ideas and experiences, keep each other motivated, and work through challenges we're facing.

SkillShare Sessions with partners like The Honest Company give you the opportunity to talk directly with experts in social media, sales, partnerships, and more.

Community Wednesdays are weekly volunteering days where optiMize Fellows spend an afternoon together working to support a variety of nonprofits and initiatives in our local community.

National Conferences can be a great way to broaden your perspective and your network. We attend one all together!