CHICAGO, Aug. 27, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Philanthropists and entrepreneurs Leslie Bluhm and David Helfand, along with Chicago Ideas Week (CIW), are proud to announce the Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation (BHSI) Fellows. Celebrating five years, the Fellowship supports socially-minded innovators, all under the age of 35, who are poised to make a significant impact on the world.
Since the Fellowship's start in 2011, the pool of candidates has increased each year, as more young leaders aim to catalyze social change. Over the past five years, the BHSI Fellowship has supported 22 leaders across the globe and given over $500,000 to for-profit and nonprofit organizations in direct financial and in-kind support. The BHSI Fellowship has also placed board members for several organizations and made introductions to key future donors. The BHSI Fellowship has helped organizations accelerate their national expansion and has resulted in organizations launching programs in Chicago. After being recognized as BHSI Fellows, many have been covered by Fast Company, The New York Times and TIME and recognized by CNN Heroes, the Clinton Global Initiative, Draper Richards Kaplan and the World Economic Forum.
The 2015 BHSI class, selected from a record 300+ applicants, has developed innovative solutions for some of the world's most intractable issues. This includes an online marketplace matching impact investors with energy efficient projects in underserved communities; clean, durable and affordable floors for the poorest Rwandans; web technologies that increase civic and voter engagement; and a battery-powered machine that uses magnets and lasers to identify malaria-infected blood.
"The 2015 Fellows amaze us with their talent and commitment driving large-scale social change through entrepreneurial innovation," said BHSI Co-Founder Leslie Bluhm. "We are thrilled to help amplify their impact."
Each young entrepreneur receives $10,000 in financial support of his or her work. BHSI Fellows are hosted in Chicago, all expenses covered, for Chicago Ideas Week. They will participate in events throughout the week, October 12–18, 2015, and will present their ideas live on stage at the CIW Conversation "Solving the Impossible through Social Entrepreneurship" on October 14, 2015.
"As CIW and the BHSI Fellowship celebrate our fifth year, we are thrilled to give these young social entrepreneurs a platform for sharing their ground-breaking ideas," said CIW Founder and Co-Chairman Brad Keywell.
Chicago Ideas Week will also coordinate intimate breakfasts and lunches with prominent business and political leaders and provide Fellows exclusive access to speakers. For more information, visit https://www.chicagoideas.com/special_programs/bhsi.
2015 Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellows
Donnel Baird, BlocPower, 34, New York City, NY. Baird is the founder of BlocPower, a startup that markets, finances and installs solar and energy efficiency technologies to help houses of worship, nonprofits, small businesses and multifamily projects slash their energy costs. He spent three years as a community organizer in Brooklyn and one year as a voter contact director for Obama For America; managed a national Change to Win/LIUNA campaign to leverage the Department of Energy's energy efficiency financing to create green construction jobs for out-of-work populations; and partnered with the Washington Interfaith Network to generate a $100 million government investment in underserved communities in Washington, D.C.
Gayatri Datar, EarthEnable, 30, Weston, MA. Datar is the co-founder of EarthEnable, a social enterprise in Rwanda that installs sanitary floors for low-income families that currently live and sleep on dirt, which causes significant health problems. She was previously a consultant at Dalberg Global Development Advisors and has also worked with the World Bank and grassroots organizations in India, Namibia, Nicaragua and Albania.
Seth Flaxman, Democracy Works, 30, Brooklyn, NY. Flaxman is the co-founder of Democracy Works, which leverages web technologies to improve civic engagement and voter education. His first project, Turbovote.org, was created to make voter registration and voting by mail as easy as renting a movie through Netflix. He previously worked as a researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations and Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. While at Columbia University, Flaxman was a student activist and student body president, successfully lobbying Columbia to reform its financial aid policies. In 2011, he was honored as one of Forbes' 30 Under 30 in the field of law and policy. Flaxman is also a Draper Richards Kaplan entrepreneur and Ashoka Fellow.
John Lewandowski, Disease Diagnostic Group, 25, Brighton, MA. Lewandowski is the founder and CEO of Disease Diagnostic Group, an organization focused on screening, tracking and diagnosing highly infectious or neglected tropical diseases in the developing world through portable and reusable devices. DDG's flagship product is the Rapid Assesment of Malaria (RAM), which detects magnetic nanoparticles created by the parasite. Lewandowski has been a managing partner at Lew & Dowski Capital for the past four years. Lewandowski is currently a Ph.D. student at MIT in the Mechanosynthesis Group. Some of his recognitions include being a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellow, a NSF Graduate Research Fellow, a Hertz Foundation Fellowship Finalist, a Tata Fellow, a Don Richards Fellow, a Tau Beta Pi Fellow, a Forbes 30 Under 30 nominee and a Lemelson-MIT Prize Inventor.
About Chicago Ideas
Chicago Ideas is a year-round platform featuring globally recognized speakers and interactive experiences that are designed to turn ideas into actionable results. It is a platform for ideas, created for innovators, thinkers, doers and interested citizens from across Chicago, the greater Midwest and the world. Its goal is to stimulate new initiatives and ventures, create new connections and collaborations, and establish a Community of Curiosity. Chicago Ideas is a 501(c)(3) organization. Follow Chicago Ideas on Twitter @chicagoideas and on Facebook for updates.
About the Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellowship
Designed and created in 2011 by Leslie Bluhm and David Helfand, the BHSI Fellowship was founded to help grow the work and impact a new generation of social entrepreneurs. Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellows receive highly personalized support, mentorship, connections and $10,000 in unrestricted, non-equity financial support of their venture. They also join one of the world's most unique communities of like-minded world changers. The experience begins with a week of one-of-a-kind experiences—including exposure to nationally recognized business leaders, philanthropists and community leaders, funding to support their organization and a platform for growth in Chicago—and continues for the lifetime of each Fellow's venture.
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