Combating Scarcity With Abundance: New Impact Challenge to Tackle California’s Drought

Have a big idea about how to use technology to tackle California’s drought? Applications are now open for the 2015 Singularity University Impact Challenge. The top three ideas will win $5,000, access to SU’s Startup Lab network, and a space in the SU Startup Lab Entrepreneurs in Residence Program. Go here to apply now!

“It takes a single drop of water to start a wave, one person, one idea. When collectively working with other people, that wave is going to happen and it’s going to change lives.”

-Gemma Bulos, Executive Director, Global Women’s Water Initiative

Recognizing that global collaboration is imperative for solving the world’s greatest challenges has been a powerful paradigm shift in recent years. This global focus is important to create impact at scale, and also helps when solving pressing challenges within our own local communities; sometimes the solution is right at our fingertips, and other times, the idea is budding across a distant border.

Launched at the Second Annual Exponential Impact Day on June 15th, the 2015 Singularity University Impact Challenge is a new impact competition in collaboration with California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. The goal? To help alleviate the severe drought in California by leveraging new and exponentially growing technologies.

“Water is certainly one of our Global Grand Challenges,” says Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom, chief impact officer at Singularity University. “And if you look at our mission, it embodies what we want to do as an organization, which is to leverage exponential technology to solve a Global Grand Challenge. What better way to do that than to solve the biggest problem in California right now and one that is in our backyard?”

Though California currently suffers from an annual water deficiency in excess of six million acre-feet, the state’s situation represents a much larger picture of a global water crisis. But the crisis is not necessarily one rooted in a shortage of water itself.

Singularity University’s Global Grand Challenge Director Nicholas Haan says, “We have to ask ourselves the question, ‘Is water really a scarce resource?’ But in fact, and this is the abundance mindset kicking in, we actually have a tremendous amount of water that we’re not tapping into.” It’s here that exponential technologies may find a new unprecedented solution.

singularity-university-global-impact-challenge-2The competition is open to applicants around the world to submit solutions that leverage exponential technology to increase the water supply in California—a complex problem involving water supply, usage, policy, and management systems.

At the core of the impact challenge is the philosophy of thinking locally, yet with the intention to develop an innovative solution with global relevance and application.

“We are trying to find new sources of water, like desalination and ways to clean greywater,” says Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom. “These are huge problems around the world and anyone who can solve the desalination problem is going to be able to solve problems globally. Even if the situation is different here as opposed to others, it can certainly be applied.”

Applicants must submit abstracts of their solutions or proposed ideas, preferably with prototypes that demonstrate proof of concept. On September 15th the competition will close at which point a panel of experts comprised of SU faculty, local and state government representatives, and Impact Partners will narrow down eight to ten finalists who will be invited to a pitch session with the panel.

Three winning teams will be offered a space in the SU Startup Lab Entrepreneurs in Residence Program on our campus at NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley, access to the SU Startup Lab network of mentors and resources, and receive $5,000.

“The bottom line of this competition is that one of three teams will actually come up with an innovative solution that would transform the problem. Of course, it’s going to take a while, but if we can get to proof of concept by the time they end their residency, that would be a big win for SU, as well as for the world really, if this is going to work.”

The beauty of abundance thinking truly kicks into effect when uniting a global community around solving California’s drought, and the global water crisis at large—the solution may rest just beyond our horizon, yet soon be within our reach.

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