Today, the Harvard Innovation Labs announced a series of accomplishments from ventures that have received grants from the Social Impact Fellowship Fund.
Established in 2019 by Alexander Navab, the Social Impact Fellowship Fund (SIFF) supports impact-focused for-profit and nonprofit ventures that are founded by current Harvard students. Mr. Navab was born in Isfahan, Iran. Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, his family took refuge in Greece and then in the United States. He graduated from Harvard Business School in 1991 as a George F. Baker Scholar. Supporting the institutions that gave him so many opportunities, and creating those opportunities for others, would be central to Mr. Navab’s life, and part of the motivation for creating the Social Impact Fellowship Fund.
“For social impact ventures, grant funding can be incredibly helpful for accelerating progress — we’ve seen ventures 10x their impact after receiving the grant,” said Rebekah Emanuel, Senior Advisor for Social Impact and Head of Advising at the Harvard Innovation Labs. “It’s a true honor to work with so many founders tackling the hardest problems out there. Seeing what they can do with the grant funding that Alexander Navab so generously creates such a sense of possibility.”
Over the last three years, more than 50 ventures across a wide array of industries have received more than $600,000 in grants. Here are a few of the many notable accomplishments from Social Impact Fellowship Fund recipients:
Afya Pamoja is a govtech nonprofit focused on elevating the voices of Tanzanian citizens to improve the quality of essential healthcare services. The Social Impact Fellowship Fund grant helped Afya Pamoja launch the organization’s first pilot, and its platform is now live in 150 facilities across Tanzania.
Barefoot Edu Foundation is creating a movement of school leaders that can make education meaningful for children, now! The organization trains and coaches school leaders to create simple, contextual school improvement solutions from the grassroots and circumvent obstacles that stand in their path to providing quality education. With the SIFF grant, Barefoot Edu was able to build the infrastructure required to secure a partnership with the largest State in India, working with 130,000 school principals and educational officers on improving students’ foundational literacy and numeracy.
Almond Fintech is on a mission to remove financial barriers by delivering cross-border transfer and credit scoring tools that empower everyone, everywhere. The technology automatically selects and routes funds across global blockchain networks, currency exchanges, and countries on a second-to-second basis to dramatically reduce transfer costs. Almond recently won the Santander X Global Blockchain Challenge for its settlement optimization engine.
Cardinal LCA provides a digital, integrated, and real-time platform to architects who want to comply with the net-zero city goals and laws, and eventually enable the decarbonization process. The SIFF fund helped Cardinal LCA expand to a larger customer base with another pilot in progress, called DeCarbon.
CashEx enables African migrants to move funds across borders, reducing the high cost of cross border money transfers. The Social Impact Fellowship Fund award helped CashEx scale its product development efforts. The company is growing rapidly, and has received funding from Google.
Chaku Foods is building a consumer goods company based in Ghana that creates delicious and organic snack brands for global export using local agricultural products. Through the development of ground-breaking technology, Chaku Foods can estimate crop yields for farmers and pay them directly — a process that reduces farm waste, increases farmer incomes, and optimizes product quality. Since receiving a SIFF grant, Chaku Foods has helped increase farmer incomes by more than 40%.
Freedom Cups aims to get a menstrual cup into the hands of as many women and girls as possible. The SIFF grant helped the organization expand its product line, take on more projects in more places, and develop a new curriculum for sexual and reproductive health. Freedom Cups now has a presence in 10 countries across Asia and Africa.
GenUnity strengthens the capacity of diverse, everyday leaders to come together and drive change on the critical issues in their communities. The SIFF grant supported GenUnity’s pilot cohort of 32 leaders. Since then, GenUnity has launched two more cohorts and served ~100 individuals in Greater Boston.
humanID reimagines an internet where users maintain anonymity while being held accountable. Guided by the principle, “One Human, One Voice,” humanID is an open-source, fast ,and convenient Single Sign-On that replaces invasive tools such as “Login with Facebook”, while blocking bots and spam. The organization now has 300 volunteers from across the world and works with several whistleblowing sites and social media networks to protect vulnerable communities.
MiKashBoks is an app for community savings groups. It makes saving and lending with friends easy and safe. Since receiving a SIFF grant, the organization has launched in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
Narratio activates, supports, and highlights the creative expression of displaced young people through fellowships, workshops, publishing, and partnerships. Its flagship program, the Narratio Fellowship, is the only U.S.-based initiative building cohorts of resettled refugee youth Fellows to shape and influence the global conversation around displacement and cultural production. The organization used its SIFF funding to pilot an expansion to Richmond, Virginia. The program has reached over 2.5 million individuals by activating the creative power of 57 fellows from 17+ countries via exhibits and performances at the Metropolitan Museum, Christie’s, and United Nations, among others.
Net3allem, Arabic for “To Learn Collectively,” is a non-profit Montessori pre-school serving the most vulnerable communities in Egypt through empowering women. To date, Net3allem impacted 1,000+ lives, reduced dropout rates to 2%, and provided coaching and K-12 sponsorship to 345 alums. The SIFF grant is helping Net3allem expand to its second location and serve 150 new students.
ProtectED Rooms is a veteran-founded security company that redesigns everyday classroom furniture to be used as protective barriers against active shooter violence. With the support of the Social Impact Fellowship Fund, ProtectED Rooms was able to invest in key expansion efforts in the aftermath of the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. Those efforts helped inform school districts across the U.S. about ProtectED Rooms’ lifesaving product, which now protects thousands of students and teachers around the country.
Readlee helps identify struggling readers, monitors progress, and automates differentiated scaffolding, using the latest in AI to listen to students read anything aloud (a book off the shelf or diagnostic assessment) and providing immediate, actionable data. When Readlee was awarded the SIFF grant in 2020, the platform served 350 students in one school. Today, Readlee drives reading outcomes for 130,000+ students and educators in every state in the U.S. The team also closed its seed round of funding led by Equal Opportunity Ventures.
Rhymes with Reason helps students boost reading skills and learn important English words by showcasing their existence in widely known music lyrics. The organization has grown rapidly since receiving a SIFF grant, forming a partnership with Boys and Girls Club of America and serving more than 225,000 students.
Shamsina designs, manufactures, and delivers affordable, locally-made solar water heaters for all Egyptians, from energy poor communities to energy-conscious consumers. With the SIFF grant, Shamsina completed multiple rounds of pilots, and designed and manufactured the latest iteration of its product.
Skew The Script provides free, socially relevant math lessons to teachers and students. With the help of the SIFF grant, Skew The Script has expanded its user base to 20,000 teachers in the United States (with 400,000+ students impacted) and has begun offering in-person training to teachers.
Slam Out Loud uses the transformational power of the arts to build Creative Confidence skills like communication, critical thinking, and empathy in children aged 8-16 from underserved communities in urban and rural India. Its in-person programming impacts more than 75,000 children, and its open-source resources have reached over 4.7 million children around the world during the pandemic. The organization now partners with Punjab and Haryana State Governments, allowing them to integrate arts-based social and emotional learning into the public school systems.
TANGapp is the international ‘Venmo’ for the 1.5 billion unbanked globally. The company is dedicated to promoting global financial inclusion, starting with the Philippines. TANGapp received the SIFF grant in its pre-pilot phase. Two-and-a-half years later, the company has raised more than $4 million in funding and is widely used to send and receive payments from the U.S. to the Philippines.
THRIVE! has built an enterprise software platform that helps state and local government agencies—including school systems—create budgets that mitigate disparities experienced by low-income residents and people of color. THRIVE! used its SIFF grant to run a pilot with the Somerville Health Department, and continue developing its prototype. Now, the organization has users across the U.S. and is actively supporting 50,000 students in its work with school districts. Legislators and government equity officials across 15 states have inquired about THRIVE!’s budgeting for equity software as their municipalities have declared racism a public health crisis.
Trill is an anonymous virtual support app to create healthier online spaces to support mental health for teens. Trill was sold to Blue Fever in 2021. The Trill founders share that SIFF gave the team a tremendously supportive network of other founders on Harvard’s campus, and especially helped with building a campus ambassador program with the funds received.
UC-N-Learn has developed a technology for teachers that collects data on dyslexic students’ progress during class to allow individualized reading intervention. The Social Impact Fellowship Fund grant enabled UC-N-Learn to accelerate its development. Recently, the organization announced a partnership with Region 4 Education Service Center, the publisher of the Reading by Design® intervention program, which is used widely across the state of Texas.
Upcycle Corps is a fast-growing sustainable marketplace serving India. Being awarded the SIFF funding enabled Upcycle Corps to onboard 250+ organizations, 90% of which are owned by women. Upcycle Corps currently curates about 3,000+ products.
Wave Learning Festival is a free educational platform that aims to foster a love of learning for young students through seminars on a variety of topics and 24/7 tutoring support. The SIFF grant has helped Wave expand outreach to low-income students. The organization has now partnered with more than 600 schools across the U.S.
WeUnlearn is helping India’s youth overcome harmful gender norms like bullying, harassment, abuse, and unhealthy relationships and lead gender equitable lives. The SIFF grant enabled the team to pivot and pilot in-person workshops with children for greater impact.
The Social Impact Fellowship Fund has been judged over the past three years by a carefully curated team of experts in social entrepreneurship who represent a diversity of industries and experiences, including:
- Dr. Angela Jackson, Founder of Future Forward Strategies and Lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Education
- Rehmah Kasule, Founder of Century Entrepreneurship Development Agency and 2019 Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative Fellow
- Stephanie Khurana, Managing Partner and Chief Operating Officer at Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation
- Tim Merrill, Founder of Amachi and 2021 Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative Fellow
- Lara Metcalf, Managing Partner at Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation and former Managing Director and Venture Partner at The Social Entrepreneurs’ Fund
- Brian Trelstad, Partner at Bridges Fund Management and Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School
- Orlando Watkins, Vice President and Chief Program Officer at the Boston Foundation