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New social ventures coming out of the University of Chicago are working to improve access to legal services for low-income families, provide clean water to displaced populations, increase healthy food options on Chicago’s South Side, and more.

Behind those enterprises are five recent University of Chicago graduates who earned 2021 Tarrson Social Venture Fellowships, along with funding to pursue their social ventures full time after graduation. This month, the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business announced winners of the fellowships, selecting students from Chicago Booth, the College, and the Harris School of Public Policy.

The Tarrson Social Venture Fellowship provides $25,000 in funding and mentoring to graduating university students and recent alumni who are committed to growing a startup that helps solve a social or environmental problem. The fellowships are supported by Ron Tarrson, ’72 (XP-31), and matching funds from John Edwardson, ’72.

To be eligible for the fellowship, applicants must be committed to working full time for their startups, which should be focused on social or environmental impact. To view past Tarrson Fellowship winners, click here.

All of the 2021 fellows participated in the John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC), which has helped jumpstart more than 100 startups that have gone on to raise more than $38 million. The SNVC is the social impact track of the University of Chicago’s nationally ranked business launch program, the New Venture Challenge (NVC).

“Our fifth cohort of Tarrson Fellows is advancing vital social impact work here in Chicago and around the world,” said Robert H. Gertner, Joel F. Gemunder Professor of Strategy and Finance at Booth and John Edwardson Faculty Director of the Rustandy Center. “The challenges of the past year underscore the fellows’ deep, unwavering commitment to leveraging their time and talents to make a difference. I look forward to seeing these rising social impact leaders drive forward their important work.”

The 2021 Tarrson Fellows are:

Ani Ajith, MBA ’21, MPP ’21 of Corecentra

Ani graduated with a dual degree from Booth and Harris in June 2021. Corecentra, a 2020 SNVC finalist, is the 'ERP for ESG.' Corecentra provides enterprise Impact Measurement and Management software and services for leading impact-conscious corporations, investment managers, foundations, and agencies. As social and environmental impact emerges as a key pillar of organizational performance, Corecentra’s customers use the platform to manage and integrate operational, financial, and governance data in real-time; monitor and mitigate ESG risks; and generate a quantified narrative of impact performance for markets, regulators, funders, employees, and customers.

Eamonn Keenan, AB ’21, SAEF Legal Aid

Eamonn will graduate from the College in December 2021. SAEF Legal Aid, which placed first in the 2021 SNVC, is a justice-tech 501(c)(3) nonprofit building tools and services to help low-income parents and families access free and affordable legal solutions. By leveraging low-cost technologies and human-centered design, SAEF has developed a self-help digital platform through which users can diagnose their own core legal issues and receive referrals to free legal aid and low-cost legal service providers. 

Hector Mendoza, ’21, Leved

Hector graduated from Booth in June 2021. Leved, a 2020 SNVC finalist, is an educational platform that will distribute high-quality learning experiences for free to help millions of Latin American college students get the job they want, no matter their background. Employers will use Leved’s credentialing system to make hiring decisions based on tangible measures of achievement, ultimately democratizing opportunities.

Gabriela Saade, MPP ’21, LivingWaters Systems

Gabriela graduated from Harris in June 2021. LivingWaters Systems, which placed first in the 2020 SNVC, has developed a low-cost, easily deployable rainwater collection system to provide clean water to displaced populations and people living in hard to reach communities. Without steady access to infrastructure, water collection becomes an enormous challenge, forcing families to spend hundreds of hours per month collecting water or upwards to 40 percent of their income buying from water tanker mafias. Their solution provides a supplementary supply of clean water at the home, reducing over-reliance on such methods. 

Mabel Shiu, ’21, Southside Market

Mabel graduated from Booth in 2021. Southside Market, second place winners of the 2021 SNVC, is a neighborhood fresh market and café on a mission to increase healthy food access and business ownership on the South Side of Chicago and beyond. Southside Market offers everyday affordable fresh produce while prioritizing local sourcing, hiring, and community ownership. The Southside Market provides strategic produce delivery to partner sites, offers a gathering space via their café, and showcases local entrepreneurs and chefs via their rotating menu. 

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