2019 Acumen-Unilever Social Innovation Challenge on Plastics

Few cities in developing and emerging markets have dependable solid waste management services. Many households dispose of their trash on street corners and in dump sites. Informal waste pickers sort through this trash in hazardous conditions to find materials that can be sold for recycling.

To combat this problem, the social enterprise CARPE has been working to introduce a sustainable waste management system to Aurangabad, India. Through a collaborative effort with city leaders and waste pickers, most households in Aurangabad have started segregating their plastic waste for collection. The social enterprise is now focused on their next challenge: How might we engage the 21,000 schools in the district that continue to burn their waste?

Business registration

On March 2, join hundreds of participants around the world to help CARPE generate new ideas for segregating waste in schools — an essential step for ensuring that plastic stays out of the environment — and improving the welfare of waste pickers.

In the two-hour Rapid Innovation Lab, you will receive a crash course in behavior change principles and waste management practices in Aurangabad, India. Then you will collaborate with other participants to propose solutions for CARPE.

Many countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America are grappling with similar challenges of collecting plastic waste and empowering the informal sector.


Anyone who wants to learn more about environmental conservation and the circular economy, while proposing solutions for a real social enterprise.

Acumen will select up to five winning teams to receive seed funding of up to $25,000 per team. To be eligible for the funding, participants will need to be part of a team (at least 2 people) and submit a pitch deck (the final assignment in the incubator) which includes a budget for the seed funding and a workplan for 3 months inclusive of key milestones and dates. Submissions will open on March 19, 2019 and must be received no later than May 7, 2019 at 11:59 PST. Submissions must be received via the NovoEd platform.

What You Will Do:

Watch a live interview with a social entrepreneur who is tackling waste management in Aurangabad, India, and submit your questions

Learn about principles of behavior change and how they can be applied to environmental challenges

Collaborate with other change-makers from around the world and prototype solutions for the social enterprise during a two-hour event hosted on Slack.

Apply Now for Part 1: 2019 Acumen-Unilever Social Innovation Challenge


The Social Enterprise Incubator is an opportunity for early-stage entrepreneurs and SMEs to deepen their understanding of the areas for innovation and partnership around plastic waste reduction, refine their business models, and compete for seed funding and expert support for their solutions.

In the seven-week Social Enterprise Incubator, you will work through Acumen’s Business Models for Social Impact curriculum independently, and participate in online office hour sessions with experts from Unilever.

At least three winning teams will receive up to $25,000 in seed funding and a series of coaching calls with technical experts from Unilever. To be eligible for the prize, your business model should be applicable to markets in Brazil, India, or South Africa.

Who Should Apply?

Early stage or aspiring social entrepreneurs who want to develop new business models for managing plastic waste, particularly in Brazil, India, and South Africa. See complete terms and conditions for eligibility requirements.

When Will It Happen?

March 19–May 7, 2019

The incubator can be completed at your own pace during this time period. The only requirement is that you submit your final pitch deck before May 7, 2019, at 11:59 p.m. PST.

What You Will Do:

Learn about the challenge of plastic waste and opportunities for innovative solutions

Review case studies of social enterprises that are collecting, sorting, or processing plastic waste, while improving the welfare of people living in poverty

Complete Acumen’s Business Models for Social Impact curriculum to refine your own business model for plastic waste

Attend online office hour sessions to gain insights and feedback from technical experts at Unilever

Submit your Business Model Canvas and a pitch deck for a chance to win seed funding and coaching calls from Unilever

For More Information:Visit the Official Webpage of the 2019 Acumen-Unilever Social Innovation Challenge on Plastics

Application Deadline: February 15th

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