Event brings global talent to Cincy to tackle global social challenges

A peace-minded initiative launching this week in Cincinnati aims to bring together talent from around the world to develop innovative, technology-based solutions to social challenges.

The inaugural PeaceRise Innovation Challenge is a collaboration between business incubator Alloy Growth Lab and the University of Cincinnati’s 1819 Innovation Hub. Registration kicked off Monday.

From February to May, the organizations are hosting a series of live and virtual events open to individuals and teams from various professional backgrounds. Participants will work together to develop or refine ideas for promoting global harmony.

The competition will culminate in a live event at the 1819 Innovation Hub, scheduled from May 3 to 6. Presentations will take place the following week on May 10, with an awards ceremony set for May 11.

Jeremy Fritzhand, director of startup services at Alloy Growth Lab, described the PeaceRise Innovation Challenge as being more than just an event. “It’s a global call to action.” 

“This… is our opportunity to leverage collective innovation for significant, positive change, addressing the pressing issues impeding global peace,” he said.

Big ideas have to start (up) somewhere

Alloy Growth Lab is part of the broader Alloy Development Co., a marketplace where organizations, businesses and communities can find the resources needed for growth. Beyond the growth lab for startups, Alloy serves as a commercial capital lender and an economic development partner.

Other projects Alloy Growth Lab works on includes the OhioXcelerate. A collaboration with OhioX, the program connects startups with investors, mentors and support organizations to help them thrive. It grew from eight applications in its first year to over 30 this year.

With PeaceRise, Alloy is working to develop a community of innovators, thinkers and doers who are united by the common goal of creating sustainable solutions to promote global harmony.

“Our approach is rooted in the belief that economic activity and prosperity, when developed in sustainable and equitable ways, are foundational to building and maintaining peace,” Fritzhand said.

Jeremy Fritzhand

To ensure the right people were at the table, PeaceRise organizers are working to assemble a coalition of individuals and teams committed to advancing peace. They reached out to students, educators, technologists, designers, non-governmental organization representatives and anyone who wants to work to enact positive change.

“This effort is not just about solving global problems directly,” Fritzhand said, “but about creating a community where individuals feel empowered to share and develop ideas that have a meaningful impact on their communities and the world at large.”

PeaceRise embodies two integral components: the community platform and the innovation challenge. The innovation challenge unfolds over a 72-hour sprint where teams collaborate and compete. There will be multiple winners across various categories.

Organizers are working to increase the prize pool through sponsorships with a goal of $15,000 or more, Fritzhand said. They currently have $6,000 earmarked.

“Our goal is to not only reward groundbreaking ideas but also foster an environment of learning and growth,” Fritzhand added.

It takes a village

Fritzhand described the 1819 Innovation Hub’s role in PeaceRise as critical. Beyond being a “proud supporter” of Alloy’s initiative, the Reading Road facility provides a central venue for “dynamic and engaging” experiences.

PeaceRise collaborates closely with five key partners – Big Kitty Labs, Pieces for Developers, Ghost Agency, Bots Crew and Disco – to transform the promising ideas they receive into tangible solutions. Each provided support of some kind, such as in-kind development support and use of artificial intelligence tools. Disco, for instance, hosts the digital platform used to launch the PeaceRise community.

In addition to those partners, PeaceRise extended invitations to local, national and international academic institutions to participate with their teams. With events designed to be hybrid, participants from any location can easily join and contribute, Fritzhand said.

The PeaceRise community is gearing up for a series of what they’re calling “braintrust sessions.” They’ll feature professionals who work in fields where technology overlaps with social impact. Topics will range from go-to-market strategies for ideas with societal impact to the power of gamification for social change.

Speakers include PDS Lab’s Nomiki Petrolla, Cocoon Technologies founder Leah Lewis, Paul D’Souza, Rob Richardson, Nancy Tinsley and Matt Gore. Alloy is still accepting applications to host a session.

“We want to equip participants with the tools to not only envision but also actualize initiatives that contribute to peace-building efforts on a global scale,” Fritzhand said.

PeaceRise Innovation Challenge

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