By Grace Larkin
A community gathering place that provides holistic services and support to low-income communities called The Wash House won the 2022 Greater Good Challenge. Launched as a pilot in Edwards, Mississippi, The Wash House currently offers access to sustainable and affordable laundering services, a coworking space with free internet for underrepresented professionals, and a Community Innovation Center that designs courses to “alleviate the deep skills gap that besets underserved communities.”
The 2022 competition took place on December 2. Ten teams composed of students and alumni from the Columbia School of Professional Studies (SPS) as well as universities from around the world competed in the Challenge. Through the generous support and collaboration of the Beba Foundation, the SPS Career Design Lab (CDL) welcomed students and alumni in this annual competition to pitch innovative business solutions addressing current global and societal needs. Said Kelly Ahn, SPS associate dean of Industry Relations & Career Strategies at CDL, “The Greater Good Challenge represents and supports the very mission of the Columbia University School of Professional Studies in its entrepreneurial spirit, working together to tackle head-on the challenges that we face in local and global communities. This year’s competition was no exception where we saw so many teams from all over the world and we’re incredibly proud and thrilled to see their ideas come to life in many years to come.”
The team will use the $10,000 award to scale the business and launch another location in Jackson, Mississippi. The Wash House team consisted of Lavar Matthews, ’23SPS, Human Capital Management; Lacie Pierre, ’22 Columbia Business School & ’23 School of International and Public Affairs; Nile Pierre, ’20 Tulane University; Sofia Rinvil, ’17SPS Negotiation and Conflict Resolution; and Danna Lennon-Thomas, ’18SPS, Nonprofit Management. “We have so much gratitude and appreciation for this community, for this challenge, for our coach, and for our team,” said the Wash House team representative Lacie Pierre. “Our team is so much better as a result of our participation.”
The categories for the 2022 competition were Sustainability, Technology, Health Care and Wellness, Supply Chain, Logistics and Coordination, and Social Enterprise. The pitches covered a range of topics. For example: one team proposed an app that matches small business owners to analytics students who could provide valuable data. Another: a group that developed a platform to make shopping sustainable fashion brands easier. The team that took third place designed a project called, “Courseward,” to connect small communities with financing opportunities in the carbon market and “democratize the carbon economy.” Second place went to “Sourceable,” an online platform and mobile app that “leverages Blockchain verification technology to help citizen journalists document, verify, archive, and share” reliable news stories directly to media and human rights groups.
The Career Design Lab supports students and alumni no matter where they are in their career path by offering résumé and cover-letter writing guidance; agile internship and job-search strategies; personal branding; interview skills; career transition advice; salary negotiations; and more. Students are offered the opportunity to work with specialized career coaches, alumni mentors, and practitioners in their field via the e-Mentor Program, which connects students with professionals that offer guidance throughout their time at Columbia—and beyond. CDL also hosts the UNICC Think-a-Thon, which invites students and alumni from all over the world to take action on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as other competitions and events with faculty and alumni. Also available are individual in-person/virtual career-coaching appointments; employer-related events; career-development events; and job and internship opportunities via the CDL career platform, SPS Talent.