Acara Challenge

Important announcement

Thank you for your interest in the Acara Challenge. We will not be hosting this competition in 2022-2023. Here are other resources to help you with your changemaking projects:

Note: below, you will see information on Acara. We will archive this information as we move to a new website platform.

Have a project idea that addresses a pressing social and/or environmental challenge that you want to see come to life?

The Acara Challenge is an annual competition for students who have taken an Acara course or have been in the Acara Graduate Changemaker Lab to compete to win up to $8,000 to develop solutions to social and environmental challenges.  Competition finalists will receive mentorship on developing proposals and pitches, as well as support in refining their goals and creating a viable launch program.

Acara Challenge Competitor Details

  • Only students who have taken an Acara course or have been in the Acara Changemaker Lab are eligible to apply for the Acara Challenge.
  • A team or individual must have an idea for a viable pilot for a solution that addresses a social or environmental issue (local or global).
  • Each individual/team must have at least 1 currently or recently registered student (1 or more students must be registered Fall 2021 or Spring 2022).  This could be full or part-time in graduate, undergraduate, or a professional school program or students from a foreign university studying at the University of Minnesota under a formal exchange program.  There is no restriction on the number of team members.

  • Initial Application:
    • Sunday, February 6, 2022, by 10pm CST: Application is due.
    • Friday, February 11, 2022: Finalists announced
    • Friday, February 18 3:00-4:00 Finalist Orientation (online)
  • Competition Details:
    • Week of April 11: Virtual presentations (each finalist presents for 10 minutes and responds to 15 minutes of questions from the judges): These will be scheduled based on your availability so you can plan accordingly. These presentations are open to the public and will be recorded.
    • Week of April 15: Acara Challenge Awards will be presented at the Institute on the Environment Student Celebration.

  • The Acara Innovation Fellowship provides funding for up to $8,000 to assist students in piloting their proposed solution. Funds can be used to fund pilot expenses or to fund an unpaid internship. Funding cannot be used for equipment.
  • All Fellows are matched with a coach who will support Fellows in successfully launching their pilot and developing their leadership skills.

The judging criteria is:

  • What is the problem?
  • What is the solution and what is the social impact?
  • What ideas do you have for how to financially sustain the project?
  • How does it scale?
  • Who is the team?

  • Spring 2022 application is available here.  Apply by February 6, 2022 by 10pm CST.

Below are examples of past presentations and plans. Please note that we will not be requiring a full business plan for the 2022 competition.

Master innovators: Announcing the 2021 Acara Challenge winners


  • EcoCiclo (presentation)
  • Doktah Telemedicine
  • Open Spaces Healing Initiative
  • Students for Lake Superior Sustainable Farming
  • Co-Creating Through Design
  • STEMtelling
  • Sense of Self (presentation)








View all past Fellows