Taylor Center NewDay Challenge benefits New Orleans community


Josh Christian

Aside from hosting initiatives such as the NewDay Challenge, the Taylor Center also offers a Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship program featuring guest speakers and service learning opportunities.

With a goal to cultivate a diverse learning community through social awareness and creative innovation, the Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking challenges students to think beyond the classroom.

The NewDay Challenge consists of a contest where students compete for up to $20,000 to start a social venture that benefits the New Orleans community.

“[The NewDay Challenge] is open to undergraduate and graduate students,” Taylor Center Program Coordinator Samantha Fleurinor said. “We’re one of the few places that fund graduate co-curricular programs and opportunities like this.”

To be eligible for the contest, students must be in good standing with the university, be primary owners of the social venture and express a commitment to improving the New Orleans community. The venture must generate revenue but is not eligible to win if the venture has already generated $50,000 or more by the time of application. It must also demonstrate how the funding will help the venture succeed.

“[The venture] should show impact to any challenges New Orleans is facing,” Fleurinor said. “It can’t just be homelessness in New Jersey or something. It would have to be specifically to provide a solution to a challenge facing New Orleans.”

The application for the challenge consists of a resume for each team member and a 5-10-page proposal. Applicants must also present an itemized budget, funding request and two letters of recommendation.

After initial submission, a committee of three members reviews the application and sends it back to the teams or the individual for revisions. The changes do not have to be made, but the application re-opens for final submissions if students choose to make improvements based on the committee’s feedback.

Once final submissions have been submitted, the applications are pushed by Fleurinor to the entire committee, all of whom volunteer for the position.

“We have a committee of eight people. Six of them are faculty, and two of them are Taylor staff,” Fleurinor said. “They score the applications and determine how much each student receives based on the merit of their application, feasibility and the likelihood it will be sustained.”

This year’s challenge received eight applicants, all of which presented very different ideas to benefit New Orleans. While no ventures will receive funding until after presentations to the public on April 12, the Taylor Center is confident the initiatives will benefit the community as they have in past initiatives.

“[The] most recent winner I can remember is Fund17 that is a local nonprofit that helps provide microloans to New Orleans entrepreneurs,” Fleurinor said. “[The owner of Fund17] is one of our success stories because she continues that work in New Orleans. A lot of residents have benefited from this service, and she’s doing so well.”

Once awarded funding, winners must produce blog posts to show people what they are doing with the seed money and how they are continuing to work toward their goals. Each award at the Taylor Center has different guidelines for the blog posts but all winners must write a minimum of one to remain open to the public.

Fleurinor said she feels the NewDay Challenge and other Taylor Center initiatives succeed in the goal to benefit the community.

“[The NewDay Challenge] especially helps make those connections and provide buy-in from students wanting to stay in New Orleans and dedicate and give back to the city that has given them so much,” Fleurinor said.

Senior Jakob Cohen said he is excited about the Taylor Center and the opportunities it offers to Tulane students to impact real change in New Orleans.

“In conjunction with the Taylor Center’s Changemaker Institute, Tulane is making it possible to turn passion into real positive change,” Cohen said. “Whether you are a student pursuing an advanced engineering degree or an undergraduate pursuing a minor in social innovation and social entrepreneurship, Tulane continues to empower students to make a difference in the New Orleans community.”

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