Changemaker Contest awards cash prizes for solutions to social problems

The Changemaker website holds information about the Changemaker challenges. The writing and Instagram reel challenges are open until Sept. 27 and Oct. 11. (Changemakers)

Through BYU Changemakers Challenges, students have the chance to win prize money for an original idea that can change the world for the better.

BYU received the Changemaker Campus status from Ashoka U in 2020. Ashoka U is an initiative dedicated to supporting social impact education at universities nationwide and is sponsored by Ashoka, the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs. Only 41 universities currently enjoy Changemaker status, with BYU being one of them.

The Changemakers Challenges, hosted by the Ballard yCenter for Social Impact, feature a writing portion with submissions closing Sept. 27, and a video reel portion with submissions closing Oct. 11. 

For the written section, students are invited to respond to the prompt “How would you change the world?” in 500 words or less. Past submissions included personal stories of how students came to ideas that could improve specific social issues. A panel of judges will review the submissions, and six finalists will be chosen and announced on Oct. 3. 

Monica Bertha, BYU graduate and last year’s first place winner, wrote a piece titled “Art Changes Hearts.” She shared her experience with art therapy and how it inspired her to give other countries access to local art therapists.

“I think the Ballard Center helps personally motivate me to be like, ‘This is a good idea, I actually could change the world if I wanted to.’ I had been thinking about that idea for a while, but it honestly helped me because I had kind of given up on it a little bit,” Bertha said.

The “How would you change the world?” prompt also applies to the video portion of the contest and requires students to answer the question in a 60 second reel.

The judging process for the reels includes audience votes, and finalists are responsible for promoting their reels to gain support. Half of the video participants’ scores will come from audience engagement on Instagram.

Garrett and Jacob Stanford stand with their first-prize winnings. The top three winners of the Changemaker Challenges receive a cash prize for their social issue solution. (Photo courtesy of BYU Ballard Social Impact Center)

In January, brothers Jacob and Garrett Stanford won first place in the Changemakers reel contest with their idea for a charitable gaming organization. The game would be free, but ads and in-app purchases would accrue revenue that went straight to charity.

Concerning the prize money, first place winner Jacob Stanford said he plans on using the money to hire graphic artists, produce the app and get it on the app store.

“All the winnings from the contest will go to supporting that idea and making it become a reality,” Jacob Stanford said.

The Stanfords hope the first installment of their nonprofit video game will be available within the next year and plan on donating the proceeds to the charity TeamSeas.

Garrett Stanford, a fellow winner of last year’s Changemakers competition, said the competition is a great springboard for aspiring creators and an excellent platform to launch off of.

“I’m grateful that Changemakers is doing this,” Garrett Stanford said. “It’s been super awesome for us to build a community around us that’s passionate about this project that we are doing.”

Jess Dansie Anderson, Managing Director of Marketing & Communications for the BYU Ballard Center for Social Impact, encourages all students who are passionate about philanthropy, humanitarianism, sustainability and social impact to submit their ideas.

“We want to know your idea and your personal connection to whatever you are passionate about changing in the world, whether it be poverty, homelessness, healthcare access, inequality, environmental stewardship, etc. We know that whatever your major, skillset or background that you can make a difference,” Anderson said.

According to Anderson, the Changemaker Challenges have changed over the years. What started as a film contest transitioned to personal essays of student experiences in the Ballard Center before becoming what it is today: an opportunity for all students to bring a social issue and possible solution to light and increase awareness of the Ballard Center and its resources to students on campus.

The prize money awarded to winners — $1,500 for first place, $750 for second and $500 for third — is offered with no strings attached, Anderson said. Student winners of the competition are not obligated to use the money to further their projects, but they are invited to get involved with the Ballard Center.

“Even if their idea does not work and never happens, we believe that sparking excitement and getting people thinking about ways to get involved in this work is worth it,” Anderson said. “Failed ideas can still lead to the contributors learning, growing and eventually finding better ones. Continuous improvement and discovering and adapting solutions through research is a big part of what we do at the Ballard Center.”

The Ballard Center for Social Impact website states it is the world’s largest university social impact program. It has been part of BYU since 2003 and offers courses such as the core “Do Good. Better.” class, open to all majors, as well as educational events.

Participating in the Changemakers Challenge is one simple way for students who want to change the world to begin to do just that — and earn a little extra cash on the way.

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