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The Clinton Global Initiative University Is Building a Global Community of Social Entrepreneurs

Since 2008, the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) has seen the power of young people and the potential of their ideas to impact the world. In a little over a decade, more than 10,000 students around the world have Commitments to Action, an initiative that addresses pressing challenges on campus, in local communities, and around the world. These commitments can range from manufacturing wheelchairs for developing countries to establishing campus bike share programs, from creating free vision clinics to developing e-learning applications for mobile phones.

Each year, CGI U hosts a meeting where students, university representatives, topic experts, and celebrities join to discuss and develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges. The meeting brings together more than a 1,000 students to discuss focus areas such as Education, Environment and Climate Change, Peace and Human Rights, Poverty Alleviation, and Public Health.

To date, more than $3 million in funding has been awarded to these commitment-makers through the CGI U platform, including the University Network, Innovation Fund, Commitments Challenge, and Resolution Project.

CGI U recently held its first-ever “Marketplace” event in New York City. Below are ten CGI U alums and social entrepreneurs who showcased the progress of their social impact projects and prototypes and how they are impacting lives.


Christine Schindler, CGI U ‘12 – PathSpot

Christine Schindler -CGI U Marketplace

Christine studied at Duke University and is an engineer and entrepreneur passionate about utilizing technology to overcome gaps in healthcare. Witnessing the gap in gender representation in STEM fields, she founded the nonprofit organization Girls Engineering Change (GEC), of which she now serves on the board of directors. She then founded PathSpot Technologies, which protects food service companies from the threat of foodborne illness by scanning employee’s hands to see if they have harmful contamination that could make someone sick in less than two seconds. 


Ruchi Shah, CGI U ’15 – Mosquitoes Be Gone

Ruchi Shah(right) – CGI U Marketplace

Ruchi Shah is a medical student at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University in the Scholars for Medicine program and came up with her idea at just 15 years old. Ruchi invented an all-natural low-cost mosquito repellent that has been recognized by Forbes, Intel ISEF, and the AXA Achievement Award that is the first to work by neutralizing attractive compounds in human sweat and masking the scent from mosquitoes. Mosquitoes Be Gone has a team of interns composed of college students and is empowering them to gain skills at the intersection of science and business. Mosquitoes Be Gone will use the profits to bring their repellent and information about mosquito-transmitted diseases to rural areas in India to decrease the prevalence of these diseases and increase access to preventative measures.


Gavin Armstrong, CGI U ‘14 – Lucky Iron Fish

Dr. Gavin Armstrong – CGI U Marketplace

Dr. Gavin Armstrong is a committed social impact entrepreneur and was a Fulbright Scholar at Auburn University. The Lucky Iron Fish is a simple solution to combat the global problem of iron deficiency by adding natural and healthy iron to your food. It is clinically proven, does not cause any side effects, and can be reused by the entire household for 5 years. Lucky Iron Fish is currently operating in Peru, India, Guatemala, Tanzania, and Benin and through its “Buy-One-Give-One” program they donate a fish to a family in need with every purchase.


Arnav Dalmia, CGI U ’13 – Cubii

Arnav Dalmia – CGI U Marketplace

Arnav grew up in India and moved to Chicago in 2009 to pursue economics at the University of Chicago. During his college years, he was exposed to the growing obesity epidemic in the U.S., but what he didn’t see were accessible solutions that gave people a way to stay active and be healthier in their daily lives. Thus, Cubii was born. Cubii is the original compact elliptical with a patented ergonomic design to fit easily into office or home spaces, allowing users to get fit while they sit and lead healthier, happier, and more balanced lives. Cubii has helped close to 100,000 individuals and produced life changing experiences for many people, particularly those with limited mobility or range of motion.


Ritu Jadwani, CGI U ’18 – Namaste NYC

Ritu Jadwani – CGI U Marketplace

Ritu Jadwani is the founder and designer at Namaste NYC, an ethical fair-trade lifestyle brand. Ritu has an undergraduate degree in fashion design from the National Institute of Fashion Technology, India and a master’s degree in Global Innovation Management. Namaste NYC trains differently abled women in sewing and hand embroidery in Gujarat state, Western India. They create hand block printed scarves, apparel, fabric bags, and trinket accessories. All of the women employed by Namaste NYC are paid fair wages for their work. Namaste NYC also works with skilled male artisans to create hand stitched leather bags, wallets, and footwear. All their leather is second hand and their fabrics are naturally dyed. Namaste NYC is a sustainable ethical fair-trade company


Michael Merchant, CGI U ’12 – MealSquares 

Michael Merchant – CGI U Marketplace

Michael Merchant is the CEO of MealSquares and executive director of Progressive Programming, a nonprofit that equips impoverished youth across India to have high growth career opportunities. His mission is to use empathic communication and data science to enable people to live fulfilling lives. He has spearheaded the launching, managing, and advising of over 20 talent development programs, impacting more than 25,000 professionals.

MealSquares aims to address inaccurate information about dieting and nutrition by creating an affordable, tasty, and completely nutritious product. MealSquares combats the perverse incentives in the food industry, such as over-sweetening of products and addictive food designs. Its initial prototype is made from whole foods and provides all necessary daily nutrients.


Mohammed Modares CGI U ‘08 – Abe’s Eats

Mohammad Modarres – Photo: Ryan Lash / TED

Prior to moving to New York for the TED Residency, Mohammad spent two years fixing up a 1979 VW Bus and traveling to parks up and down the Pacific Coast. Mohammad is an alumnus of Johns Hopkins University’s public health program and a George J. Mitchell National Scholar. Mohammad is the founder of Abe’s Eats, an award-winning social impact organization that offers the first-ever “Interfaith Meat” that is Glatt Kosher and Zabihah Halal at the same time. The 2-in-1 product helps food providers attract multiple growing communities while saving them time, money, inventory space, and food waste at the same time. Abe’s Eats believes making faith-based foods more inclusive is how it will become more accessible.

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Sivakumar Palaniswamy, CGI U ‘15 –Neolight Skylife 

Sivakumar Palaniswamy – CGI U Marketplace

Siva is an entrepreneur in the medical field whose ideation and design talent led him to launch six devices in the Asian, European, and U.S. markets. By using his knowledge in the field of neonatal, neural instrumentation, medical devices, and wide market exposure, his device has impacted over 20,000 people in 12 countries. The Neolight Skylife has received FDA clearance and is a proven technology from Stanford University that treats neonates faster than GE devices. The Neolight Skylife is used to treat jaundice, a common condition that affects 60-80% of newborns all around the world. Jaundice is the highest cause of mortality in developing countries and the highest cause of readmission in the United States.


Mariam Nusrat Adil, CGI U ‘14 – GRID

Mariam Nusrat – CGI U Marketplace

Mariam Nusrat is the Founder of the social venture GRID: Gaming Revolution for Inspiring/International Development, and an education specialist at the World Bank. She has nine years of human development experience across Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. Mariam holds a master’s degree in International Development Studies from George Washington University, and a master’s degree in Economics from Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan. GRID aims to create low-cost mobile games to educate, engage, and empower people around the world for positive behavior change. GRID created the world’s first menstrual health game with a global reach. MoHiM, meaning “an effort,” is a period game, available for free download on Android and iPhones in English, Urdu, and Swahili.


Jean Paul Laurent, CGI U ’15 – Unspoken Smiles Foundation

Jean Paul Laurent – CGI U Marketplace

Jean Paul Laurent is the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Unspoken Smiles Foundation. Since its inception in 2015, Jean Paul has grown Unspoken Smiles Foundation into a reputable and impactful nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting both long-term oral health and economic security in the world’s most disadvantaged regions. Spurheal, a registered product of the Unspoken Smiles Foundation, is an app that locates and maps out free dental care services worldwide to solve for a lack of access to dental care services.

Many people residing in cities and rural villages in impoverished countries are living with untreated dental diseases and do not have access to basic dental care services. This app will use data-driven insights to collect baseline data that will not only help corporations build trust and credibility among their donors, but also help create access to quality services that matter to their beneficiaries.

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