Application Information for the 2024–2025 Academic Year

The University of Minnesota’s GIRSO Social Innovation in Sport Competition (SISC) is now accepting proposals from sport entities (e.g., professional sport organizations, for profit organizations, athlete foundations, players’ associations, non-profit sport organizations, community sport organizations, intercollegiate athletic departments, high school athletic departments) for partnerships for the 2024–2025 academic year.

GIRSO SISC Partnerships are intended for sport entities interested in collaborating with the University of Minnesota on developing and implementing a social innovative strategy to address a particular social priority in their respective community.

Priority themes should demonstrably relate to a social concern (e.g., health, education, racial injustice, obesity diversity and inclusion, climate change, physical literacy, food literacy, safety) within a specific local, regional, national, or global community.

Partners benefit from students who use research, social innovative, and technical project implementation assistance in developing a project proposal that addresses the community social priority theme in a new and effective way. Student groups are mentored by expert University of Minnesota faculty. 

The selection process is competitive, and successful applicants must support the effort through dedicated staff time and a financial contribution of $6,000.  

Deadline for Social Innovation Theme Proposals

July 31, 2024 by 5:00 p.m. for the SISC that occurs during the fall semester (September 6 to December 14, 2023).

Proposals must be submitted as a single PDF file to GIRSO Director, Dr. Lisa A. Kihl, at [email protected].

GIRSO faculty are available to help with the development of your proposal at any stage—from introducing the GIRSO SISC program and model to your staff and other stakeholders to helping identify social priority ideas for selecting a SISC theme.  

Contact GIRSO Director, Dr. Lisa A. Kihl, [email protected], to help you get started!

Partnership Application Guidelines

Expand all

Overview of the GIRSO Social Innovation in Sport Competition

GIRSO’s mission is to serve as a global hub for advancing sport entities’ role in addressing community social challenges in the 21st century. In this role, GIRSO aims to facilitate the next generation of sport social change makers to design innovative solutions to the most pressing global social challenges. GIRSO recognizes the unique platform that sport entities play in our communities as well as the important role of the University of Minnesota in creating educational spaces that connect our students and faculty with sport industry executives where they can develop and implement innovative strategies that drive socially impactful results in society.

The University of Minnesota Social Innovation in Sport Competition recognizes and rewards students developing innovative solutions for sport entities in addressing the most pressing global/local social problems. 

Each year the GIRSO Social Innovation in Sport Competition will partner with a different sport entity who is seeking to address a specific community social priority theme.

How a GIRSO SISC Partnership Works

GIRSO will select one partner organization during the 2024-2025 academic year (September 2024 to May 2025). The collaboration will begin in the early fall of 2024, with 1-2 planning meetings with GIRSO faculty to discuss the selected community social priority theme and plan the proposal winners’ implementation with the organization. 

At the start of fall semester 2024, partner organizational staff meet with U of MN students and faculty to provide an overview of the community social priority theme. Organizational representatives will read the student proposals and serve on the SISC adjudication committee to determine the fellowship winner and runner-up proposal winner.

GIRSO SISC Partner Commitment

A key element of a successful GIRSO partnership is commitment and involvement from partner organization's leadership and staff, and relevant community partners. To assist the SISC team winner, the partner organization must identify a project lead—a single staff member who will be the primary point of contact for U of MN students and GIRSO faculty working on the project. Project leads are responsible for assisting the proposal team winners in implementing their social innovation community theme proposal (e.g., providing access to community partner contacts, relevant documents, office space and technical support [if needed], participating and attending relevant meetings, coordinating, providing space, and attending project presentations. Project leads should anticipate spending an average of 3–4 hours per week for the agreed period of time stated in the winning team proposal.

GIRSO SISC and University Commitment

GIRSO faculty possess specialized knowledge and expertise in the broad areas of social responsibly, innovation, and social impact in the context of sport.  Student teams are mentored by GIRSO’s experts to ensure high-quality proposals that meet your organizational and community social priorities. This includes recruiting and coordinating students, facilitating project proposal research and proposal development, coordinating communications, promoting partnership activities through social media, and troubleshooting proposal implementation as needed.

Financial Investment of the GIRSO SISC

GIRSO relies on the financial contribution from our selected partner and other donations to support the social innovation initiative and its implementation. Partners may choose to fund their contribution through the collaboration with another group, such as a government agency, nonprofit organization, business, and chambers of commerce. Regardless of where these funds are obtained from, the partner organization is responsible for acting as the sole fiscal agent for the partnership, and for making the one lump-sum payment to support the implementation of the social innovation proposal. 

The financial contribution for the selected partner organization for the 2024–2025 GIRSO SISC is $6,000. This contribution guarantees that the selected proposal winner project will be suitably supported in its implementation. In addition, $1,000 is allotted for cash prize monies for the winner and runner up teams.

Application Process

Submitting Your Proposal

Proposals must be submitted as a single PDF file to GIRSO Director, Dr. Lisa A. Kihl [email protected].

GIRSO faculty are available to help with the development of your proposal at any stage—from introducing the GIRSO SISC program and model to your staff and other stakeholders to helping identify social priority ideas for selecting a SISC theme.  

Contact GIRSO Director, Dr. Lisa A. Kihl, [email protected] for assistance or with questions.

Deadline for Proposals

Proposals must be received by 5:00 p.m. on July 31, 2024 for the SISC that occurs during fall semester (September 3-December 19, 2024). The partner organization selected for participation in GIRSO SISC will be notified within two weeks.

Required Proposal Components

  1. Partner Information: Provide (a) the name of your organization, (b) the geographic location, (c) description of the organization, and (d) the total number of staff your organization employs. For partners located more than two hours from the U of MN Twin Cities campuses, describe any special arrangements to address issues of collaboration and coordination at a distance (for example, access to videoconferencing or other technological resources).
  2. Proposed Social Innovation theme: Provide a description of the social innovation in sport theme.  
    • The theme should address a high-priority community social issue your organization seeks to address. Provide an overview of the social issue, evidence to support that the issue is a community priority, a rationale for selecting the specific issue, any details about community non -profit collaborations and/or contacts, and the target population. Themes should demonstrably aim to make a social impact in the respective community.
    • For the proposed theme, provide the following information:
      1. Theme name/title. Should be descriptive of the project, but can also be creative.
      2. Project lead. Identify one staff person who will serve as the primary contact for the project, as well as their job title, department, e-mail address, and phone number. This individual must be able to commit to: a) presenting the theme topic and objective to students in fall 2022; and b) an average of 3–5 hours per week to help the winning student team in the implementation of the  project proposal in the agreed upon timeframe.
      3. A 1–2 paragraph description of the project. What is the context for the project? Why is this theme a priority at this time? What are your organization’s ultimate goals (social impact and organizational value) or objectives related to the theme or the larger issues the project addresses? Detail the plan for how the winning student team will work with your organization and community to further these goals/objectives.
      4. 3–5 specific issues, questions, ideas, or problems for consideration that you want students to address in their proposal. What are the key things that would help to advance local efforts on this project or on the issues this project touches?
      5. Social Innovation: GIRSO defines social innovation as the development of novel ideas to create sustainable solutions to community social priorities that also create value to the organization (i.e., shared value).
      6. Social impact. GIRSO defines social impact as the positive social consequences to human populations based on specific initiatives designed to address a pressing social challenge. How will this theme serve to make a social impact in the specified community?
      7. Community partners or stakeholders (external to your agency) that might be considered as important entities to consult/participate in the implementation of the proposal—for example, other government agencies, nonprofit or community organizations, neighborhood groups, or local businesses.
      8. Describe specifically how these individuals or organizations will be involved, what they will do, and how their participation would assist in developing innovative strategies.  
      9. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact GIRSO during preparation of their proposal to discuss proposed social themes and ensure they are within the capacity of GIRSO and the U of MN, and appropriate for student work.
      10. Demonstration of Support: Include a letter of support or formal resolution from senior organizational officials. You may also wish to include demonstrations of support from proposed partner organizations or agencies, and/or proposed external funding entities.

Social Innovation in Sport Theme Evaluation Criteria

GIRSO will evaluate your proposal based on the following criteria:

  1. Top-Level Support and Administrative Capacity: Senior staff show a commitment to participate in the GIRSO SISC and to direct staff time and resources to the partnership.
  2. Clear social innovation focus: Theme clearly address a community social priority build upon, advance the partner’s overall social impact goals, and include specific social impact-related goals—for example, reducing academic achievement gap, fostering active and healthy living in underserved youth, changing laws that create racial justice, reducing carbon footprint on the environment, enhancing social equity, engaging underserved or marginalized groups, increasing and improving access to voting, improving access to affordable housing [Note: This list is for illustration only and is by no means exhaustive].
  3. Theme Relevance and Impact: Social innovation themes are well formulated, issues or questions for investigation are clear, and themes demonstrate the potential to have a measurable social impact on the target community.
  4. Community Engagement: Where appropriate, projects include a commitment to meaningfully engage residents and other stakeholders throughout the partnership as a means of integrating local knowledge, and strengthening and broadening support for local social impact efforts.
  5. External Partnerships: Applicants are encouraged to collaborate with other local entities (e.g. school districts, business or professional organizations, private funders) to formulate projects and share partnership costs.

2023 SISC winner
Review the Viking Gardens initiative, created in partnership with the Minnesota Vikings in 2023 to increase sustainability.

2023 Viking Garden initiative

2022 SISC winner
Read the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Guidebook, The Future of Hockey Has a New Look, created in partnership with GIRSO graduate students and Minnesota Hockey. 

Minnesota Hockey