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Aspire Challenge

About the Challenge
Finding Solutions to Empower Formerly Incarcerated Individuals with Entrepreneurship Training and Access to Microloans

Posted By: Small Business Administration
Category: Ideas
Skill: Ideas Interest: Business Submission Dates: 8 a.m. ET, Dec 29, 2016 - 11:59 p.m. ET, Feb 12, 2017 Judging Dates: Feb 13, 2017 - Mar 10, 2017 Winners Announced: Mar 14, 2017

** BEGIN STATUS UPDATE 3/14/2017**

Thank you for the interest in the Aspire Challenge and to all contestants who submitted potential solutions.  Award decisions under this challenge are delayed. Once we have further information, we will notify all contestants via email and on www.challenge.gov/aspire-challenge.  

**END STATUS UPDATE 3/14/2017**

 

The Aspire Challenge is a prize competition conducted under the America Competes Act. The objective of this competition is to spur the development and provision of innovative entrepreneurial development and access to capital resources for formerly incarcerated individuals or those who are non-violent ex-offenders. The submission period for entries will begin on December 29, 2016 and close on February 12, 2017. The SBA anticipates that winners will be announced no later than March 14, 2017.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) official established in 1953, maintains and strengthens the nation’s economy by aiding, counseling, assisting, and protecting the interests of small business, and by helping families and businesses to recover from national disasters. The SBA’s mission includes assisting small businesses to start, grow, and compete in markets by providing quality training, counseling, and access to resources.

Providing meaningful economic opportunities to individuals who have completed prison sentences is a critical solution to an increasingly alarming problem.  Of the 600,000 individuals released on average each year from federal prisons, an estimated 60 percent remain unemployed one year after their release, raising the risk of recidivism and resulting in lost lifetime earnings. In fact, two-thirds of these individuals historically are rearrested within three years of their release.

This challenge competition is separate but builds on the momentum of the Aspire Entrepreneurship Initiative, a public-private partnership announced in August 2016 between the SBA, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Justine PETERSEN. The three-year initiative is a pilot to test entrepreneurship education programming and microloan assistance through SBA Microloan Intermediaries to formerly-incarcerated individuals in St. Louis, MO; Chicago, IL; Louisville, KY; and Detroit, MI. The goal of the Aspire Challenge is to source additional innovative solutions in other areas in the United States beyond these four metropolitan areas. This challenge also aligns with other actions identified by the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, a Cabinet-level working group to support the Federal Government’s efforts to promote public safety and economic opportunity through purposeful cross-agency coordination and collaboration.

The Aspire Challenge will serve as a catalyst to leverage business formation as a tool for economic mobility and self-employment for the formerly incarcerated through the design and delivery of intensive entrepreneurial education and increased access to microloans. This competition is designed to award prizes to entrepreneurial support organizations that propose innovative and sustainable solutions to equipping the formerly-incarcerated with the education and technical assistance they need to start and grow a business.

Judging Criteria

Entrepreneurial Education

Each Aspire Challenge Solution shall include innovative solutions for Entrepreneurial Education under the following sub-criteria:

(1) Recruitment-
Key to testing entrepreneurship training/access to microloans as a tool to reduce recidivism is the outreach to and recruitment of formerly incarcerated individuals. The applicant shall demonstrate how they intend to identify the participants who will receive the services described in this challenge.

(2) Classroom Instruction-
A proven, existing intensive entrepreneurship education curriculum designed for starting and growing businesses. Contests shall include how contestants will:
• Organize participants to meet in-person for classroom instructions that progressively develops over several weeks;
• Provide online resources and other components/activities that supplement the in-person curriculum;
• Guide participants to explore their personal entrepreneurial interests and visions;
• Address topics such as process, strategy, financing, marketing, human resources, leadership, contracting and market/product development;
• Guide all participants, by the end of the training, to refine and draft a complete business plan;

(3) Mentoring-
• Provide individualized support on developing entrepreneurial skills and strategies

(4) Community Connections-
• Opportunities to connect with the local business community and social service providers to increase participants’ financial literacy.

Access to Capital

Each Aspire Challenge Solution shall include innovative solutions for Access to Capital under the following criteria:

(1)Access to micro-lending and other capital/funding opportunities-
• Link participants with participating microlenders, including SBA Microloan Intermediaries, when appropriate, to fund and grow new businesses
• Provide Assistance to prepare to meet with capital providers, preparing proper documentation, matchmaking events with local lenders and funders, or business pitch events to angel investors, for example

How to Enter

Contestants will submit their application through challenge.gov. Winners will be required to have an account in System for Award Management (SAM) https://www.sam.gov to receive the award.

Participants should create an account on the challenge.gov site and go to (Challenge website URL) and click on the sidebar link which says “Submit Solution.” Contestants should include a title to their submission.

The application for this challenge consists of a four-page pdf document which should be uploaded as attachments to the submission. To upload these documents, click on the “Upload File(s)” button located directly under the “Description” heading on the submission page.

Contestants should include the following components in the four-page pdf submission:

Page 1: Contestant Capacity (1 page maximum)

  1. Organizational Background: Briefly describe your organization’s history,  its core competencies, geographic area of focus and how it is well positioned to deliver entrepreneurship training to formerly incarcerated individuals. Organizations may also describe if they have offered resources or programming to formerly incarcerated individuals in the past (such experience is not necessary for consideration). Organizations should also provide their proposed geographic service area as well as brief statements concerning their entrepreneurial ecosystem and needs assessment for formerly incarcerated individuals within the region. Please be sure to provide the following information in your description:
    1. Name of Organization
    2. Official Contact Person, Including Phone and Email Address
  1. Background of Management Team: Give a brief biography for each of the representatives who will be involved in the execution of the proposed solution.  Please identify any experience relating to prior work with formerly incarcerated individuals and/or the delivery of technical assistance/training resources to business owners

Pages 2-3: Entrepreneurial Education Delivery Solution (2-page maximum)

  1. Participant Recruitment Plan:  Key to testing entrepreneurship training/access to microloans as a tool to reduce recidivism is the outreach to and recruitment of formerly incarcerated individuals. The applicant shall demonstrate how they intend to identify the participants who will receive the services described in this challenge.
  2. Classroom Instruction: Describe how your organization will identify and deliver a proven, existing intensive entrepreneurship education curriculum to formerly incarcerated individuals.  Describe how the base curriculum will be augmented with the components necessary (financial literacy and leadership skills, etc to provide participants with the highest likelihood of economic success. Contestants shall also describe how they execute the following:.
    • Organize participants on a cohort basis (minimum of two cohorts per year) to  meet in-person for classroom instruction that progressively develops over several weeks
    • Provide online resources and other components/activities that supplement the in-person curriculum
    • Guide participants to explore their personal entrepreneurial interests and visions
    • Model the task and challenge of entrepreneurship interests and visions
    • Address topics such as process, strategy, financing, marketing, human resources, leadership, contracting and market/product development
    • Guide all participants, by the end of the training, to refine and draft a complete business plan
  3. Mentoring:
  • Describe how your organization will provide individualized support to participants developing entrepreneurial skills and strategies

     4. Community Connections:

  • Describe how the organization will create opportunities to connect with the local business community and social service providers to increase participants’ financial literacy, access to transitional services, and any other service that improves the economic well-being of the returning citizen.

Page 4: Access to Capital (1-page maximum)

  1. Access to micro-lending: Describe how you will link participants with participating microlenders (and when appropriate, SBA Microloan Intermediaries,to fund and grow new businesses
  2. Connection to capital and funding opportunities: Describe how your organization will provide assistance to prepare to meet with capital providers, preparing proper documentation, matchmaking events with local lenders and funders, or business pitch events to key members of an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

All submissions should adhere to the following formatting guidelines:

  • The application document should be submitted as a single PDF with the following filename format: [organization name]_AspireSolution.pdf
  • Each part of the application should be no more than one page in length, for a total of four pages
  • Paper Size: 8.5 x 11 with three-quarter (.75) inch margins on all sides
  • Font: Calibri, Size 11

To verify that your submissions have been uploaded correctly, you may go to “My Profile” by clicking on your username in the header bar and scrolling down. You should see all of your submissions here – you may continue to review and edit these until (insert date and time). Your pdf documents should appear as blue links in the body of your submission.

 

Additional Information

The SBA is hosting a series of online webinars to accommodate any FAQs or inquiries regarding the Aspire Challenge. The remaining dates, times, and links to live webinars are:

Tuesday, January 24th @ 2:00 – 3:00 PM ET, Select the link http://ems7.intellor.com/login/709386

Tuesday, January 31st @ 2:00 – 3:00 PM ET, Select the link http://ems7.intellor.com/login/709387

No pre-registration is required to attend.

124 Discussions for "Aspire Challenge"

  • OED
    Aspire Contestants, On July 14, 2017, the SBA’s Office of Entrepreneurial Development sent notification letters by mail to all contestants regarding the Aspire Challenge’s status. If you were a contestant and somehow did not receive this letter, we regret to inform you that the SBA will not issue awards for the Aspire Challenge this year. The Small Business Administration is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs start, grow, and succeed in today’s competitive global market. This is not possible without the continual efforts of supporting small business owners who constitute the economic engine of our country. We commend your support of small businesses in your community and wish you the best in your future endeavors. This discussion board will now be disabled; if you have any additional questions, please email si@oed.gov.

  • Sorry for posting this here, but other options aren't working. I received an email requesting an email address for our primary contact, but it was sent from a No Reply address, and my response bounced. The link given for correspondence on the email came back as a 404 Page Not Found. Just wanted to let you know that, in addition to my email address (ndaniel@claremontlincoln.edu to which the request was sent), you can address correspondence to kneal@claremontlincoln.edu. Thanks!

  • Show Replies [+]
    mstevens
    Thank you for the interest in the Aspire Challenge and to all contestants who submitted potential solutions. Award decisions under this challenge are delayed. Once we have further information, we will notify all contestants via email and on www.challenge.gov/aspire-challenge.

  • Show Replies [+]
    tfish
    To All Contestants: The SBA has received 183 total submissions for the Aspire Challenge and is processing all valid solutions for assessment and judging in accordance with the challenge rules. During submission, contestants received the option to make their respective solutions "hidden" or viewable to the Aspire Challenge site visitors. If you do not see your organization's submission on the "solutions" tab in the left sidebar it may be due to the fact that your solution is hidden from other competitors. However, if your organization submitted a solution but did not receive confirmation, please notify us at SI@sba.gov Thank you all for your participation and interest in this exciting challenge! V/r, SBA - Strategic Initiatives

    • Reply
      DEIGO MAYA
      Hello, how do I know if my solution was considered. I did not receive a confirmation email; however, my proposal does show up in the solutions tab.

    • Reply
      STEPHANIE DAWSON
      I understood that the winners of the provided solutions would be announced today, however, I have not seen any notification of the winners?

    • Reply
      Nancy Lowery
      Yes I submitted at 6pm on 11th and as of right now our submission still does not appear

      • Reply
        Gregory Wojcieszak
        We submitted yesterday afternoon, received confirmation, and our solution is not showing. Can you please confirm receipt through a tracking # or through some other means?

    • Reply
      Tacarra Birmingham
      I have been trying to submit to this system since Feb 11 @ 10:48 PM. It did not work and I have been unable to find a number for technical support.

    • Reply
      Ellen Tolton
      yes and I submitted Friday - I'm wondering if its because I requested that it be "hidden"?

    • Reply
      M.P.C.
      yes, we are experiencing the same. I just sent a message asking why my organization's submission was not showing with the other solutions.

    • Reply
      We received an email response from team@challenge.gov confirming our application was received. They said that there is a default setting of "hidden" that had to be clicked off in order for submissions to show under Solutions, which is why ours didn't show up. If anyone is unsure that theirs went through I would use that email to confirm.

    • Reply
      tfish
      During submission, contestants received the option to make their respective solutions "hidden" or viewable to the Aspire Challenge site visitors. If you do not see your organization's submission on the "solutions" tab in the left sidebar it may be that your solution is hidden from other competitors.

    • Reply
      I don't see my solution either, the one's shown could be from last year. Since the judging is delayed, they may not post until they ave checked the winners for this year.

  • Strategic initiatives
    Re-posting as a standalone submission - The recording of the last "How to Apply" webinar, delivered on January 31st, can be found at the following link: https://event-services.digitalpigeon.com/msg/g_ETUOmHEea_NgbtG5M1VQ/km0tnxrIKhjLOmhO8W5rNg

  • Show Replies [+]
    Anon
    Would all of the following situations be included in the definition of previously incarcerated? Arrested and held in lock Arrested and can’t make bail Charges pending—it could take up for two years to get a sentence. A sentence could be: Nolly Suspended sentence: has to attend classes, rehab, etc. then charges are expunged Jail for less than 30 days

    • Reply
      mstevens
      The recording of the last "How to Apply" webinar, delivered on January 31st, can be found at the following link: https://event-services.digitalpigeon.com/msg/g_ETUOmHEea_NgbtG5M1VQ/km0tnxrIKhjLOmhO8W5rNg

    • Reply
      Strategic Initiatives
      Font size for tables/graphics are excluded from the font size requirements.

    • Reply
      Strategic Initiatives
      There is no match requirement to compete in the Aspire Challenge.

    • Reply
      Strategic Initiatives
      This competition is not a federal grant opportunity; it is a prize competition. Winners are expected to begin implementing their solutions within thirty days of award notification. As noted below, the time period to implement winning solutions is 12 months.

    • Reply
      Strategic Initiatives
      The time period to implement winning solutions is 12 months. As noted in the rules section, the final written assessment of an implemented solution is no no later than eighteen months after a winner receives its first prize payment and the documentation must be satisfactory to SBA. To clarify, the initial Aspire Entrepreneurship Initiative, launched in August 2016, is a three year pilot.

  • Show Replies [+]
    Zonya A. Flemings
    Are individuals with less than 6 months to go on their sentence &/or currently being housed in halfway houses eligible participants for this challenge?

  • Show Replies [+]
    DThomas
    Good Afternoon: This solicitation makes reference to serving "non-violent ex-offenders". Will certain offenses preclude prospects from participating? If so, can you please provide a list of eligible versus ineligible offenses so that we can define eligibility criteria for candidates?

    • Reply
      Strategic Initiatives
      For purposes of this challenge, the definition used by the Bureau of Justice Statistics for non-violent offenses applies: "Nonviolent crimes are defined as property, drug, and public order offenses that do not involve a threat of harm or an actual attack upon a victim."

    • Reply
      Strategic Initiatives - SBA
      Changes to the language in the challenge announcement/rules have been noted in the Rules tab in red.

  • Show Replies [+]
    We currently have an individual on staff with extensive background in accounting, financing, and perhaps most relevant to this initiative formal bank credit training. He currently runs our Financial Literacy Program for returning citizens and if our entry was chosen he would be responsible for this initiative. He designed our current financial literacy curriculum and is interested in using his wealth of experience to design a curriculum for entrepreneurship training. However, the description mentions using "a proven, existing intensive entrepreneurship education curriculum designed for starting and growing businesses". Is designing our own curriculum not allowable? And if not. do you have any recommended curriculums you would hope to see used. Thank you very much for your time!

    • Reply
      tfish
      Yes, an organization may design their own curriculum. As suggested in the competition listing, the SBA requests how an organization will adapt a proven education curriculum to meet the needs of formerly incarcerated citizens. The challenge does not require the education strategy to be a pre-packaged, accredited or otherwise endorsed system. It is more important that the foundation and core principles of an applicant's curriculum are proven methodologies and, as generally accepted in the entrepreneurial community, that the proposed curriculum addresses the essential needs and requirements necessary to start a business

  • Show Replies [+]
    Dear Sir/ Madam I listen to the previous webinars with Erika Franz, Matt Stephens and Tyler Fish, over the weekend. Today I went to the below website at 2:07 and this webinar was over. Tuesday, January 24th @ 2:00 – 3:00 PM ET, Select the link http://ems7.intellor.com/login/709386 Do each webinar repeat from the one before? My questions are the following: Under the Four Solutions for the Judging Criteria, Once we explain all four in our proposal: 1. What is the time frame for us to have the number of formerly incarcerated participants? 2. If we wish to have group mentoring classes 3 times a week/ how many can we mentor at one time? 3. If we want to offer a 8 week program, that will give each participant, the assistant needed,,,will that meet your requirements?

    • Reply
      tfish
      We apologize for your difficulty accessing the webinar. A recording of the most recent webinar will be posted on the challenge site momentarily. Regarding your questions- (1) Winning applicants should plan to complete at least 2 intensive entrepreneurial training and education cohorts within 18 months after the Aspire Challenge Award date. (2) Applicants should structure their solution to maximize effectiveness and efficiency when planning to deliver in-person training and mentoring. In-person education services should be delivered in a group setting, however, mentoring services will ideally be delivered to clients on a one-on-one basis. (3) There is no minimum number of weeks required for the duration of an applicant's training program, however, training programs should be structured for a duration of reasonable length to ensure quality and retention for the cohort participants.

    • Reply
      tfish
      Contestants may include citations in a 1-page annex at the end of their 4-page application as well as any statements of partnership or support a contestant has received. Please be aware that the annex will not be considered in initial review of the challenge submissions.

  • Show Replies [+]
    RG
    Is a non-profit organization that is currently receiving funding through the Aspire Entrepreneurship Initiative through a partnership with Justine Petersen eligible to receive Aspire Challenge funding?

    • Reply
      tfish
      It is not necessary to list businesses within an applicant organization's professional network to be considered for the Aspire Challenge. Applicants may do so if they believe it makes a more competitive case for their organization.

    • Reply
      tfish
      There is no minimum requirement for individuals to be served by winning organizations. However, the Challenge does require cohort-based classroom instruction with a minimum of two cohorts. Winning organizations should be able demonstrate their capacity at least two groups of clientele to receive the full award amount.

    • Reply
      tfish
      The Aspire Challenge's objective is to expand the SBA's existing entrepreneurial assistance network delivering services to the formerly incarcerated. This includes geographic considerations as well as assembling a broader community of professionals committed to creating economic opportunity and combating recidivism. Even though the Aspire Entrepreneurship Initiative is geographically focused primarily on four metropolitan areas applicants within these service areas are also welcomed to apply for the Aspire Challenge.

    • Reply
      tfish
      The Aspire Challenge is a "pay for performance" prize contest. Federal prize contests are designed to crowdsource innovative solutions to the Federal Government's most pressing issues and priorities. In this instance, winning contestants will be awarded prize money in exchange for solutions to deliver entrepreneurial education and capital access assistance to formerly incarcerated individuals within their respective geographic region. For more information on federal prize competitions, see https://www.challenge.gov/program-overview/

    • Reply
      tfish
      The Aspire Challenge is open to all for-profit, non-profit, public, or private organizations capable of delivering intensive entrepreneurial education and capital access assistance to formerly incarcerated individuals. However, every competing organization must register with the Federal Government's System for Award Management (SAM) in order to be selected as a winner. (see: www.sam.gov).

    • Reply
      tfish
      Yes. All public or private organizations capable of delivering entrepreneurial education and capital access assistance to formerly incarcerated individuals may apply. Our only requirement is that winning organizations must be registered with the Federal Government's System for Award Management (SAM). For more information on SAM, please see www.sam.gov.

    • Reply
      tfish
      Yes, contestants are not limited to any particular metro area or geographic region. A whole state or geographic region can certainly be a viable service area for a winning contestant.

    • Reply
      tfish
      Winning organizations have discretion to allocate their prize awards as they deem necessary and most effective for implementing the Aspire Challenge's goals.

    • Reply
      tfish
      The Aspire Challenge is open to all for-profit, non-profit, public, or private organizations capable of delivering intensive entrepreneurial education and capital access assistance to formerly incarcerated individuals. However, every competing organization must register with the Federal Government's System for Award Management (SAM) in order to be selected as a winner. (see: www.sam.gov).

    • Reply
      tfish
      The Aspire Challenge does not have pre-determined metrics for performance measurement at this time. Winning contestants will have the ability to represent the success of their programs as they deem appropriate, however, the SBA does anticipate an on-going dialogue among the Aspire network which may reveal key metrics and inquiries that inform future Aspire-related endeavors.

    • Reply
      tfish
      (1) Single spacing is acceptable for your application. (2) The number of cohorts an organization is able to successfully serve is not an excluding factor for consideration. The Aspire Challenge is designed to reward innovative solutions that have high probabilities of success. (3) The credential may be an "industry recognized" certification but it is not required. A certificate of completion similar to a diploma or similar accomplishment document is acceptable as well.

    • Reply
      tfish
      One clarification...the Aspire Challenge rules do require cohort-based education programming. The Challenge seeks organizations that are capable of delivering two cohorts for the year following award. Individual based training is desired as a component of the overall education program, however, the Challenge places high priority on entrepreneurship community building among the formerly incarcerated class.

    • Reply
      tfish
      At this time, the Aspire Challenge is a competition designed as a one-time payment for performance.

  • Show Replies [+]
    Timothy Lampkin
    Can you elaborate on the eligibility requirements of the grantees? Are there any guidelines regarding the participants such as age, time since release, non-violent status, or no sexual offenses? Thanks!

    • Reply
      tfish
      Eligibility is open to all organizations, private or public, capable of delivering intensive, cohort-based entrepreneurial education and capital access assistance to formerly incarcerated individuals. The participant/clientele class the Aspire Challenge seeks to impact are those eligible under the SBA's 2015 Final Rule expanding SBA Microloan access. The final rule can be found at 13 CFR § 120.707(a) (https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2002-title13-vol1/pdf/CFR-2002-title13-vol1-sec120-707.pdf).

  • Show Replies [+]
    Mary
    What are the spending allocations? What % goes to admin expenses, what % goes to directly doing the program, etc.? Is there somewhere online where we can view this?

    • Reply
      tfish
      Winning organizations have discretion to allocate their prize awards as they deem necessary and most effective for implementing the Aspire Challenge's goals.

    • Reply
      tfish
      The Aspire Challenge seeks solutions that deliver cohort-based education with a dedicated entrepreneurial training curriculum. For example, a training course may deliver entrepreneurial education to a group of formerly incarcerated individuals. The course may have a pre-determined duration (e.g. 6-weeks/7-months/etc.) with established milestones interspersed throughout. A Certificate of Completion is one strategy to bolster the credit-worthiness, resume, reputation, and/or employability of a formerly incarcerated individual for having successfully completed the entrepreneurial training course and achieved the milestones therein.

  • Show Replies [+]
    Timothy Lampkin
    Do we need to include a budget narrative with our application? I also wanted to know if we should submit any letters of support or commitment. It would also be helpful to know if the SBA will provide on going technical assistance to the grantees. I look forward to your response. Feel free to email me directly at tim@timlampkin.com. Thanks!

    • Reply
      tfish
      A budget narrative is not necessary for your application. Winning organizations have discretion to allocate their prize awards as they deem necessary and most effective for implementing the Aspire Challenge's goals.

    • Reply
      tfish
      Letters of support or commitment are welcomed, however, we ask that you submit your partnership or support agreements as an annex at the end of your primary 4-page application. Partnership or support agreements will not be considered in our initial scoring of applications, however, they may be very influential in the final rounds of selecting Aspire Challenge winners.

    • Reply
      tfish
      The Aspire Challenge builds upon the progress of the SBA's 2015 ruling expanding Microloan Access to business owners on probation or parole. Likewise, the Aspire Challenge is a concerted effort for the SBA to expand our formerly incarcerated technical assistance network beyond our current partnerships. Thus, we do anticipate on-going dialogue and a community network of support and technical assistance among Aspire Challenge winners.

    • Reply
      tfish
      With regard to capital access, the Aspire Challenge, and its predecessor the Aspire Entrepreneurship Initiative, builds on the SBA's 2015 final rule expanding the SBA Microloan Program eligibility to businesses that have an owner who is currently on probation or parole. This ruling essentially allowed greater flexibility to SBA microloan intermediaries to expand their pool of microloan recipients to include individuals who may have been excluded due to criminal background. One of the Aspire Challenge's goals, in addition to entrepreneurial education, is to equip formerly incarcerated individuals with the tools necessary to obtain microloans or financing for new business ventures. Some aspects that would make a contestant competitive under capital access considerations are things like: (1) education and technical assistance on obtaining business loans; (2) an applicant's demonstrated connection to a lending/microloan network (or a plan to do so); (3) plans to facilitate matchmaking events between aspiring entrepreneurs and funders/lenders/etc.; (4) credit building training or curricula. Of course this list is not exclusive and the Aspire Challenge encourages innovative solutions to the barriers afflicting the formerly-incarcerated potential entrepreneur. We welcome original ideas and creative ways to promote access to business financing resources for the formerly-incarcerated.

    • Reply
      tfish
      No, prizes offered under the Aspire Challenge are static and do not allow for indirect costs.

    • Reply
      tfish
      Hello Jill, in essence, yes. The Aspire Challenge is focused on providing means to allow individuals with criminal records to overcome barriers to legitimate economic mobility and thereby prevent such individuals from becoming (re-)incarcerated. The challenge takes a very broad view of the term “formerly incarcerated” to include all individuals who may be facing structural barriers to gainful employment or economic self-sufficiency as a result of their criminal record or background. The class of individuals intended to be impacted are those who may be excluded from opportunities, such as: state safety net programs, occupational licensing, or conventional capital access resources. If you feel that your clientele fits this description, or you are interested in expanding your clientele to include this demographic, we encourage you to give us an explanation of your intended service delivery in your application.

    • Reply
      tfish
      Yes. The Aspire Challenge seeks meaningful impact for the full range of demographics in the formerly incarcerated community. I’m certain you can articulate a number issues and/or circumstances that uniquely afflict women who have been incarcerated. You should highlight these in your application and describe how your education curriculum addresses the specific needs for your clients.

    • Reply
      tfish
      Yes. We started the Aspire Initiative and the Aspire Challenge focusing on the “returning citizen”, however, we realize that the term doesn’t necessarily encompass the entire class of individuals we are seeking impact. There is room in our challenge solicitation for considering applications delivering entrepreneurial education and training as a transitional service to individuals who will soon be released. Our research has shown that the first year post-release is the most critical for formerly incarcerated individuals to gain economic mobility and self-sufficiency to prevent recidivism. That being said, our judging criteria does give consideration to supplementary training activities (e.g. online access to resources, matchmaking events with local lenders, and engagement with community support networks) that could be limited if you’re unable to execute such functions with clients who are currently incarcerated. In order maximize your score in our judging criteria you’ll want to articulate in your application how you intend to deliver these types of functions.

    • Reply
      tfish
      Twelve program participants could absolutely be competitive, however, we can’t say whether it would be comparable to the applications of other contestants. We’ve designed the Aspire Challenge to crowdsource innovative solutions to this issue so the applicant pool in its entirety is going to determine how high the bar is for finalists. That said, the challenge is designed to reward applicants with high probabilities of success, in our view it does no service to prioritize quantity to the detriment of meaningful impact investment and this is the kind of consideration that our judges may make in tandem with your geographic location. Twelve participants could be a significant figure in your market area, especially if there are no other applicants in your region. In short, we are not excluding anybody from consideration based upon their projected number of participants.

    • Reply
      tfish
      Population figures are not considered in our judging criteria so don’t let your market size dissuade you from competing. The four Aspire Entrepreneurship Initiative sites were selected to improve a previously existing micro-lending and business support network focused specifically on entrepreneurship endeavors for formerly incarcerated individuals. The Initiative was executed as a partnership with W.K. Kellogg and Justine PETERSEN who already had extensive connections to the community in those areas. With the Aspire Challenge, we are seeking to broaden availability of these services to new areas regardless of population size. As I’m sure you can attest, smaller market and rural areas are afflicted by recidivism and low economic mobility for the formerly incarcerated as much as many other places in the U.S

    • Reply
      tfish
      Hello Andrea, Our first webinar will be hosted tomorrow, 1/10/2017, from 2:00 - 3:00 PM ET and every Tuesday thereafter during the month of January. There is no pre-registration requirement and the link to each webinar is published at The Aspire Challenge (see "How to Enter" section; scroll to bottom) You may post questions about the competition here on the discussion board or email them directly to SI@sba.gov. All questions will be answered within two days and responses will be posted here on the discussion board.

  • Show Replies [+]
    tfish
    Are you interested in competing? The SBA is hosting informational webinars to address issues and answer frequently asked questions every Tuesday for the remainder of January (each webinar will offer the same standard content, but questions may be posed at each of the sessions for appropriate responses; no live responses will be provided; written responses will be posted on the discussion board on challenge.gov). The webinar schedule is: Tuesday, January 10th @ 2:00 – 3:00 PM ET, Select the link http://ems7.intellor.com/login/709384 Tuesday, January 17th @ 2:00 – 3:00 PM ET, Select the link http://ems7.intellor.com/login/709385 Tuesday, January 24th @ 2:00 – 3:00 PM ET, Select the link http://ems7.intellor.com/login/709386 Tuesday, January 31st @ 2:00 – 3:00 PM ET, Select the link http://ems7.intellor.com/login/709387 No pre-registration is required to attend the webinars. We hope you’ll join us.

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Rules

*** BEGIN UPDATE: RULES CHANGES ***

The SBA has made the following rule changes for the Aspire Challenge: 

  • Section (1)(iii) “Needs Assessment” – The challenge rules previously requested a “data driven needs assessment” submitted by applicants. In lieu of this requirement, the SBA requests a “brief needs assessment” in your application. The needs assessment may be included as a narrative within the “organizational background” component as related to the applicant’s geographic service area. 
  • Section (5) “Written Assessment Requirements” – The challenge rules previously requested applicant organizations to identify metrics and outcomes to measure the success of service delivery under the Aspire Challenge. This requirement has been removed. Instead, the SBA intends to develop metrics for success measurement collaboratively with the Aspire Challenge network as a whole post-award. 

This update is intended only to highlight changes to the text featured in the Aspire Challenge Competition Details. 

*** END UPDATE: RULES CHANGES***

Competition Details:

(1)  Subject of Challenge Competition:  The SBA is working to create pathways towards entrepreneurship and access to capital resources to individuals who have been formerly incarcerated.  The SBA is looking for contestants who offer solutions that are innovative and relevant based on the needs of this target market.  Solutions should incorporate the following two components:

(i) Delivery of Intensive Entrepreneurial Education to individuals who have been formerly incarcerated, by providing innovative and comprehensive entrepreneurial education with a focus on the following:

(A) Develop and deliver comprehensive entrepreneurship training, for which individuals who have been incarcerated will earn a certificate upon completion;

(B) Provide individualized business mentoring to support participants’ growth as prospective entrepreneurs;

(C) Build participants’ ties to the larger business community; and

(D) Connect participants to opportunities for life skills development and financial literacy.

(ii) Access to Capital:

When appropriate, link participants with participating micro-lenders including SBA Microloan Intermediaries, to fund new businesses and provide capital to existing ventures.

(iii) Aspire Challenge contestants shall provide a brief needs assessment of the proposed community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem as it exists today and identify training, education and support gaps for individuals who have been formerly incarcerated. Contestants shall propose an intensive entrepreneurship education and program plan that provides targeted support to participating entrepreneurs in an effort to increase their ability to start and grow businesses, while at the same time, enhancing their personal and professional skills to improve their employment outlook.  Contestants shall demonstrate an ability and cultural competency to reach formerly incarcerated individuals or those who are non-violent ex-offenders.

(2) Eligibility Rules for Participating in the Competition:
To be eligible to win a prize under this competition, a contestant:

(i) Shall have registered to participate in the competition under the rules promulgated by SBA;

(ii) Shall have complied with all the requirements under this Notice;

(iii) In the case of a private entity, shall be incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States, and

(iv) May not be a Federal entity or Federal employee acting within the scope of their employment;

(v) Shall not be an SBA employee working on their applications during assigned duty hours.

(3)  Registration Process for Contestants:  Contestants will submit their application through challenge.gov. Winners will be required to have an account in System for Award Management (SAM) https://www.sam.gov to receive the award.

(4)  Amount of Prize:  Through the Aspire Challenge, the SBA will award up to sixteen awards of up to $75,000 each for a total of up to $1.2 million in prizes.

(5)  Payment of Prize:  The cash prize portion of the award will be disbursed in a series of three of payments. The first payment, equal to 40 percent of a winner’s total prize amount, will be disbursed upon award once all initial requirements in the Official Rules available at https://www.challenge.gov (see Rules tab under the Aspire Entrepreneurship Challenge subpage) have been met and the contestant has provided documentary evidence satisfactory to SBA. The second payment, equal to 30 percent of a winner’s total prize amount, will be disbursed after a winner has delivered a kickoff event and the first 50% of the proposed training program has been delivered to the intended audience and the contestant has provided documentary evidence satisfactory to SBA. The kickoff and first 50 percent of the program must be executed within six months of the date of the award unless otherwise specified by the SBA. The remaining 30 percent of the total prize amount will be disbursed after a winner submits a written assessment that includes, but is not limited to, the outcomes and outputs of the pilot implementation of the training program as measured by metrics prescribed by the SBA, a summary of any lessons learned and best practices, and suggestions for any improvements to the design or implementation of similar competitions in the future. The written assessment must be submitted to SBA no later than eighteen months after a winner receives its first prize payment and the documentation must be satisfactory to SBA.

(6)  Selection of Winners:

(i) Competition entries will be evaluated by a review committee that may be comprised of SBA officials, employees of other Federal agencies, and/or private sector experts. Winners will be selected based on the quality, clarity, completeness, and feasibility of their proposals in addressing the issues outlined in the criteria below. In addition, in order to achieve nationwide distribution of prizes for the purpose of assisting business startups across the entire United States, SBA may take into account contestants’ geographic locations and areas of service when selecting winners. For the announcement of winners, any travel or related expenses to attend an event will be the responsibility of the winner and may not be paid with prize funds.

(ii) Each Aspire Challenge solution plan shall include innovative solutions under the following criteria:

  • Entrepreneurial Education

(1)Recruitment: Key to testing entrepreneurship training/access to microloans as a tool to reduce recidivism is the outreach to and recruitment of formerly incarcerated individuals.  The applicant shall demonstrate how they intend to identify the participants who will receive the services described in this challenge.

(2) Classroom Instruction: A proven, existing intensive entrepreneurship education curriculum designed for starting and growing businesses. Contests shall include how contestants will:

(i) Organize participants to  meet in-person for classroom instructions that progressively develops over several weeks;

(ii) Provide online resources and other components/activities that supplement the in-person curriculum ;

(iii) Guide participants to explore their personal entrepreneurial interests and visions;

(iv) Address topics such as process, strategy, financing, marketing, human resources, leadership, contracting and market/product development;

(v) Guide all participants, by the end of the training, to refine and draft a complete business plan;

(3) Mentoring:

(i) Provide individualized support on developing entrepreneurial skills and strategies

(4) Community Connections:

(i) Opportunities to connect with the local business community and social service providers to increase participants’ financial literacy.

  • Access to Capital

(1)Access to micro-lending and other capital/funding opportunities[1]:

(i) Link participants with participating microlenders, including SBA Microloan Intermediaries, when appropriate, to fund and grow new businesses

(ii) Provide Assistance to prepare to meet with capital providers, preparing proper documentation, matchmaking events with local lenders and funders, or business pitch events to angel investors, for example.

(7)  Applicable Law:  This Competition is being conducted by SBA pursuant to the America Competes Act (15 U.S.C. 3719) and is subject to all applicable federal laws and regulations. By participating in this competition, each contestant gives its full and unconditional agreement to the Official Rules, located on www.challenge.gov and the related administrative decisions described in this notice, which are final and binding in all matters related to the competition. A contestant’s eligibility for a prize award is contingent upon its fulfilling all requirements identified in this notice and in the Official Rules.  Publication of this notice is not an obligation of funds on the part of SBA. SBA reserves the right to modify or cancel this competition, in whole or in part, at any time prior to the award of prizes.

(8)  Conflicts of Interest:  No individual acting as a judge at any stage of this competition may have personal or financial interests in, or be an employee, officer, director, or agent of any contestant or have a familial or financial relationship with a contestant.

(9)  Intellectual Property Rights:

(i) All entries submitted in response to this competition will remain the sole intellectual property of the individuals or organizations that developed them. By registering and entering a submission, each contestant represents and warrants that it is the sole author and copyright owner of the submission, and that the submission is an original work of the contestant, or if the submission is a work based on an existing application, that the contestant has acquired sufficient rights to use and to authorize others to use the submission, and that the submission does not infringe upon any copyright or upon any other third party rights of which the contestant is aware.

(ii). The winning contestant will, in consideration of the prize to be awarded, grant to SBA an irrevocable, royalty-free, exclusive worldwide license to reproduce, distribute, copy, display, create derivative works, and publicly post, link to, and share the solutions or parts thereof that are to be developed as a result of winning this competition or for any official SBA purpose.

(10)  Publicity Rights:  By registering and entering a submission, each contestant consents to SBA’s and its agents’ use, in perpetuity, of its name, likeness, photograph, voice, opinions, and/or hometown and state information for promotional or informational purposes through any form of media, worldwide, without further payment or consideration.

(11)  Liability and Insurance Requirements:  By registering and entering a submission, each contestant agrees to assume any and all risks and waive claims against the Federal Government and its related entities, except in the case of willful misconduct, for any injury, death, damage, or loss of property, revenue, or profits, whether direct, indirect, or consequential, arising from their participation in this competition, whether the injury, death, damage, or loss arises through negligence or otherwise. By registering and entering a submission, each contestant further represents and warrants that it possesses sufficient liability insurance or financial resources to cover claims by a third party for death, bodily injury, or property damage or loss resulting from any activity it carries out in connection with its participation in this competition, or claims by the Federal Government for damage or loss to government property resulting from such an activity. competition winners shall be prepared to demonstrate proof of insurance or financial responsibility in the event SBA deems it necessary.

(12)  Record Retention and Disclosure:  All submissions and related materials provided to SBA in the course of this competition automatically become SBA records and cannot be returned. Contestants shall identify any confidential commercial information contained in their entries at the time of their submission.

 

Award Approving Official:  Lori Gillen, Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Entrepreneurial Development, U.S. Small Business Administration, 409 Third Street,

SW, Washington, DC 20416.

 

Authority:  America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2010, 15 U.S.C. 3719.

[1] In 2015, the SBA published a final rule for its Microloan Program allowing microloans to be made by SBA Microloan Intermediaries to small businesses owners currently on probation or parole. 13 CFR 120.707(a). The SBA’s Microloan Program is focused on new businesses and other underserved markets and provides loans up to $50,000

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