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    Press Release

    Chicago Ideas Week Celebrates Next Generation of Social Entrepreneurs

    Leslie Bluhm and David Helfand, in Partnership with Chicago Ideas Week, Announce the Social Innovation Fellowship Winners

    CHICAGO, Sept. 16, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Furthering efforts to recognize and support socially-minded innovators in the Midwest and around the world, Chicago Ideas Week (CIW) and the Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellowship (BHSI) ( proudly announce the 2011 class of Fellows. These young entrepreneurs will participate in CIW, a seven-day platform for ideas, innovation and community, to be held October 10 – 16, 2011.

    "These Fellows represent a breed of young people making an incredible impact through social innovation," said Leslie Bluhm, co-founder of the volunteer service organization Chicago Cares and the founder of the BHSI Fellowship. "We are thrilled to recognize these young entrepreneurs and to provide a platform to exchange their ideas with established professionals and thought leaders."

    In addition to attending CIW, each Fellow will receive a $10,000 contribution to his or her venture intended to accelerate the Fellows' ability to make an impact. The inaugural Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellows are: • Jason Aramburu, 26, of Austin, TX is the founder of re:char (, a social business dedicated to fighting climate change and rural poverty through the deployment of small-scale biochar production kilns to farmers in Kenya. The kiln converts farm waste into biochar, a premium charcoal product that can be used as fuel or fertilizer. This innovative process is both cost efficient and environmentally sustainable. In the past year these efforts have saved nearly 100,000 trees from destruction. re:char currently serves 1,500 farmers in Western Kenya, providing them with a source of income and increased crop yields. • Emma Clippinger, 25, of Cambridge, MA is the co-founder and executive director of Gardens for Health International (, a non-profit organization equipping those who face malnutrition with the resources to feed themselves and their families. By teaching people to use microlending to create sustainable gardens, GHI puts them on a path to food security. Currently operating in Rwanda, GHI serves over 4,000 individuals affected by chronic malnutrition, poverty and HIV/AIDS. • Adam Lowy, 25, of Neptune, NJ is the founder of Move for Hunger (, an organization that works to fight hunger by collaborating with moving companies. Adam's family has been in the moving business for over 100 years. Recognizing an opportunity to give back, he directed his family's business to begin donating unwanted food to local food banks. Just two years later, Move for Hunger is partnering with over 150 movers in 35 states and has delivered 330,000 pounds of food to food banks across the country. In addition to collections, they plan a variety of events throughout the year for hunger awareness, and their network of movers also educates people about hunger in their communities. • Jeff Nelson, 29, of Chicago, IL is the co-founder and executive director of US Empowered (, the only teacher-led college persistence program in the country that identifies and trains highly effective teachers to lead underperforming high school students in low-income communities to successfully enroll in and graduate from college. This past school year, they worked with nearly 550 students and engaged 44 teachers from 15 high-need high schools acrossChicago, while also supporting 27 US Empowered alumni who currently attend colleges and universities across the country. In the first two years of their work, 99% of the students in US Empowered programs—students who statistically would have little chance at going to college—have enrolled in four-year colleges. • Jessica Posner, 25, of Denver, CO is the co-founder and COO of Shining Hope for Communities (, a non-profit that combats extreme poverty and gender inequality in Kibera—Africa's largest slum. Shining Hope runs the Kibera School for Girls—the slum's first free school for girls, as well as a community health clinic, clean toilet initiative, youth and community education, and economic development initiatives. By investing in health and economic success, Shining Hope aims to demonstrate that investing in women benefits the whole community, cultivating a community ethos that makes women respected members of society.

    Throughout the week-long event, Fellows will be joined by Leslie Bluhm and David Helfand, as well as other prominent Chicagoleaders, including CIW co-chair and former Mayor Richard M. Daley, chairman of Equity Group Investments Sam Zell, co-founder and executive chairman of Groupon Eric Lefkofsky and GrubHub co-founder and CEO Matthew Maloney. Two Fellows will present their social ventures alongside established professionals during a CIW Talk celebrating social entrepreneurship on the opening day of CIW, October 10, at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

    About Leslie Bluhm & David Helfand Leslie Bluhm and David Helfand are committed to making a positive impact through philanthropy locally and nationally. Leslie is the founder of Chicago Cares, the largest volunteer service organization in the Midwest today. David is the chairman and CEO of Helix Funds, a private real estate investment company with more than $2 billion in assets under management. David serves on the boards of the Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, National Louis University and on the Executive Committee for the Zell/Lurie Real Estate Center at University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. His philanthropic focus is the advancement of education and entrepreneurship.

    About Chicago Ideas Week Chicago Ideas Week is an annual seven-day celebration of ideas, innovation and community, with a focus on bringing the world's best speakers together with the Midwest's best thinkers. It is the platform for ideas, created for innovators, thinkers, doers and interested members of Chicago and the greater Midwest. CIW's goal is to stimulate new initiatives and ventures, create new connections and collaborations, and establish a community of people who have the desire to achieve great things. For more information, please visit