Obesity Solutions offers funding for ideas that fight obesity


February 18, 2013

Entrepreneurs invited to submit entries through March 3

The Obesity Solutions Funding Challenge officially kicked off Jan. 31 with an event that invited all those who are interested in combating obesity to come together and discuss potential solutions.   Download Full Image

The event took place in Changemaker Central and came on the heels of a two-week mini-challenge that encouraged participants to get a jump-start on their obesity ideas. The winner of the mini-challenge was announced at the kick-off event and will receive an hour-long consulting session with James A. Levine, the co-director of Obesity Solutions and leading Mayo Clinic endocrinologist.  

The winning entry for the mini-challenge was submitted by Gregory Yanke, whose idea addresses the struggle that residents of lower-income neighborhoods face when trying to access high-quality fresh fruits and vegetables. Many of these people don’t have reliable transportation to get to grocery stores, and often must buy their meals from fast food restaurants or gas stations.  

Yanke suggested a program where food trucks would bring mobile farmers markets to underserved areas, allowing those residents access to fresh, locally grown produce at an affordable price.

Alexandra Brewis Slade, director of operations for Obesity Solutions, notes that ideas like Yanke’s are just what Obesity Solutions hopes to attract with their Funding Challenge. 

"While we know some of the solutions might be technological in nature – such as apps or related to social media – many good solutions are also to be found outside this realm,” she said.  

“One of my favorite low-tech solutions is the so-called ‘walking school bus,’ where parents and schoolchildren set off to and from school walking together as a group," she added. "It is such a simple idea that not only creates health, but also saves money and the environment at the same time. A good solution can come in many forms, and just has to be an inventive or clever way to deal with the problem."

Along with the announcement of the mini-challenge winner, the kick-off event included a presentation by Levine. He described the process by which research and ideas can be translated into real-world products and solutions. He notes that Obesity Solutions, in particular, is able to help with this process.

“By supporting new business development in this arena, we can help build effective, legitimate and sustainable obesity solutions by providing expert guidance through the development process, as well as essential funding to get ideas from the planning stage to the prototype or execution stage,” Levine says. “The winners of the Funding Challenge will have access to all these resources, allowing the team to develop their ideas into a product that can be disseminated and scaled.”  

The Obesity Solutions Funding Challenge is an opportunity for anyone with an idea for an innovative way to combat obesity to get the project off the ground. Winners of the Funding Challenge will receive up to $10,000 in seed funding to start their project, along with mentoring from ASU’s Venture Catalyst group as well as access to real-world investors.   

When asked for a hint as to what a winning team might look like, Brewis Slade said: "We especially encourage teams that have diverse membership, because it is between people's skills that you get the interesting synergies. For example, an artist and engineer, and a nursing student, are more likely to come up with something inventive and new than a team comprised of three artists or three engineers."

The Obesity Solutions Funding Challenge is a great example of ASU’s commitment to the health and wellness, as well as its dedication to fostering entrepreneurship and innovation within the community. 

"ASU is an institution that deeply values the entrepreneurial spirit, that lets people go and try something new – or to see if it works," says Brewis Slade. "This funding challenge is about providing the support to see if that idea has wings."

For more information on the Obesity Solutions Funding Challenge, visit the Obesity Solutions website. Also, make sure to follow Obesity Solutions on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date.

Media contact:
Kathryn Eaton, kathryn.eaton@asu.edu

Britt Lewis

Interim Communications Director, ASU Library

School of Public Affairs to host Municipal Finance Challenge in March


February 18, 2013

The challenging economic environment over the last several years has caused many municipal projects to fail or be canceled. Still, notable successes have been achieved when knowledgeable public officials, developers and financial partners have come together to provide winning deal structures.

To advance such creative partnerships in the public interest, the ASU School of Public Affairs is proud to present the 2013 Municipal Finance Challenge. Download Full Image

During the March 21-22 event, in Phoenix, speakers from teams nationwide that have creatively financed and successfully implemented municipal projects will break down the core principles of municipal finance, share best practices and project successes, and explain how to assess risks.

The national conference is the second of the school’s annual Financial Markets Boot Camp series. It will be held at the Sheraton Downtown Phoenix Hotel, and is dedicated to public officials, practitioners and academics committed to advancing the field and practice of municipal finance and development.

Program highlights include learning about Oklahoma City’s success financing more than $2.4 billion of capital improvement projects using temporary sales taxes and citizen involvement, as well as ASU’s innovative financial partnerships with the cities of Phoenix and Tempe, and the public sector, to enhance education and business opportunities. Representatives from the Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham, N.C., and the Overton Hotel and Conference Center in Lubbock, Texas, also will be on hand to share their experiences creating successful deals.

The opening keynote address will be presented by Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Programs and director of the school. In it, he will set forth the challenge to conference attendees to learn from the leaders and innovators in municipal finance, and tap into today’s best thinking for structuring a range of municipal finance deals.

“Financial capacity in the public sector is the challenge of our times,” Koppell said. “Under financial stress and pressure to do more with less, municipalities are entering into evermore complex transactions. These have the potential to deliver tremendous benefits, but, executed poorly, such deals can saddle communities with crippling financial burdens for years.”

He added that the conference will offer opportunities for dialogue with experts from the public and private sectors, including Jay Goldstone, chair of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, and an alumnus of the School of Public Affairs’ master’s program in public administration. ASU president Michael Crow will deliver the luncheon keynote address.

“Our speakers include leaders and innovators in municipal finance who are eager to share their knowledge, solutions and strategies for making successful deals happen,” said conference co-chair Susan Giles Bischak, president and CEO of Giles & Company Strategic Business Consultants, Inc., and a faculty associate in the school. “Participants from both the public and private sectors will learn how to meet the needs for growth in cities and local communities by using sound fiscal structures and building community involvement throughout the process.”

Other presenters include key players in municipal finance for economic development, public-private partnerships and infrastructure development, such as: Gabriel Petek, senior director at Standard & Poor’s State and Local Government Group; Kurt M. Freund, managing director of municipal finance for RBC Capital Markets, LLC;  Matthew Jones, senior vice president at Moody’s Investors Service; James D. Couch, city manager of Oklahoma City; and Ray Garfield, president of Encore Garfield Public/Private LLC.

“Government officials understand that their financing choices are under scrutiny on multiple fronts in today’s economic environment – but they also recognize that their communities have crucial public infrastructure needs that can only be met by accessing the capital markets,” said conference co-chair Michael Stanton, publisher of The Bond Buyer, the municipal bond market’s daily news source.

“The key to a successful municipal capital program is widespread support from residents, businesses and taxpayers,” he continued. “The Municipal Finance Challenge is an exciting opportunity to give public-sector finance officers the knowledge they need to structure the best deal, and the confidence to explain and defend their choices to all interested stakeholders.”

Additional information about the Municipal Finance Challenge is provided at spa.asu.edu/municonference.

Media contact:
Joan M. Sherwood
602-496-0406

Sharon Keeler

associate director, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

480-727-5618