MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge (IIC) Announces 2018 North America Finalists

Finalists to compete for $120,000 USD on September 27 in Detroit with MIT’s Erik BrynjolfssonKeynoting the awards event; 4 Regional Winners Proceed to MIT IIC Global Grand Prize Gala where $1,000,000 USD will be awarded.

Detroit, MI, August 16, 2018– Today, the MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge (IIC) and its North America Region Collaborator, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, announced the 2018 IIC North America Finalists. The MIT IIC was launched three years ago to recognize and celebrate organizations around the world that are using technology to solve a grand challenge of our time: to create more broadly shared prosperity by reinventing the future of work in the digital era.

This year, the North America Challenge will be hosted in Detroit on September 27 by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, giving local attendees the opportunity to hear from finalists that are using technology to improve economic opportunity for low- and moderate-income earners.

“The MIT Challenge is a great opportunity to spark a deeper dialogue around what the future of work can look like in our communities,” said Lavea Brachman, vice president of programs at the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “We look forward to lifting up these Finalists and their innovative solutions, while also exploring the ways Detroit and the surrounding region are addressing the challenges of a rapidly changing workforce landscape and evolving training needs.”

“Looking at the field of this year’s Finalists, we’re hopeful about the future of work in North America,” said Andrew McAfee, Co-Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. “We congratulate the Finalists and look forward to promoting their solutions that are working in the region today.”

Following is the list of the 2018 MIT IIC North America Finalists in each category:

Skills Development & Opportunity Matching:

  • CareAcademy (Boston, MA)provides online professional development to teach and upskill caregivers, providing opportunities for millions of workers to prepare for the future of healthcare without allowing language, income or status to be a barrier.
  • Centro de los Derechos del Migrante (Baltimore, MD)provides an online platform – – that builds worker power in the recruitment process and generates a self-supporting community of workers to end recruitment and employment abuse in temporary work programs.
  • PAIRIN (Denver, CO)accelerates development of soft skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity

Income Growth & Job Creation:

  • AnnieCannons (Oakland, CA) transforms survivors of human trafficking into software professionals, helping them sustain a lifetime free from exploitation.
  • Bak USA (Buffalo, NY) is re-localizing American manufacturing, creating access to meaningful technology careers and teaching skills to break cycles of inequality.
  • ULTRA Testing (New York, NY)is an onshore IT startup unlocking the potential of autistic talent by proving that neurodiversity can be a competitive advantage in business.

Financial Inclusion:

  • Fig Tech Inc. (New York, NY) works with non-profits to provide credit building products that bridge families from income volatility to financial stability by providing emergency credit to individuals, putting clients on a path to mainstream credit.
  • The Financial Clinic (Brooklyn, NY)operates an interactive online platform – Change Machine – built by practitioners for practitioners that dramatically increases the impact of financial coaching and services to America’s working poor.
  • Forge Technologies (San Francisco, CA)develops software that gives part-time, hourly employees work schedule flexibility to allow for better work-life balance and gives workers the opportunity to increase income by working for multiple employers.

Technology Access:

  • Apps Without Code (Detroit, MI)is a global education platform that teaches entrepreneurs how to build profitable app businesses without writing any code, with a focus on Black and Latino populations who lack equal access to STEM education.
  • Detroit Community Technology Project (Detroit, MI)uses and develops technology rooted in community needs that strengthens human connections to each other and the planet.  The project works toward demystifying technology and expanding digital literacy and access to community wireless networks in Detroit neighborhoods.
  • EveryoneOn (Washington, DC) has created the “Travelocity” for affordable internet, connecting Americans to low-cost internet services through its online “Offer Locator Tool.”

More than 130 expert judges from across North America selected the 12 MIT IIC Regional Finalists, who will now vie for $120,000 at an event on September 27that the College for Creative Studies’ A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education in Detroit.

During the event, North America finalists will pitch to a 12-member Selection Panel, as well as a local audience of 300-plus members of the economic growth, education, and entrepreneurship community. The Selection Panel will announce which four of these innovators wins $20,000 each and will progress to the Global Grand Prize Gala at MIT on November 8. The eight remaining finalists will each win $5,000.

Guests will also hear keynote speaker Erik Brynjolfsson, Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and co-author of the NYT best-selling book The Second Machine Age, after which he will moderate a group of panelists from southeast Michigan practicing inclusive innovation in the region. Brynjolfsson’s research examines the effects of information technologies on business strategy, productivity and performance, digital commerce, and intangible assets. His research has been recognized with ten Best Paper awards, five patents and featured in leading economics, management and science journals.

“The grand challenge of our era is to use digital technologies to create not only prosperity, but shared prosperity,” said Brynjolfsson. “The 12 IIC North America Finalists are addressing this Challenge head on with innovative, scalable solutions.”

The MIT IIC North America Celebration will be live streamed beginning at 6 p.m. EST on the MIT IIC’s Facebook page at

The MIT IIC Global Grand Prize Gala will be hosted at MIT in Cambridge, MA on November 8 in conjunction with a two-day Future of Work Congress on November 8 and 9. One million dollars in prize money will be awarded to four Global Grand Prize Winners, selected from Regional Winners from around the world.

Join the Movement

The MIT IIC is dedicated to the promotion of sustainable, scalable global inclusive innovation. We engage U.S. and international media to report on solutions that can be harnessed today. We also connect winners with key ecosystem players and investors, while providing insights to government and policy makers. Smart capital investment and policies, we believe, can give us the best of both worlds: all the benefits that come from the technology breakthroughs of today and tomorrow and jobs that provide dignity and a good paycheck. We invite you to join us by embracing and supporting inclusive innovators and their equitable solutions to reinventing the future of work for all humans, not just an elite few.

The MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE) explores how people and businesses will work, interact, and prosper in an era of profound digital transformation. Working alone and with public and private sector partners, the IDE supports and conducts groundbreaking research in the areas of productivity and employment, big data, new digital business models, and social analytics. The IDE sponsors fellowships; hosts competitions, conferences, and roundtables; and supports other events that inspire new ideas. The IDE believes that challenges posed by the digital economy not only are solvable, but that technology will create new opportunities for people and businesses to thrive. @MIT_IDE

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is a grantmaking organization dedicated primarily to sustained investment in the quality of life of the people of Southeast Michigan and Western New York. The two regions reflect Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.’s devotion to his hometown of Detroit and greater Buffalo, home of his Buffalo Bills franchise. Prior to his passing in 2014, Mr. Wilson requested that a significant share of his estate be used to continue a life-long generosity of spirit by funding the Foundation that bears his name. The Foundation has a grantmaking capacity of $1.2 billion over a 20-year period, which expires January 8, 2035. This structure is consistent with Mr. Wilson’s desire for the Foundation’s impact to be immediate, substantial, measurable and overseen by those who knew him best. For more information visit

For further information, contact:

MIT IDE/IIC Media Contact: Shannon Farrelly,

MIT IIC Contact: Susan Young,

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation Media Contact: Peter Van Dyke,