- Global Pharma News & Resources

Leslie Bluhm, David Helfand and Chicago Ideas Announce the Eighth Annual Class of Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellows

Leslie Bluhm, David Helfand and Chicago Ideas Announce the Eighth Annual Class of Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellows

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, Sept. 12, 2018

CHICAGO, Sept. 12, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Philanthropists and entrepreneurs Leslie Bluhm and David Helfand, along with Chicago Ideas, are proud to announce the names of the 2018 Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation (BHSI) Fellows. The Fellowship, in its eighth year, supports innovative social entrepreneurs under the age of 35 who are building solutions that positively impact the world.

Since 2011, the Fellowship has recognized 36 leaders from around the globe and awarded more than $700,000 in direct financial and in-kind support. The BHSI Fellowship has also connected the innovators to major donors, placed board members, advised on strategy and facilitated scaling at the local, national and international levels.

The 2018 BHSI class, selected from more than 250 applicants, has pioneered innovations to address some of the world's most critical social needs. The non-profit and for-profit companies founded and run by this year's Fellows include: an A.I.-backed text message translation platform for parents and teachers that leaps over language barriers; a program that reduces pharmaceutical waste while redistributing unused, unexpired medications to low-income patients in need; a cutting-edge disinfectant product designed to reduce the risk of contamination in areas affected by disease outbreak; a first-of-its-kind approach to higher education that enables students to earn a degree in social entrepreneurship while they build solutions to our most staggering global challenges; and, an organization that closes the literacy gap by training parents and caregivers to become reading coaches at home as a complement to in-school programming.

"Each year we feel a deep sense of optimism when we read through the applications for the Fellowship," said Leslie Bluhm. "At a time when we need passionate, original thinkers, we are proud of the work being done by these outstanding young entrepreneurs. We look forward to working with them to amplify their impact."

In addition to receiving $10,000 in financial support of their work, the BHSI Fellows have each earned a spot onstage during "Changing the World Through Entrepreneurship," a Chicago Ideas Week conversation hosted by NPR Marketplace's David Brancaccio on Wednesday, October 17th, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

"The 2018 class of BHSI Fellows carries on the Fellowship's eight-year history of providing a platform for dynamic entrepreneurs poised to have a catalytic effect on the world with their unique ideas," said Jessica Malkin, CEO of Chicago Ideas and BHSI Fellowship co-director. "What has stood out for me this year is the scalability of the solutions our Fellows are bringing to the market. Their impact can easily be 10x what it is today with the right guidance and support."

The 2018 Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Class of Fellows Includes:

  • Alejandro Gac-Artigas, Springboard Collaborative, 29. Springboard Collaborative closes the literacy gap by addressing the disparity between home and school. Through its main program, Springboard Summer, the organization targets a common three-month summer reading loss among pre-K to 3rd grade students by training parents to cultivate strong reading habits at home, rigorously coaching teachers, and an offering incentive structure that awards learning tools to families.
  • Eric Glustrom, Watson Institute, 33. Watson Institute is a new university model that enables the next generation of innovators, leaders and social entrepreneurs to earn their degree in social entrepreneurship while simultaneously building social enterprises to solve the toughest challenges facing the world.
  • Heejae Lim, TalkingPoints, 31. TalkingPoints is a two-way text messaging platform that bypasses language barriers between teachers and parents, facilitating seamless and equitable communication. By leveraging the capabilities of A.I. technology, TalkingPoints delivers personalized content to drive student success and parent engagement in low-income, diverse areas and builds partnerships across parents, schools, and communities.
  • Jason Kang, Kinnos, 24. Kinnos shrinks the margin of human error responsible for infection and death when disinfectants are not properly applied in hospital and environmental settings. Its flagship product, Highlight, is a blue-colored additive for bleach and chlorine sprays that provides real-time visual feedback on decontamination, protecting health workers, patients, and the general public from infections in outbreak regions and hospitals.
  • Kiah Williams, SIRUM, 32. SIRUM solves the medical waste challenge faced by many manufacturers, wholesalers, pharmacies and health facilities left with surplus medication, while improving access to medication among low-income patients. By creating a secondary market for life-saving medicine, SIRUM redistributes unopened medications and delivers them to working poor families, using technology to democratize access.

For more information, visit


Chicago Ideas is a nonprofit platform built on one core belief: When audiences of every background have access to thought leaders and innovative ideas, people have the power to spark change in the world. Chicago Ideas is hosting Chicago Ideas Week (CIW) October 15-21, which is the largest affordable ideas festival in the world, connecting attendees to more than 150 world-renowned speakers—but Chicago Ideas' efforts extend much further. Whether it's robust year-round programming, over 100 Labs that offer exclusive looks into Chicago-based businesses and cultural institutions, an engaging youth program that promotes leadership and personal development among under-represented Chicago high school students or a digital news platform that highlights innovative people and organizations, Chicago Ideas is helping make visionary ideas accessible to everyone. Chicago Ideas is a 501(c)(3) organization. Learn more about becoming a member at


Leslie Bluhm and David Helfand are committed to making a positive impact through philanthropy and entrepreneurship. They created the BHSI Fellowship in 2011 as a way to support the next generation of socially-minded entrepreneurs, and have since recognized three-dozen Fellows through their program.

A social entrepreneur herself, Leslie is the co-founder of Chicago Cares, the city's premier volunteer service organization. Chicago Cares uses the volunteer experience to educate volunteers from diverse communities about each other, building trust, empathy, and connection. Leslie was also the founding Co-Chair of the Chicago Community Trust's On The Table initiative, which brings Chicagoans across every neighborhood together for a shared meal and conversation about creating a more unified region. She is proud to serve on the board of directors of Chicago Cares, The Chicago Community Trust, The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, OneGoal, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Shining Hope for Communities.

David is the President and CEO of Equity Commonwealth, a publicly traded real estate investment trust, in addition to being Co-President of Equity Group Investments, a Chicago-based private investment firm. David is a director of the Ann & Robert Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, serves on the Executive Committee for the Zell/Lurie Real Estate Center at University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business and is a member of the Board of Visitors at the Weinberg School of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University. David also serves on the board of the Ounce of Prevention fund, a national leader in early childhood education policy and advocacy, and as a Commissioner for the Chicago Park District. His core philanthropic interests are entrepreneurship and access to education.

Sona Jones
Chicago Ideas 

Maggie Shepherd
Edelman Chicago


View original content to download multimedia:

SOURCE Chicago Ideas

Editor Details

Last Updated: 12-Sep-2018