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Social Ventures

ClearMask Wins $25,000 at Social Innovation Lab Impact+Innovation Forum

ClearMask Wins $25,000 at Social Innovation Lab Impact+Innovation Forum

 

 
As Allysa Dittmar looked up at her surgery team’s masked faces, she felt isolated. Though nobly intended to prevent the spread of bacteria, the masks acted as a different type of barrier for Dittmar, who is deaf. Unable to read her doctors’ lips or see their expressions, and thus unable to understand or communicate, she felt less than human, she says.

Drawing upon this experience, the Johns Hopkins alumnus (Krieger School of Arts and Sciences 2014, Bloomberg School of Public Health 2017) co-founded ClearMask. The venture is developing the first full-face transparent surgical mask to improve communication between health care providers and their patients — especially children, those not proficient in English and people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

As the company moves toward an NIH clinical trial (early 2019), FDA approval (fall 2019) and a product launch (late 2019), April 24, 2018 may stand out as a transformative moment. On that day, ClearMask won $25,000 at the Social Innovation Lab’s Impact+Innovation Forum and $15,000 at Village Capital’s pitch competition at Gallaudet University.

Dittmar says the funding will help ClearMask get to market faster as it will enable them to refine its product and manufacturing methods to maximize efficiency as well as to facilitate meetings and participation at other events.

Photo courtesy of ClearMask
“We’ve missed out on a fair amount of opportunities because interpreters were unavailable or not provided,” Dittmar says. “We have two team members who are deaf and use sign language to communicate, including myself. With this funding, we will be able to better support our deaf members by providing sign language interpreters for ClearMask’s meetings and outreach.”

In October, the Social Innovation Lab accepted ClearMask into its 2017-2018 cohort featuring innovative nonprofits, mission-driven companies and disruptive technologies. For six months, with the support of SIL Director Alex Riehm, ClearMask and the nine other ventures received funding, mentorship, office space and workshops.

“Throughout their time with the Social Innovation Lab, the ClearMask team has never hesitated to support other startups and members of the SIL cohort,” Riehm says. “This environment is exactly what SIL does best, and I’m happy to have shared this with ClearMask.”

ClearMask received the award based on peer evaluations given throughout the six-month program whereby cohort members ranked their peers in seven categories, including empathy, progress, experimentation and generosity.

“The peer feedback process allows us to share concrete opportunities and suggestions among teams throughout the cohort period,” Riehm says. “By taking every opportunity for feedback and improvement, we can better support our SIL teams and give them a chance to identify the winning team among them.”

Though ClearMask claimed the Impact+Innovation award, the nine other SIL teams made significant strides building ventures that will impact communities in Baltimore and beyond.
 

The 2017-2018 Social Innovation Lab cohort
 
Bakku Technologies (formerly Active Bedsore Prevention System)
 
Challenge – Pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores, contribute to increased mortality rates and cost hospitals $11.5 billion annually.

Solution – This SIL team comprised of the winners of the 2017 Hopkins MedHacks competition and represented by Bloomberg School of Public Health master’s student Ruchee Shrestha is developing a medical device which senses and alleviates pressure to increase comfort and reduce the occurrence of bedsores and pressure ulcers.
 
BeeMore Cooperative
 
Challenge – In 2016, Maryland lost 56 percent of its bees as part of an ongoing pollinator collapse.

Solution – Led by Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth, BeeMore is a beekeeping cooperative that engages community members with pollinators and healthy lifestyles, promotes urban beekeeping and creates new beekeepers in Baltimore.
 
Distribution Health
 
Challenge – Despite technological advances, health care requires a personal touch.

Solution – Led by Andrew York, Distribution Health combines cutting-edge health care technologies with compassionate personal care workers to provide individualized, high-quality care in the home.
 
The Growing Minds Initiative
 
Challenge – To provide sustainable access to education for orphaned and vulnerable children in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Solution – Founded by Victoria Roberts, a Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences undergraduate student, The Growing Minds Initiative creates sustainable poultry and green vegetable farms to fund education and health care for orphaned and vulnerable children in that community.
 
HostHome
 
ChallengeA recent study showed that LGBT youth are 120 percent more likely to be homeless than straight people.

Solution – Led by Ava Pipitone and Max Goodman, HostHome is developing an accessible home sharing platform that addresses housing instability in the LGBT community.
 
Hosts for Humanity
 
Challenge – In addition to medical bills, family members and caretakers often spend thousands for hotels as their loved ones receive treatment.

Solution – Founded by Jenny Owens — a University of Maryland, Baltimore faculty member and director of The Grid — Hosts for Humanity connects families and friends of patients traveling to receive medical care with volunteer hosts who provide accommodations in their own homes.
 
Mera Kitchen Collective
 
Challenge – Policies and systems can create structural barriers that make it difficult for immigrant and refugee women to gain access to resources and opportunities.

Solution – The Mera Kitchen Collecitve is led by five worker-owners who represent and work with immigrant and refugee communitess in Baltimore, including a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health alumnus and a staff member at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. As a food cooperative, they share the exceptional cuisine and stories of Baltimore’s newest neighbors.
 
Neighbour, Neighbour
 
Challenge – Trinidad & Tobago has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

Solution – Led by Zindzi Thompson, a graduate student in the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Neighbour, Neighbour is developing a mobile platform that promotes in-person social interaction in environments characterized by high-levels of insecurity.
 
PIVOT
 
Challenge – For citizens returning from prison, reentry programs drop re-offense rates to under 10 percent. However, Baltimore has no women’s work release centers.

Solution – Led by Bridget Nistico and Emily Thompson, PIVOT is developing a cohort support model for women returning from incarceration, providing access to housing, transportation, mental health car, addiction treatment, job training and more. Its pilot will launch this summer.
 

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Social Ventures

Social Innovation Lab Welcomes Its Newest Class of Changemakers

Social Innovation Lab Welcomes Its Newest Class of Changemakers

 

Optimism abounded at FastForward 1812 in late October as more than 100 people gathered to meet the 10 social ventures comprising the Social Innovation Lab’s (SIL) 2017-2018 cohort.

The program — which provides nonprofits and mission-driven for-profits with space, mentorship, networking opportunities and funding — empowers changemakers to accelerate and amplify their social impact. Within the cohort, eight ventures will focus on issues critical to Baltimore and the United States, while two focus on issues abroad.

The 10 ventures selected to take part in the six-month program faced stiff competition for a spot. SIL received 84 applications for its 2017-2018 cohort, up from the 53 it fielded for last year’s cohort.

Half of the 2017-2018 SIL ventures are led by Baltimore residents with no affiliation to Johns Hopkins. The remaining ventures are led by current Johns Hopkins University students or an alumnus, with representation from the Whiting School of Engineering, Bloomberg School of Public Health, School of Medicine, Carey Business School, Krieger School of Arts & Sciences and School of Advanced International Studies.
 

The 2017-2018 SIL Cohort:

 
Active Bed Sore Prevention System

Eliminating bedsores would decrease patient mortality rates and health care costs. Active Bed Sore Prevention System is developing a patient bed cover with embedded pressure sensors that monitor areas of high pressure on a patient’s body. The technology uses a feedback mechanism to alleviate the pressure at target locations by inflating pockets within the bed cover.

Core team members:

  • Ruchee Shrestha: Bloomberg School of Public Health, master’s candidate
  • Joe Amoah: Bloomberg School of Public Health, master’s candidate
  • Vinithra Varadarajan: Bloomberg School of Public Health, master’s candidate
  • Muskaan Khosla: Bloomberg School of Public Health, master’s candidate
  • Andrew Nagal: community member
  • Mitch Gaines: community member

 
BeeMore Cooperative

As bee populations decline, BeeMore Cooperative aims to organize, educate and cultivate new beekeepers in Baltimore through a community cooperative. The venture has a tool-sharing model that reduces the $500 to $1,500 startup cost associated with becoming a beekeeper.

Core team member:

  • Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth: community member

 
ClearMask

Typical face masks prevent patients, especially those who are deaf or hard of hearing, from receiving facial expressions and visual cues that are essential to communication.

ClearMask is developing the first full-face transparent facemask that can help reduce medical errors due to miscommunication and increase hospital compliance and patient satisfaction.

Core team members:

  • Aaron Hsu: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, research assistant; Bloomberg School of Public Health and Kreiger School of Arts and Sciences, alumnus
  • Allysa Dittmar: Bloomberg School of Public Health and Kreiger School of Arts and Sciences, alumnus
  • Inez Lam: Johns Hopkins Biomedical Engineering, Ph.D. candidate
  • Elyse Heob: Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business, Bloomberg School of Public Health, MBA/MPH candidate

 
Distribution Health

Distribution Health creates and trains a technology-empowered community health workforce that provides care in the home for those who need it most. Its initial focus will be developing a workforce that can provide care to Baltimore’s high-need older populations.

Core team member:

  • Andrew York: community member

 
The Growing Minds Initiative

The Growing Minds Initiative’s mission is to provide sustainable access to education for orphaned and vulnerable children in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The creation of poultry and vegetable farms will provide sustainable funding to accomplish this program’s goals.

The Growing Minds Initiative hopes to become totally sustainable in 18 months.

Core team member:

  • Victoria Roberts: Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, undergraduate student

 
HostHome

Each night, 8,000 people in Baltimore go to sleep without adequate housing. HostHome provides donor-sponsored peer-to-peer housing for people experiencing homelessness with an emphasis on LGBT referrals from local, regional and state infrastructure, including other non-profits and public agencies.

Core team members:

  • Ava Pipitone: community member
  • Max Goodman: community member

 
Hosts for Humanity

In addition to extensive medical bills, family members and caretakers often spend thousands of dollars for hotels as their loved one receives treatment. Hosts for Humanity connects the families and friends of patients traveling to receive medical care with volunteer hosts offering accommodations in their homes, providing a refuge when people need it most.

Core team member:

  • Jenny Owens: community member

 
Mera Kitchen Collective

Baltimore’s first and only worker-owned food cooperative operated by newly resettled refugees and immigrants. In addition to sharing the exceptional cuisine and stories of the city’s newest neighbors, Mera Kitchen Collective aims to empower its members.

The collective already offers catering, classes and has pop-up shops. With help from SIL, Mera Kitchen Collective hopes to open its own commercial kitchen.

Core team members:

  • Emily Lerman: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, alumnus
  • Liliane Makole: community member
  • Brittany DeNovellis: community member
  • Iman Alshehab: community member
  • Megan Murray: community member
  • Aishah Alfadhalah: staff, Kennedy Krieger Institute

 
Neighbour, Neighbour

Trinidad & Tobago has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Neighbour, Neighbour aspires to improve safety and peace of mind by empowering people to make more informed personal security decisions with technology that enables neighbors to alert others of nearby violent incidents.

Core team member:

  • Zindzi Thompson: Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, graduate student

 
PIVOT

Sixty percent of the women leaving Maryland prisons return to Baltimore City. PIVOT is a workforce development training program that aims to reduce recidivism by educating, empowering and equipping women who are reentering society.

Core team member:

  • Bridget Nistico: community Member

 

Click here to support a SIL or FastForward venture!

 

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