On September 25th, the United Nations proposed a plan to put an end to inequalities, violence, diseases, and poverty throughout the world, with the aim that this new generation can meet with overcoming these problems by focusing on 17 key objectives – these are known as the Sustainable Development Goals. Sounds great, right?
But how can we accomplish this laborious task effectively throughout our planet? Hult Prize is a contest that proposes challenges according to the objectives set upon by the UN for university students to create entrepreneurial ideas of global impact centered around one or more of the UN goals.
It was a sunny day of September 2015 in Bucaramanga Colombia, a small city of about 500,000 inhabitants – and my hometown, I was leaving school to play football with some friends, and in the local news, it sounded like the national government was approaching peace. The end of an internal armed conflict ongoing for more than 50 years in my country. I was very surprised and moved by the news, we began to think about the number of victims this conflict had generated, displacing thousands of people and removing all their means of production. Through some brainstorming, my friends and I reached the conclusion that we could take two major problems and provide a solution for our society. It was time to stop complaining about it and actually acting on it. The two problems at hand – poor plastic recycling generating huge amounts of waste and the destroyed income channel of those displaced. The solution, a company that recycles plastic by turning them into blocks of ‘plastic wood’ that in turn could be used for shelter construction for the people.
In 2016, through an Economics professor, we learned that the Hult Prize had just arrived in Colombia and it was at that moment that I knew Hult Prize was the opportunity of a lifetime. It represented hope for humanity and more specifically for the youth to acknowledge change is possible if we just set our minds to it. My team competed in Hult Prize and won the 3rd place in Colombia’s National Hult Prize. Yet, I felt I had won 1st place, we acquired such a vast amount of new faces and connections that just as we were – were ready to change the world. That’s when I knew Hult Prize was more than a platform, but a family.
Infatuated by the Hult Prize and its foundation message I faced a challenge proposed by my new family, to become my university’s Campus Director. A task I faced with great pride and can only explain in 3 stages: disclosure, pitching, and scoring.
Social entrepreneurship enriches our soul and fills our heart with hope, to fight for a better world where we can all live in peace. – Andres Felipe
Disclosure, in my city nobody knew what Hult Prize was which made finding volunteers to empower this message quite a difficult task, but it made me strive to motivate and lead by example to my friends and colleagues and find more people committed to change.
Thanks to the accelerated mentorship received through five different judges and mentors, each one providing a fresh perspective into the pitches, the quality of it all changed dramatically into a more professional and polished project.
And finally scoring, the moment to select the winning team, was a fascinating experience because by this point the students had developed very complete proposals. Decisions were not easily made but at the end, the jury chose Drink Sea – that focused on using the energy of the sea so that you can salinize the sea water and make it drinkable – a revolutionary idea that will undoubtedly change the way we look at seawater and its vast possibilities.