Western teams vie to change the world

A solution to non-communicable diseases in the world’s poorest areas may come from the halls of the Ivey Business School.

In March, two Western teams will go head-to-head at the 5th annual Hult Prize competition, the largest student competition and start-up platform for social entrepreneurship. They join teams from around the world competing for $1 million in start-up funding to solve former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s Healthcare Challenge.

Cynthia Liao, Ryan Collins-Swartz, Brent Anderson, Scott Villeneuve and Clarke Eaton comprise Ivey’s HBA team; Jazmine Tong, Andrew Lee, Adam Ramm and Joe Fantozzi make up Ivey’s MBA team.

Each team was chosen from more than 10,000 applications from 350 colleges and universities in 150 countries. Hult Prize regional competitions will take place on March 7-8 in Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, Shanghai and Sao Paulo. The HBA team will compete in Dubai; the MBA team will compete in Boston.

“It’s a phenomenal opportunity for all of us. This is right up our alley, with social enterprise and sustainability,” said Liao, HBA team captain. “We’re going to take advantage of where we are and what we’re capable of doing. Our team is very focused on performing at our best, and we really want to bring the ideas we are passionate about.

“All of us came together because of our passion for social entrepreneurship and we are all extremely excited to be selected to represent Western and Ivey on this global stage.”

In partnership with President Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative, the Hult Prize “identifies and launches social ventures that aim to solve the planet’s most-pressing challenges.” In 2014, the challenge – personally selected by Clinton – centres on the 250 million slum dwellers around the world suffering from chronic diseases.

“It’s great to have this opportunity to take our ideas to the next step, and on such a large stage,” said Tong, MBA team captain. “It’s a chance for us to step back and say it’s okay to have a big idea, to move forward and actually do something with it, to physically be part of something that could actually have an impact in the world. It will be empowering to be able to watch others do it, but you being able to empower others as well.

“At Ivey, we’re taught to act strategically and think globally. Now we can actually take these steps to implement what we’ve learned at school.”

Ramm, a fellow MBA team member, said the simplest idea could have the greatest impact.

“The idea itself can be very small to start, but as you grow it, develop it and work with other people, it’s how you can bring it from affecting one million or two million people, to billions,” he said. “It’s about developing your plans and bringing ideas together, learning something you didn’t know to expand your knowledge.”

But is tackling such a huge endeavor – improving overall health for millions around the world – a bit too much? Not at all, said Villeneuve, HBA team member.

“I believe that young adults should be tackling society’s most challenging issues. We are all very ambitious individuals and at the point in our lives where we can afford to take big leaps and invest ourselves into these very challenging tasks,” he said. “We have spent all of our childhoods sitting on the sidelines, seeing and digesting all that’s going on.

“I know myself, and my entire group, have become frustrated, in some ways, at how society is attempting to tackle issues like illness or poverty. We have been eagerly awaiting our chance to step in and help make a positive impact, and the time is now.”

Collins-Swartz, HBA team member, agrees.

“We believe the best solutions come from our generation,” he said “We think differently about the world. We see profit and social change not being mutually exclusive. We can both make money and help the world. There is great value and half the world is in serious need; we see that as opportunity.”

Following the regional finals, one winning team from each host city will move into a summer business incubator where they will create prototypes and set-up to launch their new social business. A final round of competition will be hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative at its annual meeting in September, when one team will be awarded the $1 million prize.

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Visit hultprize.com for further details on the 5th annual Hult Prize competition. For possible financial assistance to either group, you can contact Liao at cyliao.hba2014@gmail.com, or Tong at jazmine.tong@gmail.com.