AUC’s team ‘Forward’ will compete for the $1 million Hult Prize

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The American University in Cairo (AUC) announced the winner of an on-campus competition held on Saturday to qualify a team of AUC students to participate in the Hult Prize competition, the world’s largest student crowd-sourcing platform for social good.

AUC’s winning team, Forward, will be competing for the US$1 million prize in start-up funding that will be awarded to the team that develops the most radical and innovative idea to solve one of the world’s toughest social challenges.

This year’s challenge is about finding ways to provide quality ‘early education’ to 10 million children under the age of six in urban slums by 2020. Forward’s winning idea integrates recycling and education. The team aims to build preschools from plastic bottles and other recycled material which are considered durable and cost effective, requiring minimal initial funding.

Forward identifies Future Lights for Development Organization (FLDO) as a key strategic partner to recruit teachers, and plans to target grandmothers with early childhood education awareness programmes as well as training programmes on weaving using recycled materials and selling their products to the Association for Protection of the Environment (APE).

The grandmothers, as opposed to parents, will also be part of studies that show the importance of their role in their grandchildren’s upbringing and education. The families of the children will be able to pay for their children’s education in the form of recyclable trash (plastic, paper, metals, etc.), which will be collected weekly and sold to recycling facilities.

The AUC team will now move on to compete at the Hult Prize regional finals in March 2015, which will be hosted at each of Hult International Business School’s five campuses in Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai and Shanghai. For its part, AUC’s Forward will compete in London.

The team includes marketing students at AUC’s School of Business – Nouran Soliman, Farah Derbala, Nariman Helal and Yasmeen Abouel-Nour – in addition to an architecture student at AUC’s School of Sciences and Engineering. A generous donation from British businessman and philanthropist Mo Ibrahim will cover their trip to London.

“In these five cities, teams are given only eight minutes to pitch their ideas, to make an impression,” said Alyaa Younis, a public policy graduate student at AUC and campus director for this year’s competition. “In recent years, there have been around 10,000 applicants, with only 200 teams selected to compete,” she added.

Following the regional round, one team from each host city is selected to take part in a two-month summer business incubator programme in Boston, where participants receive mentorship, advising and strategic planning as they create prototypes and set up launches for their new social businesses.

“Teams are mentored by world-class CEOs, entrepreneurs from all over the world and professors –– people who understand the problem and can help develop an idea,” said Younis, who took part in the Hult competition last year.

Younis explained that they have an advantage and the most to gain from taking part in the Hult Prize Competition in Egypt. “We have 1,500 slums in Cairo, so we can easily access these areas for field research and prototyping and also the problems the competition tries to tackle every year are at the core of our social and economic problems. If only one of the great ideas we have heard throughout the competition gets implemented, then we have contributed to remedying a serious problem.”

She added that efforts from traditional institutions are simply not enough. “We need new innovative platforms to offer targeted, scalable and sustainable solutions that would tackle the most pressing social problems.”

The Hult Prize Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation committed to social entrepreneurship, in partnership with former US president Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. The NGO hosts college and university events around the world, encouraging teamwork through its annual competition, which was initiated in 2009.

Former US President Bill Clinton chooses one of the world’s major problems each year and teams of innovators from around the world put their skills together in tackling this issue.

Ahmad Ashkar, CEO and founder of the Hult Prize said, “We continue to be moved by the large number of students from around the world who are capitalizing on the opportunity to develop business models that target the bottom of the pyramid. We wish every team the best of luck and thanks to the American University in Cairo for supporting this initiative.”

The final round of Hult Prize will be held in New York, on 22 September, 2015, where the qualifying teams will present their work to delegates of the Clinton Global Initiative, who will select a winning team. Former President Clinton will present the winning team members with a $1 million prize, donated by Philip Hult, to kick start their idea.