The Hult Prize competition is a challenge to business school students from around the world to develop a feasible plan to solve a global problem while creating a viable, scalable business at the same time. Endorsed by President Clinton’s Global Initiative, the program is founded on an endowment for an annual million-dollar prize, which is used by the winning team to launch their new social enterprise. Equally important, all of the finalists receive a full one-year membership into the Clinton Global Initiative and support from its members to continue to develop their social business ideas.
The Hult competition has taken on huge social issues – education, housing and the water crisis. Through crowdsourcing, training, mentorship, and funding, the competition seeks to launch the next wave of social entrepreneurs. This year, student teams were selected from over 11,000 applicants representing 350 colleges and universities to pitch their innovative social ventures for solving the Global Food Crisis at one of five Regional Final events. Teams were then selected to participate in regional finals held in Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, Shanghai, and online. Six of these teams then won the right to attend the Hult Prize Accelerator for startups and then pitch their social business ideas to President Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting in New York City.
The world’s largest student competition for social good chose the global food crisis because while the world produces enough food to feed everyone, more than 1/3 is lost or wasted. While this is not a new problem and is believed to be the world’s most solvable challenge, still today 25% of the children in the world are hungry.
CEO and Founder of the Hult, Prize Ahmad Ashkar, explained why feeding the world was slected as the this year’s issue in his FOX News interview. “Food is the easiest challenge to solve in the world. It is really a concept of distribution.” According to Ashkar, the world produces enough food to feed all of its inhabitants and the key is to figure out how to shorten supply chains, make food more efficient, bring costs down and make it accessible to those living in the urban slum. Listen to the full interview on Fox News.
As a judge in the Boston Finals, I was fortunate to be interviewed by Living on Earth’s Managing Producer, Helen Palmer. We met at the reception, where Helen said “ There were no crickets to eat – but I did find one of the judges. Sheryl Chamberlain works for the EMC Corporation, and she said it had been hard to choose a winner.” Here is an excerpt from that interview that was played on NPR this summer.
CHAMBERLAIN: That was the hardest part. It was listening to these amazing young people that have creative ideas and new ways of solving this problem that we’re looking at, making sure we can feed the world. It’s so hard to decide who should come first and make a decision.
PALMER: In the end, Chamberlain said, all the judges agreed on the McGill team and their small cricket farms in the slums.
CHAMBERLAIN: So the idea of taking crickets and using them for a food source going forward, farming those crickets, eating them whole, looking at different ways to use them, because they give protein in a different way that we have not considered before. So it’s really innovative and watch out – there’ll be crickets flying around your town, and we’ll be grabbing them and using them for sustainable food. Listen to Helen Palmer’s entire interview
Impressed by my role as a judge at the Boston Regionals, Peter R. Russell, Director of Corporate Relations, Hult Business School, North America invited me to attend the Hult Prize Global Finals and Awards Dinner on September 23, 2013, where President Bill Clinton was the host at the opening event of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting in New York. The six finalists teams pitched their start-ups, in front of a world-class audience of political leaders, philanthropists, social entrepreneurs, and media luminaries. President Clinton and Muhammad Yunus along with Steve Andrews, CEO of Solar Aid, Erathrin Cousin, CEO of the World Food Program, Peter Sands, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank, Desh Deshpande, Chairman of the Deshpande Foundation, Kathy Calvin, CEO of the United Nations Foundation, and Premal Shah, Paypal co-founder and President and co-founder of Kiva, judged and selected the winner of the 2013 Hult Prize. The award of 1 Million USD to be used by the winning team as start-up funding, was donated by Swedish entrepreneur Bertil Hult and his family. The winning team was from Canada’s McGill University, a Boston Regional Final, who was featured in the following day’s plenary session.
Here is an overview of the winning solution in the team’s own words:
Apsire learned through research during the summer that food insecurity is not an issue of lack of food. The vast majority in urban slums do not go hungry. But they lack access to affordable nutrition. Many suffer from malnourishment and nutrient deficiencies despite being overweight or obese. Therefore, the problem of food security in urban slums is not one of food being expensive per se, but of nutritious food being unavailable or overpriced compared to cheaper, less nutritious offerings. While insects might not seem a common meal for Westerners, a new plan is being proposed by students from Montreal’s McGill University wherein edible insects can be produced at an industrial scale to provide nourishment for folks
Our disruptive social enterprise, Aspire, aims to improve access to edible insects worldwide. We develop and distribute affordable and sustainable insect farming technologies for countries with established histories of entomophagy, or insect-consumption. Our farming solutions stabilize the supply of edible insects year-round, drastically improving and expanding the economic ecosystem surrounding insect consumption in the regions serviced. Not only do our durable farming units create income stability for rural farmers, they have a wider social impact by lowering the price of edible insects. This is central to our mission of increasing access to highly nutritious edible insects amongst the poorest, and therefore neediest, members of society.
For next year’s challenge, President Bill Clinton asks teams to build sustainable and scalable social enterprises to address non-communicable disease in slums. I can only hope I will once again be asked to join my fellow esteemed judges at the 2014 Boston Regionals. I would look forward to witnessing the innovative proposals for addressing President Clinton’s challenge.
Learn more: Bugs as an edible food source. Winner’s Blog, Clinton’s Global Initiative CGI and 2014 Hult Prize Challengeprize/2014-challenge/