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  • Dec 8, 2016
Going for the Hult Prize: Western and Ivey students advance to regional finals

London Mayor Matt Brown gave the keynote address at the quarter finals of the Hult Prize Competition at Ivey

A team of Western and Ivey students is heading to the regional finals of the 2017 Hult Prize Challenge, in hope of a $1-million prize. Team TimeFund, including Western University Social Science student Victor Lal and Ivey HBA students Monique Tuin and Nandini Thogarapalli, won the campus-run quarter finals of the Hult Prize Competition held at Ivey on December 3. The team’s winning idea involved creating a system for refugees to exchange services using a unit of time as currency. This would not only allow refugees to exchange their banked “time coins” for other services, but also builds a record of work during their indeterminate state.

The team will go on to compete in one of the regional finals in Boston; San Francisco; London, U.K.; Dubai; or Shanghai on March 3-4, 2017.

Founded by philanthropist and former president Bill Clinton, the Hult Prize is the largest post-secondary social entrepreneurship competition in the world. It places student innovation on the global stage, challenging teams of up to four members to find solutions to the world’s most pressing issues. The theme of the challenge is Reawakening the Human Potential. Students have to build sustainable, scalable startup enterprises that restore the rights and dignity of 10 million refugees by 2022.

At the Western-run Hult Prize Quarter Finals, London Mayor Matt Brown gave a keynote address leading into the team finalist presentations and awards. Western University Science student Olivia Ly reflects on the event.

Left to right: Destine Lee, HBA ’17, London Mayor Matt Brown, Victor Lal, Monique Tuin, HBA ’17, Nandini Thogarapalli, HBA ’17, and Kevin Chang, HBA ’17.

A simple solution for saving Syrian refugees

The Syrian refugee crisis has been felt by all of us here at Ivey and Western. With the arrival of the first refugee families in London last winter, calls for compassion, donations, and empathy have made their way into our campus community through social media and student philanthropy groups. As London Mayor Matt Brown noted in his keynote address at the Hult Prize Quarter Finals, this type of community mobilization underlies London’s success in refugee accommodation.

When he was only seven, Brown said he witnessed firsthand how communities and families can have a second chance. His church had sponsored a Vietnamese refugee family and his own family adopted two refugee teenagers. Brown said he grew up believing in the power of community action and shared humanity.

Fast forward 40 years to the Syrian refugee crisis. During a busy federal election, local governments from across Ontario decided to rally their community networks in support of Syrian refugees. Brown recalls setting a goal to raise $27,000 – enough to sponsor one family of four for a year – and watching something deeply moving and almost magical unfold. Within a few days of reaching out to community organizations, businesses, and citizens, his office had already surpassed its goal. Within a month, more than $400,000 had been raised. Since then, London has welcomed 400 Syrian refugee families and has been recognized in Canada as a leader in the refugee effort.

The solution was impressively simple, but nonetheless extremely effective and scalable: Provide an organized system to process aid (here, it was centralized to the mayor’s office), and let what Brown calls “the Canadian value of compassion” speak for itself.

New ideas for moving forward

This approach of providing systems to empower and mobilize communities resonated strongly with the Hult Prize participants. Earlier that day, teams had pitched their ideas to build sustainable and scalable social enterprises that help refugees. All in the hope of winning $1 million funded by the Clinton Foundation to implement their ideas.

Congratulations to Victor Lal, Monique Tuin, and Nandini Thogarapalli for advancing to the Hult Prize Regional Competition.

Olivia Ly is a second-year Western Science student and one of the organizers of the Hult Prize Quarter Finals at Western. 

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