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First-time student engagement in Hult Prize offers entrepreneurial solutions to the refugee crisis
1/24/2017
Safa Jafari Safa  |  Office of Communications  |  media@aub.edu.lb  | 
First-time student engagement in Hult Prize offers entrepreneurial solutions to the refugee crisis
Three student teams won the University-level Hult Prize competition, one of the largest international start-up accelerator competitions for budding young social entrepreneurs to solve the world's toughest challenges.

This year, the international Hult Prize challenge is "Refugees - Reawakening Human Potential." The challenge focuses on restoring the rights and dignity of people and societies who are displaced due to social injustice, politics, economic pressures, climate change, or war. For the first time, students at universities in Lebanon took up the challenge this year and more than 200 AUB students participated at the University-level.

The AUB winning teams, Refill, Taysir, and R4R: Refugees for Refugees, included alumni, graduate and undergraduate students from the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (FEA); the Suliman S. Olayan Business School (OSB); and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS).

The first winning project, Refill, tackled the issues of water, hygiene, solid waste, and energy. The winning team, all from FEA, included alumnus Anwar Al Shami, master's student Abed Al Rahman al Hamali, and Chemical Engineering undergraduate Moustafa Houmani, working closely with alumnus Ali Nabaa as their technical / instrumental advisor, prototyped a device that harvests atmospheric moisture and provides clean drinking water using active dew collection in a decentralized, highly mobile, and resource-independent manner.

“We have high expectations, we joined the Hult competition with the ultimate aim of eradicating the threat of waterborne diseases in refugee communities around the world using a practical, mobile, and scalable solution," said Refill team captain Anwar Shami. “In the coming years, we see ourselves as leaders in the field of eco and social-entrepreneurship."

The project Taysir won second place and aimed at integrating refugees into a working community through creating a vocational center that trains refugees in suitable and in-demand skills. It aims to serve as an intermediary between local NGOs, relief agencies, reconstruction companies, and the refugees themselves.

R4R: Refugees for Refugees, was the third-winning project. It aims to solve the problem of donors that would like to fund a refugee's education but need a secure and effective way to do it. It saves NGO and donor effort by offering a matching of donors with refugees through an application that funds the refugees' education directly with the university or school.

Considered the "Nobel Prize for Students" by media outlets world-wide, the international Hult Prize is offered in partnership with Former US President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative and is hosted and supported by the Hult International Business School, funded by Swedish entrepreneur Bertil Hult and his family. The AUB Hult Prize Competition was coordinated by Ms. Diala Daoud as student representative and supported by the Center for Research and Innovation (CRInn) under the Office of Grants and Contracts (OGC) at AUB.

A total of 35 teams pitched their ideas, in the first round of the final competition, in front of three experienced judges each, 18 in total, who are either engaged in startups or the refugee crisis, or both. In a second round, ten selected semi-finalists pitched their ideas again in front of a new panel of judges who represent AUB, UN agencies, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations. The judges were: Technology and Media Entrepreneur and AUB Trustee Abdulsalam Haykal; World Food Program Country Director and Representative in Lebanon Dominik Heinrich; Innovation Specialist at UNICEF Lebanon James Cranwell-Ward; UNDP Country Director Luca Renda; Director of Kayany Foundation Noura Joumblatt; Associate Provost at AUB, Dr. Hala Muhtasib; and Director of the Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service (CCECS) at AUB Rabih Shibli.

​The top three AUB teams will be competing alongside other university teams in March on the national level. Refill, the top AUB team, will represent AUB in upcoming Hult Prize regional competitions, which serve as international Hult Prize semi-finals.

“Starting from our belief that social entrepreneurship provides a path to transform Lebanon's challenges into opportunities for development and economic growth, we are confident that our AUB teams are the next wave of budding social entrepreneurs who will give back to their communities by elevating the lives of others and by reawakening human potential towards the good of the refugees," said OGC Director, Dr. Fadia Homeidan.

Story Highlights
  • ​Three student teams won the University-level Hult Prize competition, one of the largest international start-up accelerator competitions for budding young social entrepreneurs to solve the world's toughest challenges.
 
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