Saïd Business School: The Global Challenge

Global Challenge

On Monday, May 1, the finale of The Global Challenge was held at the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. Six finalist teams from around the globe competed to take home a prize of £3,000 cash as well as tickets to the Skoll World Forum 2018 and Emerge 2017, with a travel allowance included.

About The Global Challenge

The Global Challenge is a competition that offers students and recent graduates a chance to learn more about the global issues that interest them and to present those findings to a global audience. Participants are asked to develop a business plan or to present an idea for a quick fix, while also demonstrating a deep understanding of a pressing social or environmental issue by mapping out the landscape of the current solutions and identifying missing opportunities for positive change.

The Challenge was founded in 2016 by the Saïd Business School Skoll Center for Social Entrepreneurship, a social impact center with the mission to accelerate the impact of entrepreneurial activity to transform unjust or unsatisfactory systems and practices. This year, the challenge expanded to include participants from over 20 universities across five continents, making it a truly global competition.

The Global Challenge Details

The Global Challenge took place over a series of event presentations, including a semi-final held on March 27th. It was at this semi-final that the Saïd Business School “Saving Mothers” team as selected to represent Oxford at the finale. The winning team’s submission focused on maternal health challenges in a rural district of KwaZulu, South Africa. The team included two MBA students and a Master’s in Sociology student:

    • Miguel Strobel (MBA 2017)
    • Chris Mathew (MBA 2017)
    • Claire Keene (MSc 2017)

“‘Saving Mothers’ was our attempt at understanding the complex ecosystem surrounding mothers in South Africa,” explained Dr. Mathew. “The legacy of Apartheid and an under-resourced healthcare system meant that mothers in rural, impoverished communities of South Africa often suffer from poor maternal health. Our research shines a light on this issue through desktop analysis and numerous interviews with various stakeholders, ranging from NGOs to patients themselves.”

The project was a perfect fit for the team.

“Two of us are doctors who have worked in South Africa and even in rural parts of KwaZulu-Natal—so we naturally assumed we had a pretty solid grasp on the problem,” said Mathew in a recent news release. “Only once we started the competition and began researching the problem did we realize how many assumptions we had incorrectly made—nearly all of them! We discovered perspectives on our South African mothers that hadn’t even remotely occurred to us, let alone [been] expected. This has been an incredibly enlightening experience for all three of us, and we are absolutely thrilled to be representing the University of Oxford in the global final!”

But making it to the final didn’t mean the team’s work was done. According to Andrea Warriner, the deputy director of the Skoll Center, the team could expect fierce competition during the final.

“We were excited about the range of challenges Oxford participants selected for their submissions, and the deep learning that teams experienced,” said Warriner. “We know that the finalists from all over the world who will travel to Oxford to compete in the global final will also have powerful entries—our winning Oxford team should expect tough competition!”

May 1 Final

As predicted, the final brought stiff competition. Six teams from universities around the world met up on May 1 inside the Nelson Mandela Lecture Theater at the Saïd Business School to present their research and findings to a panel of six judges. The schools represented and their proposals were:

    • SFU Beedie School of Business: MediMorph
    • Melbourne University: Umps Health
    • Saïd Business School: Saving Mothers
    • University of San Diego: Simple Seat, Better Lives
    • University of Cape Town: Allsafe
    • Mount Royal University: Braden Etzerza

The final was judged by:

    • Cheryl Dahle: an entrepreneur and journalist who works at the intersection of business and social change.
    • Claudia Kelly Li: a Global Ashoka Fellow with nearly a decade of experience in cross-cultural communications and environmental campaigning.
    • Henry Majed: a Partnerships Director at 2degrees, the leading collaboration platform for sustainable business.
    • Avani Patel: the Local Portfolio Director of the Peery Foundation, which is focused on closing the opportunity gap for youth in East Palo Alto.
    • Baljeet Sandhu: the founding director of the Migrant & Refugee Children’s Legal Unit (MiCLU), a national legal and policy hub.
    • Darian Stibbe: a professional who consults to companies, the UN, NGOs, and governments to foster cross-sector partnership to support social innovation and sustainable development.

In the end, the MediMorph team from SFU Beedie took first place, followed by Simple Seat, Better Lives from the University of San Diego in second place, and Umps Health from Melbourne University in third.

For Dr. Mathew, even though the “Saving Mothers” team didn’t take home any of the top prizes, the entire experience was worthwhile.

The Global Challenge has been the highlight of my year thus far,” he told us. “It was an unexpected blessing and one which was not even directly related to the MBA. I would even be tempted to say that I’ve learnt more through the Challenge than I’ve learnt through all my lectures combined! Following a conversation with one of the judges, we’re actually considering starting a venture based on the principles we learned.”


About the Author

Kelly Vo    

Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and personal development.

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