MBA students compete to solve world issues

Updated: 2012-02-29 14:13

By Zhang Yue (China Daily)

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SHANGHAI — The Third Annual Hult Global Case Challenge, a unique competition that brings together top students, mostly MBA students, from all over the globe to generate solutions for the world’s most pressing social challenges, kicked off its Asia-Pacific final in Shanghai on Saturday, February 25.

Students from 500 business schools around the world went head-to-head in this year’s competition to develop the best, most innovative and pragmatic solutions to three important issues of this year: housing, energy and education. The Hult Global Case Challenge this year is in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative, a foundation established by the former president of the United States Bill Clinton with the stated mission to “strengthen the capacity of people throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence”.

The competition is also jointly held by three international nonprofit organizations: Habitat for Humanity, Solar Aid and One Laptop Per Child, which focus on housing, energy and education respectively. This played a role in determining the topic of this year’s competition.

Teams representing Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Asian Institute of Management and Hult Global Business School respectively won in the three categories. The three teams will join the global final of the competition representing the Asia-Pacific area, which will be held in New York this April.

Bill Clinton will also attend this year’s final in New York.

The Hult Business School will award $1 million for the wining solution in this year’s global final. The money will be evenly split among three organizations in practically recognizing the students’ efforts.

Robert Hacker, one of the 24 judges for this year’s competition and also the chief financial officer of One Laptop Per Child, said that he came from Miami to Shanghai for bright, creative and, above all, feasible ideas from the world’s top MBA students.

“No matter whether you are in a nonprofit organization that solves social problems, in running a business or you are a so-called social entrepreneur, creative ideas, solid business skills and excellent management skills are always a must. All these are likely to be found in outstanding MBA students,” Hacker said. “That’s why I am here. I am not only here for the competition. I need to hear from these young, brilliant MBA students to bring out their ideas about the problems that OLPC is facing at the moment.”

Hacker said feasibility is his most important criterion in judging the quality of a solution. That is also the most important reason for his decision on the final winning solution this year, which came from Hult Business School.

Eleven teams representing 10 universities in China (including Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan) participated in this year’s event. Of them, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology was the only one that made it into the final round.

“We have prepared a lot for this event, so of course, all of us want to win,” said Xia Ran, a participant from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who participated in the housing category. “But participation in world issues like this is a great chance to learn, no matter what the result. I am more interested in the reason why they won and why we lost.”

Hacker said that although it was his first time participating in the Hult Global Case Challenge, students from China left him with a deep impression through their “brilliantly smart ideas and fluent English”.

He also pointed out that there are some areas in which he thinks Chinese student could improve. “They need to do more detailed, more solid preparation on their research for each topic, instead of a general one. Good research work in the present is a prerequisite for a good, successful solution. Also, they need better logic for their proposal. For me, I think the conclusions from most Chinese teams are very good and attractive, but we get more or less confused in how they get there.” He also mentioned that Chinese teams need better teamwork and presentation skills.