A group of Cambridge University was feted for their role in developing solutions for global water crisis. The team was selected by a panel of judges from an international competition of 150 teams from around the world and announced by President Bill Clinton.
The students are now the winners of the 2nd Annual Hult Global Case Challenge, the largest crowd sourcing initiative to date focused on identifying solutions to the global water crisis.
During his comments President Clinton said, â€œThere is always a gap between what the private sector can produce and the government can provide.â€ He later challenged the students, â€œHow are you going to turn your good intentions into real changes? The â€˜howâ€™ question will be the most important question of the 21st century.â€
Encouraging students to research and propose solutions to the global water crisis is one way organizations like Water.org connect seemingly unrelated trends and apply them to its core mission of universal access to safe water and sanitation. Just over five years ago, Water.org identified the growth of micro-lending and its potential for those without water. Today over 315,000 people have basic services through the organizationâ€™s WaterCredit program, which engages those lacking water and sanitation to seek their own solutions.
â€œItâ€™s pretty clear that philanthropy alone will never be able to reach the nearly one billion people without clean water,â€ said co-founder Matt Damon. â€œSolutions that leverage resources from the ground up are absolutely critical and the Hult Global Case Challenge is a great platform to capture the energy and enthusiasm of business school students to create lasting solutions.â€
Currently more people in the world have access to a cell phone than to a toilet. The winning concept would leverage the rapid adoption of mobile phones in emerging markets. Through a loyalty program designed in conjunction with mobile providers and operators, individuals would allocate a percentage of their top-off cards to raise capital required for water improvements in their communities.
â€œThe Cambridge teamâ€™s model is very compelling because it puts beneficiaries in control of their own water destiny. Simply by using the strength of their own purchasing power with mobile providers, more communities could get safe water solutions more quickly,â€ said Gary White, co-founder of Water.org. â€œThe experience of this competition and partnership with the Hult International Business School has been remarkable. Weâ€™re eager to explore the winning idea as well as many elements of other submissions to drive the real system change needed to reach everyone with safe water in our lifetime.â€