Case challenges are one way students in online MBA programs can demonstrate leadership and teamwork skills. The Hult Prize, an international case challenge, is open to all MBA students, on-ground and online. Focused on solving world issues such as clean water and smarter energy solutions, the Hult Prize (formerly the Hult Global Case Challenge) awards winning MBA teams $1 million.
This year’s focus is solving world hunger. Proposed by President Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative, this year’s challenge asks participants to address why the global economy produces enough food each year to feed everyone, yet why more than one-third of food continues to be lost or wasted.
College and university students from around the world are being called to action to compete in one of five regional rounds of competition held in Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, and Shanghai. Teams of four to five students will be charged with developing ideas for social enterprises that can conquer solving the food crisis.
“Our mission is to create a paradigm shift in the way people think about social entrepreneurship,” said Ahmad Ashkar, founder and CEO of the Hult Prize. “There’s a role for the business community in social entrepreneurism.”
He explained that in the three years students have competed for the Hult Prize, typically one or two like-minded, passionate people, traditionally from the non-profit sector, ask their friends or fellow students to “fill roles” on the teams. While initially these role-fillers get on board to help out, Ashkar says the majority are transformed by the experience.
“They come in and see there’s a really good opportunity for business at the bottom of the pyramid to develop something and people get hooked,” said Ashkar. “The one person has now created new social entrepreneurs and helped to spread the message.”
For online MBA students, Ashkar thinks there’s a unique opportunity to reach out to an even larger student base than traditional MBA students might have.
“I heard that the University of Phoenix has over 60,000,” said Ashkar. “That’s a massive network to tap into.”
He also said he believes that colleges and universities can also help facilitate getting groups together by creating an application link or Facebook page within the organization to help unite interested students.
“Use the current systems,” recommended Ashkar, telling students to use Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter to reach out to fellow students.
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Students past or present from any college or university in the world are invited to form teams of four to five. There are only two conditions: all participants must have a connection with the same school and a maximum of one alumnus who cannot also be a faculty member of the school. Also, the competition is open to teams with non-business students and undergraduates as well.
While only teams may compete, individuals who cannot form a team but are interested in competing should email the competition’s organizers, stating their interest. Hult Prize organizers will try to assign the applicant to a team of other individual applicants. However, team applications will be given a priority and there is no guarantee that a team will be found for all individual applicants. Individual students are encouraged to join the Facebook community to find others individuals who are looking to form teams. The final application deadline for the Hult Prize applications is Dec. 16.
In 2012, schools with online MBA programs including Arizona State University, Indiana University, George Washington University, Drexel University, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Thunderbird School of Global Management, and the University of Massachusetts each had a team participate in the Hult Global Case Challenge.
The day after the final regional conference, March 3, Hult Prize will launch the online portion of the competition. Essentially a wild-card, teams of students can also submit online submissions, which will be publicly voted on. The popular winner will be announced May 20 and will advance, with the physical regional winners, onto the virtual accelerator.
The virtual accelerator, or incubator, is new to the competition this year and will help students flesh out and make connections regarding their idea.
“Online students are already familiar with how to navigate online networks and the incubator is all about opening more and more networks and creating these ideas and putting great ideas with resources and funding,” Ashkar said.
–Alanna Stage, @Alanna Tweets