Four students from the McCourt School and McDonough School of Business teamed up to answer a call for large-scale solutions to the global refugee crisis. They were among a select group chosen from a pool of tens of thousands of applications to present in Dubai their proposal before a committee representing the Hult Prize, the world’s foremost social enterprise competition.
Teammates América Ávalos (MPP '17), Cristina Martinez (MPP '17), Mauricio Gutierrez (MBA '17), and Nicholas Lamp (MBA '17) developed the idea for their project, RE-cognize, based on the 2017 Hult Prize prompt, which sought disruptive ideas from young social entrepreneurs to “restore the rights and dignities of 10 million refugees by 2022.”
The students tapped into their collective policy and business acumen to propose building a company that delivers cultural products – beginning with food and, later, household goods and services – from afflicted populations to refugees’ neighborhoods as a way to assist in their resettlement process, integrate them into their new communities, and prepare them for gainful employment.
RE-cognize proposed launching their project in the Washington, D.C. area and using local universities as exchange points for those goods, then expanding further.
More than 50,000 applications were submitted to the 2017 Hult Prize competition. Approximately 60 teams were selected to compete in each of the five Regional Finals locations – London, San Francisco, Boston, Shanghai, and Dubai. Although RE-cognize was not among the five teams selected in their region to advance to the Global Finals for a chance to compete for a $1 million seed grant, the experience, according to the group, laid the foundation for a potential future project and cultivated essential skills.
“It was a great experience because it was in a multicultural environment representing 60 countries around the world, as we shared understanding of how policy and business work together to solve problems in a sustainable way,” said Ávalos.