Students & Campus
08 April 2021

Capstone Winners: Students' Innovative Solutions to Global Challenges

The Graduate Institute's unique location in the heart of International Geneva means students have an advantageous proximity to a wealth of international organisations. These networks are maintained, in part, through collaborative research opportunities between the Institute's students and partner organisations called Capstone Projects.  

Capstone Projects are part of the Interdisciplinary Masters Programme, and are designed to provide innovative solutions to global challenges, while also allowing students a glimpse into the inner workings of some of the world's most prestigious private and non-profit organisations.

The Capstones are divided into five tracks: trade and international finance; power, conflict and development; global security; environment, resources and sustainability; and mobilities, spaces and cities.  

The five best projects from 2020 were selected by a committee of faculty members, and are highlighted here. 

Trade and International Finance
Michelle Flückliger, Fabiola Galvez, Amy Nguyen
Crowdwork Platforms and the Trade Regime: Opportunities and Challenges
Partner: ILO

"Our capstone sheds light on the underlying issue of trade regulations’ impact on digital labour standards. The cooperation, communication and complicity within our team remain the lessons we value most. In fact, we hope the future of work will mirror those values at an institutional level".

Uma Rani, Senior Economist & Rishabh Kumar Dhir, Research Officer, ILO
"The Graduate Institute is known to be among the world’s premier institutions preparing the next generation of development and public policy professionals, with a cohort of passionate students. The ILO engaged with the students for this research on implications of digital labour platforms for developing countries due to its expertise in this area and it was interested in widening the scope of the students by bringing in the labour dimension in various aspects of the digital platforms.

The graduate students were curious and enthusiastic to learn, which allowed for a broader exploration of issues such as trade or legal implications at the country level. Their openness to new ideas allowed us to explore, engage and guide them in some of the complex issues in the area of digital labour platforms, and they were within a short time able to gain enormous knowledge in this area. This was very gratifying and encouraging. The project also allowed us to enhance their awareness, knowledge and capacities on decent work issues related to digital labour platforms, which going forward would help them to have shared perspective that aims to promote, protect and respect labour rights".  

Power, Conflict & Development
Maevia Laureen Griffiths, Massimiliano Masini, Aline Wani
Designing Against Violence
Partner: VIPRE

"Our Capstone project contributed to VIPRE’s exhibition “Desiging against Violence" through the creation of a video of contemporary dance with the aim to express the gradual and ambiguous process through which embodied subjects slip into the perpetration of torture. It gave us the extraordinary opportunity to engage with artists based in Geneva, to discover new means of the representation of violence, and to bridge the gap between academia and practice through an artistic approach allowing us to address a wider range of publics".

Jonathan Luke Austin, partner contact at VIPRE 
"As a former student of the Institute myself, I know well the intellectual quality, professionalism, and enthusiasm of its students. This was a real opportunity to draw on that unique asset of the Institute and to hopefully help the students develop their skills in important ways. Aline, Maevia, and Massimiliano worked with admirable independence, skill, and dedication to translate the often politically controversial and abstract work of VIPRE into an intensely creative form of public communication. Drawing on collaborations with artistic practitioners and dancers, their work has helped provide a unique asset for VIPRE going forward".

Global Security
Henry Anyomi, Juvenal Babona, Milena Niehaus, Renee Picard 
Sustaining the Peace: Economic Empowerment of Youth and Global Security in West Africa

"Now, more than ever, the voices of young people ought to count towards decision making, particularly on economic-related issues as well as youth professional development. Economic opportunities and security are inseparably linked; therefore, highlighting perspectives of youth benefits the whole of society".
Sabine Meitzel, Member of the Board of Directors, Angie Brooks International Centre (ABIC)
"ABIC is looking for fresh ideas and "out-of-the box" thinking to inform the Centre's strategic planning and programme development and this kind of creative academic thinking is being encouraged at the Graduate Institute. The Institute’s students come from all over the world, often with project experience from the field and/or work in international teams, which facilitates applied research in fragile African environments. In addition, the quality of academic supervision and guidance for students in the Global Security track ensures results".

Environment, Resources & Sustainability
Viktoria Ivanova, Chiara Azzarelli, Alexander Pechmann, Deepashree Maledavar
Implementing the 2030 Agenda for water efficiency/productivity and water sustainability in Near East and North Africa countries (NENA)
Partner: FAO

"Through our capstone project, we had the opportunity to be part of FAO's ongoing project, 'Implementing the 2030 agenda for water efficiency, productivity and sustainability in Near East North Africa countries', where we gathered preliminary information on water allocation and distribution issues in the study areas of Jordan and Lebanon. This research lays groundwork for FAO's project in the region and equipped us with practical and necessary skills for conducting water governance analysis by piloting a newly developed framework, collaborating with an international organisation, and navigating as a team to overcome challenges like remote working and different time zones".

Dubravka Bojic and Domitille Vallee, FAO
"FAO was initiating a new methodology pilot on water governance analysis in four countries in the NENA region, prepared in collaboration with Professor Mark Hufty. We felt that the fresh eyes and spirit of students trained on governance issues would add value to our work. The work on water governance is analytical and involves understanding the context-specific governance system without judging it, providing support for stakeholders, and creating space for dialogue, debate and joint development of potential solutions to priority water problems. The plan was to combine literature review with field work that had not been possible because of the pandemic. Despite this, significant interactions were established with local stakeholders.

Viktoria, Chiara, Alexander and Depashree were very enthusiastic about the activity despite the impossibility to travel to pilot countries. We appreciated the diversity of the team and their open spirit to new issues. They engaged well with local stakeholders and supported a good initial assessment phase."

Mobilities, Spaces & Cities
Samhita Ayaluri, Jessica Ramírez, Nishkhan Usayapant
Tilling History, Cultivating Alternatives: The Effect of International Trade Rules on the Livelihood of Smallholder Farmers in India

"This Capstone project gave us the opportunity to understand how a complex issue like international trade is linked to the everyday lives of smallholder farmers in India. Albeit virtually, the research connected us to the very people who have on-the-ground involvement on the issue, as well as to the decision-makers and negotiators influential in determining agricultural trade practices".

Denis Ruysschaert, Vice-President of SWISSAID and Conseil de Fondation Member
"The youth are our future. At SWISSAID Genève, we want to involve them into some fundamental world development issues; in this specific case, the impact of the World Trade Organisation on peasants, with India as a showcase. Students from the Institute come from all over the world, are curious and positive. They bring a mix of enthusiasm, learning capacity and critical thinking that are much needed in this dire world. Working with the students meant we had dynamic, positive, knowledgeable people that could support the association on specific strategic topics. These topics are fundamental for the association's longterm work, which could not explore them fully, lacking the proper funds and time".