Students & Campus
12 October 2020

Team From Harvard University Wins 2020 Geneva Challenge on Social Inclusion

The 2020 edition of the Geneva Challenge, invited teams of graduate students from academic programmes all over the world to present innovative and pragmatic solutions to address the challenges of social inclusion. Out of 145 project entries submitted by 558 students, 17 teams were chosen as semi-finalists. The jury then selected five finalist teams, one per continent (based on the location of the university), who then defended their projects through videoconference. 

This year’s winner is the team from Harvard University with their project, “Project Gem: A Teletherapy Platform to Connect Elderly with Family Caregivers”.

“This project started out of a personal need that we share: we, on the team, are all very close to our grandparents, but it is very difficult during our lives to stay in touch with them all the time,” said team spokesperson William Ge. “So we created a digital platform for family caregivers to maintain a social presence in the lives of their loved ones, even from a distance.”

Other winners included teams from Europe (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm School of Economics) and Asia (Tata Institute of Social Sciences), which were each awarded second prize ex aequo. The teams from South America (The Graduate Institute, University of Chile, National University of La Plata, University of Geneva) and Africa (Gulu University) were each awarded third prize ex aequo.

A special prize was also attributed in partnership with Sustainable Development Solutions Network – Youth (SDSN Youth) – to a team with members from the Graduate Institute, Geneva, the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Moscow State Academic Art Institute and Higher School of Economics for their project “RuRelief: Multifunctional System for Refugee Support in Russia”.

In her introductory remarks during the award ceremony, Marie-Laure Salles, Director of the Graduate Institute, stressed that, “inequality is one of the plagues of the modern world, and this plague is multidimensional”. She added, “In many cases today we need an intersectionality lens to understand inequalities”. Juan Manuel Santos, former President of Colombia then delivered a keynote speech on the challenges of social inclusion in a post-conflict environment. Reflecting on Colombia’s long history of inequality, which has been aggravated by more than 50 years of armed conflict, he referred to how various communities were involved in the peace agreement process and highlighted the public policies established during his administration that promoted social inclusion, such as the implementation of the Multidimensional Poverty Index. President Santos’s speech was followed by a conversation with Martina Viarengo, Associate Professor of Economics and Chair of the Academic Steering Committee for the Geneva Challenge.

In his congratulatory speech, Ambassador Staehelin, President of the Jury, announced the theme for the eighth edition of the Geneva Challenge, which will be "The Challenges of Crisis Management". Currently, as the world faces unparalleled levels of challenges, there seems to be no end to the many crises that permeate borders, such as, world hunger, poverty, conflict, climate shocks, migration, unemployment and more recently, the pandemic we are currently facing. While these crises may affect and slow down progress on the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, they also provide new opportunities to make progress towards the Development Goals.

The Geneva Challenge, created thanks to the vision and generosity of Swiss Ambassador Jenö Staehelin and under the patronage of late Kofi Annan, is an annual contest, which encourages master students to bridge the gap between their studies and real development policy by developing devise innovative and practical proposals for effecting change.

2020 Geneva Challenge Award Ceremony