The 2023 Advancing Development Goals International Contest for Graduate Students aims to present innovative and pragmatic solutions to address the challenges of loneliness

Eager to stimulate reflection and innovation on development from diverse disciplinary and contextual perspectives and with the generous support of Ambassador Jenö Staehelin, the Graduate Institute has launched in 2014 the Advancing Development Goals Contest, an international competition for Master students.

The idea is to gather contributions that are both theoretically grounded and offer pragmatic solutions to a relevant international development problem stemming from an interdisciplinary collaboration between three to five enrolled master students from anywhere in the world.

Learn more about the contest here

The Challenges of Loneliness


A substantial proportion of people worldwide, from young adults to seniors, experience problematic levels of loneliness, including social, emotional and physical loneliness. Loneliness impacts people`s physical and mental wellbeing, as well as their ability to fully participate in political, social and economic life. The experience of loneliness is prevalent in all parts of societies, among people from all socio-economic backgrounds, ages, and genders. Socially excluded and marginalised groups experience higher levels of loneliness, further exacerbating existing societal inequalities. For example, shocks, forced displacement, war, migration, and poverty all have profound links with loneliness and the negative effects of loneliness. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, shocks and crises can increase the number of people experiencing some form of loneliness, especially among vulnerable groups, but the issue is prevalent in all parts of the world and societies.

Furthermore, loneliness is linked to many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG 5 (Gender Equality), SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities), SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), and SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions). Therefore, addressing loneliness is crucial in order to achieve the SDGs.

Learn more about this years topic

Call of Proposals

Learn more about the contest

Rules and Regulations 2023


Team from Latin America

Historias Con Punche - Connecting Generations through Participatory Arts: Loneliness is an unpleasant experience that results from the decline or reduction in the quantity and quality of social connections. Older adults, who are generally defined as those over the age of 65, are more prone to loneliness and social isolation than younger adults given old age is marked by an increased likelihood of experiencing events that can destabilise social relations such as widowhood and disability. Morbidity, living alone and physical impairments are some of the factors that contribute to the elderly's sense of loneliness, as they limit their socialisation and autonomy by making them feel burdened, useless, and isolated. Despite being a high-risk group, their voices and needs are often overlooked or underestimated, particularly in Latin America posing a barrier to meeting the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda goal of "leaving no one behind". Through the ability to self-express thoughts and emotions while encouraging social interaction, the participatory arts have been shown to significantly reduce feelings of loneliness. Theatre and narrative are two examples of creative outlets that can help to create and strengthen social bonds while also empowering the elderly to live life to its fullest. The following interdisciplinary and innovative project was meticulously crafted, in hopes to reduce loneliness among Peruvian elderly people in Villa El Salvador (VES) by improving emotional and mental well-being, promoting lifelong learning, preserving cultural heritage, and creating friendly communities that are both strong and inclusive, employing artistic methods such as narrative and theatre that are easily transferable and sustainable.

2023 Geneva Challenge Finalists - Historias Con Punche

"Historias Con Punche" Connecting Generations Through Participatory Arts


Team Europe

Generazioni- Intergenerational Bonding and Cultural Exchange Project: Generazioni Project is a groundbreaking initiative aimed at reducing social isolation among the elderly in rural Liguria, Italy. The project is centred around a digital platform connecting university students with elderly hosts, fostering intergenerational relationships, the exchange of life experiences, and cultural immersion. The project emerges from a shared concern about the increasing isolation of older adults and the loss of valuable cultural knowledge and rural traditions. The idea is to bridge the generational gap, providing an enriching experience for both elderly residents and university students alike. The elderly gain companionship and the opportunity to share their rich life stories, skills, and traditional practices. Simultaneously, students gain a deeper understanding of their cultural heritage, glean insights from their hosts' experiences, and contribute to the vitality of rural towns in Liguria. Through a comprehensive implementation plan - including a phased go-to-market model, financial sustainability strategy, and scalability plans - GenerAzioni aims to bridge generational divides, breathe life into local communities, and preserve precious cultural heritage.

2023 Geneva Challenge Finalists - Generazioni

Generazioni: Intergenerational Bonding And Cultural Exchange Project

Team from Africa

Grand-Guru Enclave - A Hybrid Community for Intergenerational Transfer of Knowledge and Laughter to Combat Loneliness: Loneliness can have severe implications for an individuals' mental and physical well-being, with increased risks of depression and anxiety as immediate effects. The unavailability of robust social support networks in urban Nigeria further exacerbates the problem. Grand-Guru Enclave aims to create a hybrid community for intergenerational programs targeting grands (60+) and Gen-Z (17–25) where social connection, meaningful interactions, and mutual learning can be used to combat loneliness. Intergenerational relationships strengthen social bonds, advance compassion and understanding, and foster a sense of belonging, ultimately contributing to achieving Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 4: "Good Health and Well-Being" and "Quality Education." The Grand-Guru Enclave will be piloted in Lagos, Nigeria; it is intended to be scaled up to all of Nigeria's states, sub-Saharan Africa and adapted by other isolated nations, such as Sweden, The United Kingdom, Japan, and Italy.

2023 Geneva Challenge Finalists - Grand-Guru Enclave

Grand-Guru Enclave - A Hybrid Community For Intergenerational Transfer Of Knowledge And Laughter To Combat Loneliness


Team from North America and Oceania

Nyaya: This proposal aims to address the issue of loneliness among migrant domestic workers (MDWs) in Hong Kong. Current solutions primarily focus on peripheral issues like healthcare and housing, overlooking the crucial aspect of economic empowerment. Existing efforts to empower MDWs often fail to provide credible employment information and bargaining power, resulting in the replacement of one exploitative sourcing method with another. To harness the collective power of the MDW community, we propose the development of an app platform called "Nyaya," derived from the Sanskrit word for "justice." Nyaya will leverage community-based networks to empower MDWs, providing credible employment information and fostering informed decision-making. By facilitating social interaction and engagement, the platform aims to reduce social isolation, loneliness, and promote a sense of belonging. Additionally, Nyaya will serve as a resource centre, offering legal information, educational materials, and practical advice. Through the integration of these features, the platform seeks to improve the overall well-being and integration of MDWs within their host communities.

2023 Geneva Challenge Finalists - Nyaya

Team from Asia

Tanda-Nan: A Community-Organising Initiative to Develop Social Networks to Promote Agency among Older Adults: In the Philippines, poor adults aged sixty and above are at risk of social isolation and experiencing loneliness due to having less economic opportunities, experiencing mobility issues, and the deaths of their peers. Reaching the age of sixty signifies the shift from “provider of resources” to “receiver of care” in the Filipino cultural context. This transition alters the social status and sense of agency of older adults, which may result in loneliness and adverse perceptions of ageing. Most programs targeted towards poor older adults are conditional welfare programs focused on charity rather than co-creation. Increasing older adults’ sense of agency requires opportunities for them to be more socially involved, self-reliant, and financially-stable to combat loneliness and feelings of being a burden to others. To increase older adults’ access to such opportunities, we are proposing TANDA-NAN: a community-organising initiative to develop networks of volunteers, civil society and non-governmental organisations, local government offices, academic institutions, and businesses that provide opportunities for social interaction, upskilling, income generation, and rewards redemption to older adults through a gamified system where older adults may participate in activities to earn points for redeeming services or commodities of their preference. At its core, TANDA-NAN is an enabling instrument which uses a co-knowledge generation approach in generating opportunities for the flourishing and healthy ageing of older adults. 

2023 Geneva Challenge Finalists - Tanda-Nan

Tanda-Nan: A Community-Organizing Initiative To Develop Social Networks To Promote Agency Among Older Adults

Semi-Finalist Teams 2023

Project Gombele Wagon Initiative

Project Gombele Wagon Initiative

Emigram - A Shared Identity App For Migrants

Project Emigram - A Shared Identity App For Migrants


Project Bonfire

Illuminating The Shadows:Addressing The Lonelinessof Indegenous Womensurvivors Of Witch-Hunting

Project Illuminating The Shadows:Addressing The Lonelinessof Indegenous Womensurvivors Of Witch-Hunting

The Social Blueprint

Project The Social Blueprint

Nacre From Fragility To Resilience

Project Nacre From Fragility To Resilience

Contribute To The Development Of Womencaregivers Through Companionship

Project Contribute To The Development Of Womencaregivers Through Companionship

Technological Advancement And Human Aging: Two Inevitable Things

Project Technological Advancement And Human Aging: Two Inevitable Things.

Project Enrich

Project Enrich

Sunshine Project

Sunshine Project