SFU team qualifies for global finals of The Global Challenge

Apr 03, 2017


The SFU team for The Global Challenge, (l-r Iman Baharmand, Kimberley Venn and Alec Yu)

An interdisciplinary team of SFU undergraduates has qualified as one of two teams that will represent Canada at The Global Challenge, taking place at the University of Oxford, UK, on April 30 and May 1. The Global Challenge is an international competition for students to explore and present ideas around social and environmental change.

The SFU team, comprising Alec Yu and Iman Baharmand, students at the Faculty of Science, and Kimberley Venn, studying at the Beedie School of Business, earned their place in the Global Challenge Final event after impressing judges at the Canadian finals in Calgary from March 24 to 26. In addition to the right to represent Canada, the team was awarded a $2,500 prize.

“What made the experience at The Global Challenge so impactful was the focus on learning over competing,” says Kimberley Venn. “Each competitor, faculty member, and judge expressed a genuine curiosity in understanding all of the problem landscapes presented and helped to connect the teams with resources, regardless of what school they were from. For us, being able to meet such inspiring and passionate individuals from across Canada opened our eyes to new perspectives on global issues and understandings of our own problem.”

The team met in SFU’s Health Change Lab program, an interdisciplinary collaboration between the university’s Beedie School of Business and Faculty of Health Science, which tasks students with finding potential solutions for key community health issues, while learning from and being mentored by community stakeholders.

“The three of us first got to work together through Change Lab, and our project for the Global Challenge is truly a product of program’s interdisciplinary approach,” says Iman Baharmand. “Each week, we were challenged to explore different perspectives and encouraged to develop a broad range of skills from a variety of disciplines. We learned the fundamentals of making social change happen and got to meet some incredible students and community members in the process.”

At the Global Challenge competition in Calgary, the SFU team presented their research on medical waste. They highlighted the prevalence of single-use implements and overstocking in hospitals, the social and environmental impact of the waste this creates, highlights of global approaches to solutions, and suggested interventions to tackle the issue here in Canada.

“We decided to tackle our problem from a broad, issue-centric direction, as opposed to trying to find solutions that would make for a good start-up,” explains Alex Yu. “This allowed us to meet so many different people, from doctors to nurses to purchasers, who believed in what we were doing and generously offered their support.”

“We’re incredibly proud, as are all of the SFU Change Lab alumni who were following their progress,” says Shawn Smith, adjunct professor and founding director of RADIUS, a social innovation lab and venture incubator based at SFU’s Beedie School of Business, who was instrumental in setting up the Change Lab programs. “This group really represents the outcomes possible through the deepening support at SFU for interdisciplinary, experiential programs rooted in changemaking. Kim, Iman and Alec have worked incredibly hard and really deserve this recognition, and we know they’ll be great ambassadors for Canada and SFU in Oxford.”

Click here to learn more about The Global Challenge.

Click here to learn more about the Health Change Labs program at SFU.