SFU team wins first prize in The Oxford Global Challenge

May 04, 2017


The victorious SFU team at The Global Challenge

An interdisciplinary team of SFU undergraduates has won first place overall in The Oxford Global Challenge, an international competition for students to explore and present ideas around social and environmental change. The global finals of the competition took place in Oxford, UK, on April 30 and May 1, 2017.

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, overcame competition from 14 other teams from five continents to take the victory. The team comes away with prizes worth over $5,000, and invitations to return to the Skoll Centre at the University of Oxford to take part in two major social entrepreneurship conferences in the next year.

“It was such an eye-opening and inspiring experience to see so many young leaders around the world come together to share their knowledge about often neglected issues,” says Kimberley Venn. “From listening to new entrepreneurial ideas to forming new friendships, The Global Challenge was not just a competition, but instead was an incredible opportunity we are so thankful to have participated in.”

Two teams earned the right to represent Canada at the global final of the event, having won qualifying rounds earlier this year. 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.

“Throughout this process, we’ve been truly overwhelmed by the generosity of amazing people who have donated their time to supporting and improving our project,” says Alec Yu. “From doctors and nurses to business and design coaches, this win belongs to so many members of the SFU and Vancouver health community.”

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 Change Lab program at SFU has received significant support from entrepreneur and philanthropist Scott Shaw.

“The experience was remarkable to say the least,” concludes Iman Baharmand. “Connecting with teams of finalists from around the world, and learning about the different problems that they were passionately working on truly made this competition a terrific platform for global engagement.”

SFU’s participation in the Oxford Global Challenge was made possible by support from a large number of individuals and organizations, including:

  • RADIUS SFU
  • SFU Student Engagement and Retention
  • Beedie School of Business Dean’s Priority Fund
  • SFU Innovates
  • Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship
  • SFU International Office
  • SFU Changemaker Campus team