The Geneva Challenge 2017:

The SDSN Youth Special Prize

The Advancing Development Goals International Contest established a partnership with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Youth which awarded for the first time in 2017 a special prize to additional three Geneva Challenge teams.

Their projects, as well as the ones of the finalist and semi-finalist teams, will be showcased on the Youth Solutions Report platform. Through its activities and initiatives, which benefit from SDSN's network of institutional partners, experts, private companies and media outlets, SDSN Youth facilitates the dissemination of promising youth-led solutions, giving them additional fora to showcase their work and opportunities to draw interest from potential supporters. In turn, this helps investors, donors and supporters better understand the multi-faceted role of young people in the 2030 Agenda.

This great opportunity will provide the teams with a powerful tool that addresses the difficulties faced in securing funding, building capacities, communicating their experience and ultimately scaling their efforts.

Solar N3E: Solar Network for Energy Education and Employment


The Team

Anna Alejo.JPG  

Anna Gabrielle Alejo is a Fulbright scholar pursuing her master’s degree in Developmental Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. She graduated from Ateneo de Manila University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, followed by a certificate in Social Psychology from Tilburg University under an Erasmus Mundus grant. She has served as a teaching fellow under the pioneer cohort of Teach for the Philippines and a technical assistant in the Policy Research and Development Division of the Philippine Department of Education. Her research interests are in the field of risk, resilience, and prevention among children and schools in disadvantaged communities.

Jerome Bactol.jpg  

Jerome Bactol is a Project Development Officer of the Philippines’ Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and a candidate for a Master’s in Community Development at the University of the Philippines. His ongoing master’s thesis focuses on loitering children and how they experience and react to violence. His research is supported by Dansk Institut Mod Tortur (DIGNITY). Jerome obtained his bachelor's degree in Community Development from the University of the Philippines Diliman. Immediately after his graduation in 2013, he joined the pioneer cohort of Teach for the Philippines and taught grade 3 students in Krus na Ligas Elementary School. He also served as a Project Development Officer of DSWD’s Sustainable Livelihood Program.

Brigitte Lim.jpg  

Anne Brigitte Lim is a USAID-RTI STRIDE scholar completing her Professional Science Master’s in Solar Energy Engineering and Commercialization from Arizona State University. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Management of Applied Chemistry from Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines. After her bachelor’s she worked as a Teach for the Philippines fellow, physics textbook author, and research assistant on Philippine mangrove ecology research. As a master’s student, she’s had the opportunity to intern with GRID Alternatives--the largest solar non-profit in the United States, whose mission is to make solar energy accessible to all. Working with GRID has inspired her to start similar solar non-profit initiatives in her home country, the Philippines, in the future.

Eos Trinidad.png  

Jose Eos Trinidad is an instructor at the Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines, and research coordinator of its Institute for the Science and Art of Learning and Teaching. He completed his master’s degree in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago, and graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary Studies. After this, he worked as a Jesuit novice, a human development officer at Teach for the Philippines, and lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila.


The project

The Solar Network for Energy Education and Employment (Solar N3E) is a social enterprise that holistically integrates research, training, and networking among poor communities, educational trainers, and solar energy employers. Solar N3E’s goal is to contribute to inclusive economic growth in the Philippines by minimizing in-work poverty, urban unemployment and the number of youths who are neither in education, employment, or training. By utilizing the government programs in place, and taking advantage of the upcoming expansion and accreditation system of the solar energy industry, it aims to redirect the trajectory of marginalized community members' future employment opportunities.

Solar N3E has three primary thrusts: research, training, and networking. Conducting research in the Philippines’ solar industry and providing reports, including an annual job census, is crucial as industry intelligence is currently lacking. Research reports would also be sources of revenue, as selected reports will be sold to companies. Providing low-to-no cost training to marginalized communities will be possible through government funding and multi-lateral agency grants. This training would help youths and adults gain relevant skills to pursue work in the growing solar energy industry. Finally, networking would include events like conferences, career fairs, and workshops for job seekers. In addition to in-person operations, a website will be utilized as an online communication platform, knowledge base, marketplace, and community networking portal.

The enterprise starts operations in the capital city of the Philippines, Manila, with the potential to expand throughout the country, and throughout the Global South. It is designed to help communities connect with larger institutions, particularly with government funds, industry training, and private companies. [more]


VunaKunye - Putting Rural South Africa to Work


The Team



Sibahle Magadla holds a MSc Development Economics Masters degree from SOAS, University of London. She is currently completing a MCom Economics Masters degree at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa. In 2015, Sibahle was a junior research analyst at the Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU) which conducts policy-relevant socio-economic research in the fields of labour markets, poverty and inequality. Sibahle is a One young World Ambassador, an alumna of the South Africa Washington International program (SAWIP) and completed the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon to raise funds for the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) charity.


Tlhalefang Moeletsi recently completed a Master of Economic Science degree at the University of the Witwatersrand. He is a Researcher at the African Microeconomic Research Unit and has also worked as an Economic Analyst at the International Monetary Fund. Tlhalefang is a scholar of the Economic Research Southern Africa and the Canon Collins Trust. His research interests include labour economics, education, the economics of innovation and global value chains.


Malicha Waqo is an MSc Development Economics candidate at SOAS, University of London, a Financial Economics graduate and an entrepreneur. She is a proud Kenyan who dreams of being part of the team that drives Kenya to elevated levels of development. She currently runs a social enterprise that matches the supply of skilled labour with the demand for professional services in nascent businesses. After dissecting the economics of developing and developed economies at SOAS, Malicha believes that ingenious solutions specific to each economy’s problems will be the key drivers of development. She hopes to build her career as a strategy consultant, public policy maker and Pan-African economics influencer.


Safa Naraghi holds a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering and an MSc in Biomedical engineering both from the University of Cape Town. He is passionate about the merger of technology and entrepreneurship to transform the healthcare landscape in South Africa. To this end, Safa developed a low-cost-smartphone application which is can be used to screen for Tuberculosis in remote areas in Africa. He is an alumna of the South Africa Washington International Program (SAWIP) and a Laurie Dippenaar Scholar. Safa is currently studying toward an MSc in Technology Entrepreneurship focused on healthcare innovation at University College London.


Adelaide Tsogo Ngale was born and bred in Alexandra Township, Johannesburg, South Africa. After completing high school, she furthered her tertiary studies at the University of Johannesburg and acquired four qualifications (Cum Laude). She is an educator by profession and recently completed her MA in Education and International Development at the University College London. Adelaide is also a founder of an NGO called Tsogo ya Bokamoso Foundation, serving underprivileged schools in Alexandra Township.


The project

Vunakunye is a platform that allows smallholder farmers in South Africa to access the informal markets while creating employment, increasing agricultural output and promoting better health and nutrition in rural communities.

South Africa’s agricultural chain is dualistic, like many other countries, with smallholder farmers and commercial farmers existing parallel to each other. In South Africa, the disparities in access to markets between these two types of farmers is exacerbated by historical factors. The smallholder farmer is highly disadvantaged because of inadequate skills, an aging labour force and limited market reach. Our project aims to empower the smallholder farmer to gain access to an underserved market, the rural population.

We propose creating employment through a network of distribution centres for vegetable distribution at low prices in rural areas. Smallholder farmers will now be able to be informed and access markets directly through local distribution centres. These distribution centres will be constructed by modifying standard shipping containers. This design for the proposed distribution centres will make the structures cheap to produce and relatively mobile. The distribution centres will be supplied by a network of smallholder farmers in surrounding regions. Since the network of distribution centres will be large and will act a single entity, the vegetables acquired from these farmers will be bought at wholesale farmer prices and thus reducing the price at which local rural enterprises will purchase these goods from the distribution centres (compared to retail wholesalers). The final module of the proposed systems is a local delivery functionality using Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD). With this functionality, spaza shop owners around the distribution centres will be able to order food to be delivered to their shops using any type of mobile phone (even without internet connectivity).

We propose a platform that galvanises the informal agriculture economy as the ideal solution to the agricultural challenge of employment because of the following reasons; Firstly, smallholder farming is labour absorptive and has a high employment multiplier. Secondly, rural communities are highly dependent on smallholder farming for food security. Our platform addresses multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); it will create employment and promote food security for improved health outcomes and better rural livelihoods. VunaKunye can also open doors for collaboration with the government and other constituents to encourage more youth participation in rural areas and bring about rural economic development. [more]


Think.iT: A New Approach to Leveraging the Global Digital Economy to Combat Unemployment


The Team


Amel Abid is interested in the intersection of technology and social activism. She is the founder of AlMontada, a Tunisian organization that aims to foster, structure and develop the discussion about reforms in higher education in Tunisia. She has previously served as a board member at Athena Digital Design Agency - a student-run startup at Barnard College that trains women in web design and links them to small businesses that need websites. She also served as a Microsoft civic tech ambassador with the Microsoft Civic Engagement and Innovation team in New York, and worked with Ashoka as a web designer rethinking the organization's online presence. Amel holds a double degree in Computer Science and Philosophy from Columbia University. She currently works as a software engineer at Amazon, developing new cloud solutions for Amazon Web Services.


Andrea Cristina Ruiz is an economic researcher with a special interest in research and promoting research-based policy design in environmental management for climate change adaptation. Andrea Cristina has worked for international and local NGOs, multilateral organizations, national and regional governments, the private sector, and think tanks. She is currently researching sustainable sources of conservation finance for private reserves and payment for ecosystem services. She is also a social entrepreneur, interested in leveraging market forces to drive sustainable development. This summer she worked on a publication on migration and food security El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras with the World Food Programme Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean. Her undergraduate thesis on implied discrimination in the Ecuadorian labor market was published in the Carroll Round Undergraduate Research Conference and recognized by the Provost for Research in 2012. She holds a double degree from George Washington University in Economics and International Affairs and a minor in history and will graduate with a Masters in Public Administration from Columbia University’s School of Public and International Affairs in May 2018.


Joscha Raue has over 9 years of experience working with entrepreneurs and various start-up ecosystems across Europe. He is passionate about human-centered technology solutions and social innovation to solve development problems. Joscha is a fellow of the Foundation of German Business and holds a M.Sc in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a CEMS Master in Management from ESADE Business School and a BSc. degree in Banking and Finance from the Technical University of Cologne, Germany.


Mehemed Bougsea has worked as a strategy consultant to GIZ and the German, Tunisian and Libyan government. He has been specializing on the socio-economic development of youth in regions with elevated unemployment rates across Africa. Prior to Think.iT, he built and led the country office of Kiron Open Higher Education in Turkey. He is a fellow of the Centre for Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School and at the Responsible Leaders Forum housed in BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt. Mehemed holds a Masters in Development Practice from Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs and a BSc. degree in International Business from the Technical University of Cologne, Germany.


Rahma Sheikh Ahmed is interested in political economy, particularly labour markets and inequality. As a Kenyan-Somali, Rahma has always had a keen interest in the interplay of governance and economic development. She has conducted research on youth social media engagement in MENA for UNICEF and on migration in the Arab region for UN ESCWA (forthcoming). She has also previously worked for Kiron Open Higher Education and Innovations for Poverty Action. Prior to this, Rahma was an analyst at the Complex Securities team of Ernst & Young in Chicago, where she assisted clients with the valuation of various debt and equity instruments across a wide range of industries. She is currently a research consultant at the World Bank while also working as a financial and strategic advisor at Firoz Academy, an organisation that provides after-school educational training to students in Afghanistan. Rahma holds a Masters in Public Administration from Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs where she was also a Graduate Fellow at the Earth Institute’s Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity. She holds a double degree in Economics and Political Science from Yale University.


The project

Think.iT connects North African tech talent with opportunities in the global tech services marketplace. We are a mission-driven organization founded in Germany in January 2017 by Amel Abid, Joscha Raue and Mehemed Bougsea. Think.iT recognizes that talent is borderless, and so too should be opportunity. With that in mind, our mission is to activate a large market of previously untapped talent in North Africa to shape the future of technology. We do this by developing and connecting outstanding software engineers from the region with the technology needs of companies across the globe through an innovative approach. Throughout a six month bootcamp designed for youth with high potential but limited opportunities, Think.iT prepares engineers for the challenges of tomorrow’s sophisticated labor market in a blended learning environment. Upon completion of the training program, Think.iT embeds its engineers as full-time distributed members in a client’s engineering team, thereby allowing Tunisian talent to overcome existing barriers to practising their trade and gain international experience without the challenge of leaving the country. Think.iT creates value by enabling companies to accelerate, adapt and scale by addressing the global tech talent shortage, while providing a launch pad for gifted engineers to unleash their potential and become leading technologists and changemakers. Through this approach, Think.iT stands at the intersection of online outsourcing, freelancing and staffing, blending the best aspects of each to create a unique “outlancing” work model. [more]