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How would you respond to the fact that 21,000 children die every day around the world, equivalent to one dying every 4 seconds, and just under 7.6 million children dying every year? Behind these deaths are the silent killers poverty, hunger, easily preventable diseases, and other related causes. Such death of children is just single instance of crisis among myriad global crises like unemployment, the energy crisis, and conflict.
As for global unemployment, we see records broken every year. According to the International Labor Organization, almost 202 million people were unemployed in 2013, an increase of almost 5 million from the year before. Composing more than 45% of additional jobseekers, the bulk of the increase in global unemployment crises threatens the East Asia and South Asian region (like Bangladesh, India, Pakistan). If the current trends continue, global unemployment is set to worsen, albeit gradually, exceeding 215 million jobseekers by 2018. To mitigate the effects of the aforementioned crises, the situation requires sustainable solutions, reducing mortality rates from causes like hunger and disease, and at the same time creating a sufficient number of jobs addressing extra 2.6 million laborers in the market every year.
As a result, present examples and situations suggest that social entrepreneurship can be the most revolutionary and enduring solution to these problems. Social entrepreneurs act as agents of positive change in their communities, rendering opportunities to others by inventing and disseminating new approaches. They initiate sustainable solutions that create sets of social values. Unlike traditional business entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs primarily seek to generate ‘social value,’ rather than profits solely. And unlike the majority of non-profit organizations, their work targets not only immediate and small-scale strategies, but largely emphasizes sweeping and long-term changes.
According to European Commission in its Communication to the European Parliament on the new €90m Social Business Initiative:
“A social enterprise is an operator in the social economy whose main objective is to have a social impact rather than make a profit for their owners or shareholders. It operates by providing goods and services for the market in an entrepreneurial and innovative fashion and uses its profits primarily to achieve social objectives.”
Recognizing the vital impact that a social enterprise can have, entrepreneur Ahmad Ashkar founded the Hult Prize, a start-up accelerator for budding young social entrepreneurs emerging from universities around the world. Referred to as one of the top 5 ideas changing the world by President Bill Clinton in TIME Magazine, the annual competition for the Hult Prize aims at identifying and launching the most compelling social business ideas — start-up enterprises that tackle grave issues faced by billions of people around the world.
This fall, the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) was one of several universities selected to host a quarter final round of the Hult Prize. It is the beginning of a joint journey of Hult Prize and BUET, a top university in Bangladesh and in Asia. BUET plays a significant role in sustainable development of technical sectors in the country and South Asia, and the distinguished scholars of the university conduct a range of result-oriented technical research, as well as diverse development projects.
Acting as Campus Director of Hult Prize at BUET was one of the most challenging jobs for me in recent years, and spreading the concept of social entrepreneurship and business among technical students was a challenging task for our organizing team. However, our expectations couldn’t have imagined the enthusiasm met by the students of BUET. This year’s challenge, the lack of early childhood education in urban slums, is relevant and significant to students here. The 3-5 age group of the population of Bangladesh is projected to be 9.2m in 2015, up from 8.7m in 2010.
Among them, 3.41 million children are not enrolled in pre-primary school, a great threat to our progressive economy. Maybe this is what drew the attention of huge number of students to compete in the Hult Prize, to find a solution despite being the tech institute students. Around 500 students in over 115 teams joined the campus event, and our judges selected a winning team, “HALCYON.” An interdisciplinary team of 5 members, Muntaseer Bunian, MD.Moinul Islam, MD. Arif Ishtiaque Khan, Prattay Deepta Kairy and Rajat Ghosh, they will now head to the regional finals, along with another BUET team, “Bioscope.”
Social entrepreneurship has been a buzzword for few years in Bangladesh, a land full of opportunities and influential minds, such as Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus, Sir FazleHasan Abed, and many others who have been shaping the world for years. Bangladesh is also viewed as a great place to start new ventures, with a large supply of labor and a favorable business environment.
In the World Economic Forum’s ‘Global Risks-2015’ report, unemployment, water, and spread of infectious disease crowd at the top of the list of risk of occurring, and highest impact. Now, we need more people to become social entrepreneurs, driving positive change in society and the world. Perhaps no better option exists to get out of the present crises this world is facing.
This post was produced by The Huffington Post and the Hult Prize Foundation Hult Prize@ program, in which teams of college and university entrepreneurs compete for funding for compelling social business ideas, including a grand prize of US$1,000,000. The posts are written by student campus directors of “Hult Prize@,” the program bringing the competition directly to campuses around the world. To learn more about the Hult Prize Foundation and how you can become a campus director, please visit hultprize.org. Read all the posts in the series here.
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