May 13, 2021Print | PDF
From March 5 to 21, four bachelor of business administration students from Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics competed against 84 post-secondary institutions from around the world in the Global Case Competition, hosted virtually by the BI Norwegian Business School, to come up with a solution to a very big problem: world hunger.
Jason Amri, Rohan Dey, Abigail Leu and Cindy Vuong, in second, fourth, first and fourth year, respectively, were one of the youngest teams in the competition, but still made it to the semi-finals, advancing past master’s and PhD students from many of the world’s most prestigious business schools.
The competition, sponsored by management consulting firm Kearney, as well as EAT, a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming the global food system, challenged students to generate game-changing solutions ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit, which will be held in the fall. The winners were chosen by a panel of judges, including representatives from the UN’s Action Tracks.
Teams were given 24 hours to come up with a solution, then two weeks following to further develop and refine their ideas. The scale of the problem allowed for a lot of creativity, but it also made finding a specific solution challenging.
“The broad scope of the problem was demanding,” says Amri. “Without any guidance on a particular area or goal to focus on, we were left to make all the decisions, and make the right ones. This problem is one that has been worked on by global experts for decades but was posed to teams of students to tackle within 24 hours.”
Laurier’s team started by researching the global food system, including the production and distribution of food, current problems and proposed solutions. They also studied the UN’s Action Tracks and Sustainable Development Goals and decided to search for a solution that would help make safe and nutritious food more accessible; make production and consumption more sustainable; and build resiliency and advance livelihoods within communities.
They proposed a solution that would provide pre-made greenhouses and educational resources about agriculture for families in Mozambique. The project would empower women, in particular, to grow nutritious fruits and vegetables that would both feed their families and communities and could be sold at fair trade markets through Slow Food International.
“As a second-year student, it’s invigorating getting to compete on the global stage alongside world-renowned business schools,” says Amri. “It was such a great experience getting to work with the team and develop a solution we are truly proud of. It was especially an honour to present to industry leaders who think about these problems on a daily basis. These are top experts in their field who took the time to understand our ideas and felt compelled to advance our team.”
Amri, Dey, Leu and Vuong are all members of the JDCC Laurier team. For the past five months, they’ve been working together every Sunday to study, train and practice for case competitions. The experience has helped them learn how to break down complex problems, find attainable solutions and then communicate them effectively.
Leading up to the Global Case Competition, the team met several times a week with their faculty advisor, Associate Professor Sofy Carayannopoulos, who provided support and advice and also helped them run through a mock case.
“Sofy supported us from before the competition started and all the way to the end,” says Vuong. “She spent countless late nights helping us craft our storyline and coaching us on delivery. Even before the competition started, Sofy helped us prep by providing everything from guidance on where to find helpful research to doing mock presentations with the team on the weekends. She was our biggest supporter in terms of advice but also our biggest cheerleader!”
With their range of experiences and years of education, Laurier’s team also learned a lot from each other.
“The team I competed with was very diverse, ranging from a first-year [student] who just finished their first semester of university to someone like me, who is just about to graduate,” says Vuong. “Case competitions are not only great learning experiences, but they also encourage diversity of thought and learning from your peers.”
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