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Four IE Business School MBA students were on the winning team of this year’s FT MBA Challenge, an annual competition that provides an opportunity for the next generation of business leaders to make a difference.
This year's challenge was sponsored by Stop the Traffik and tasked competing teams to help tackle human trafficking by raising awareness of the NGO’s new smartphone app, the STOP app, which collects data and real-time trends on the criminal trade of people for forced labor or sexual exploitation.
The winning team, which went by the name "Team Umoja," included IE Business School MBAs Matt Davis, Becky Jefferies, Debanjan Mal, and Felicia Okoye, as well as students from Harvard Kennedy School and Saïd Business School.
Team Umoja won for their plan to market the app to report suspected human trafficking, focusing their campaign on South Africa due to the country’s reputation as a trafficking hotspot. The business plan outlined how to increase use of the STOP app and get it installed on more mobile devices; reach at-risk communities and individuals who are able to report human trafficking abuses; and ways to incentivize engagement with the app through social media and gamification techniques.
“Taking part in this project was incredibly rewarding,” said IE Business School MBA candidate Becky Jefferies. “Working with our mentor from the Stop the Traffik organization, we heard first-hand accounts of rescues and success stories he had been involved with. It inspired us to know what kind of impact we could have if our business plan was strong enough. We put a lot of heart into it and came out with ideas and plans that we thought were practical enough to execute, and at the same time, innovative enough to get real traction and drive engagement for the app.”
For this year's Challenge, the FT received 60 submissions from teams comprised of at least two different universities or schools. The teams collaborated remotely to provide a short proposal and then the chosen shortlisted teams were asked to develop a 12-page business plan. The top three teams were invited to a Financial Times event in October, at which the Umoja team was announced as the winner.
Ruth Dearnley, Stop the Traffik’s chief executive, said at the awards ceremony and to the Financial Times: “What we liked was that they had ideas that you could put into practice immediately, so we have nobbled some of them.” The winning team will continue discussions with Stop the Traffik regarding how to help with implementation of their plan.
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