Ahmad Ashkar Hult Prize CGI

Hult Prize Is Changing The Social Business Paradigm [Forbes]

Posted Apr 30, 2012 by Media Relations

On Thursday, three groups of business students were awarded a combined $1 million to implement three social business plans meant to have a significant impact on the world’s poorest people.

Attending the third annual Hult Prize were President Bill Clinton and Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. The Hult Prize is hosted by Hult International Business School, which was acquired by EF Education First in 2003, the company owned by Swedish billionaire Bertil Hult ($3 billion).

The challenge’s founder, Ahmad Ashkar, is hoping to usher in a new world where “social entrepreneurship” is an outdated term.

“In the future, every business decision should look at what impact it is having at the bottom of the pyramid,” Ashkar says. “You don’t call it ‘telecom entrepreneurship’ or ‘fast food’ entrepreneurship.’ Soon ‘social entrepreneurship’ will just be ‘entrepreneurship.’ ”

That’s part of Ashkar’s quest to create a paradigm shift in the market, wherein social causes are made sustainable by combining them with business know-how. And producing incentives for the world’s best business students doesn’t hurt either.

“And social enterprise is a trillion dollar market now. It is a ripe market,”Ashkar says.

The business student profile is changing, says the Hult’s president, Stephen Hodges. More and more students are expecting to make a positive impact on the world with their MBA.

“Students expect the lights to turn on when they enter a room, and more importantly, to turn off when they leave,” Hodges says. “They want the bulk of the paperwork to be sent electronically. They view you as a bad institution if you don’t do these things, if you don’t have a higher ethical standard when it comes to the environment. They are attracted to doing good.”

In as much, the challenge seems to have struck a nerve, says Philip Hult, the business school’s chairman and Bertil’s son.

“It’s the positive side of Occupy Wall Street,” Hult says. “Occupy has a legitimate complaint, but what can we do about it? The challenge offers solutions.”

This year’s challenge drew on cases submitted from more than 350 of the world’s business schools. These tackled three categories, education, housing and energy. Each category was respectively won by Carnegie Mellon, Hult International Business School, and NYU Abu Dhabi. Those solutions dealt with replacing kerosene lamps with solar lamps, streamlining laptop deployment and further democratizing how Habitat for Humanity builds houses.

You can read more about The Hult Prize here.

To read the full Forbes article.

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