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Weather service for African farmers wins I WILL Award 2016

From tackling lack of education for refugees, to addressing sexual violence and sustainable food initiatives, the community of Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) came together to share their willpower and Big Plan in an attempt to win the I WILL Award of €15,000 to put their plan into action. After the spectacular event, which took place on campus on 3 March 2016, Kukua won the award, and will use the prize to enhance its weather service for African farmers to provide food security.



RSM students, alumni, faculty and staff had sent in 60 Big Plans, after which six finalists were selected to compete for the I WILL Award 2016. During the spectacular I WILL Get in the Ring event in the Erasmus Paviljoen on campus, each team took part in three rounds of head-to-head pitches in front of an audience of cheering supporters with glow-in-the-dark sticks. A spokesperson from each team presented the team’s Big Plan in the boxing ring, making clear how their Big Plan related to willpower, how the team was composed, and how their Big Plan will change society and inspire others.

Transforming plastic bottles into 3D print filament

ReFlow’s Jasper Middendorp explained how ReFlow is tackling a global problem. “I saw waste pickers in Africa work all day and they’re still hardly able to feed their families,” he said. Knowing how much Dutch companies pay for plastic, he connected the two worlds. By transforming used plastic bottles into high-quality 3D print filament in developing countries, ReFlow’s goal is to improve the lives of waste-pickers from these countries and build 3D printing eco-systems worldwide. “With our sound business model, we can make a sustainable and ethical product for competitive market prices,” Middendorp told the jury.

Enabling refugees’ intellectual capacity

Dr Samer Abdelnour from Enjaz aims to conquer ‘the real refugee crisis’, which he believes is Europe’s failure to support the intellectual capacity of refugees. “Their willpower inspires us. Many of the millions of refugees are of university age, and have dreams and ambitions,” said Dr Abdelnour, adding that access to education is often impossible. Enjaz plans to address this through short, modular university courses and verify student accomplishments through a customised app. “By enabling refugees’ intellectual capacity and building relationships between refugees and universities, we will hasten their resettlement, recovery and contributions to society, and get them ready for the job market,” said Dr Abdelnour, who is an assistant professor at RSM.

Challenging the food sector from campus

Pinar Coskun from Erasmus University Rotterdam’s Sustainable Food Lab works together with students and visitors to develop food solutions. “We challenge the system and change the food sector,” she said, “We’re inspiring people and each other while cooking together with low CO2. We’ll make it happy, healthy and sustainable for the world,” said Coskun. “If 25,000 students do this, we’ll make a huge impact.” Sustainable Food Lab will collaborate with universities across Europe. Coskun said new students join with fresh ideas every year, and become active designers of future food. “Their contributions will be used as input for formulating sustainable food management strategies.”

Reducing unloved food and CO2 emission

Mark Durno from RSM’s Executive MBA programme is working on the Edibles app, a market place for unloved food as an alternative to throwing it in the trash. “If food waste were a country, it would be the third highest emitter of CO2 on the planet,” he said. Durno explained that sellers upload items that are about to pass their sell-by date or are not pretty enough for sale. “You’re all going to save money,” Durno told the audience and jury, comparing Edibles to Dutch classified advertising website Marktplaats. “Instead of going to supermarkets, you use Edibles to save money and the environment, and reduce CO2 emission,” he said, adding that a percentage of profits will go to food banks and there will be a direct impact on society, especially for low-income families.

Bringing Dutch weather technologies to Africa

Each year, half a billion African farmers have failed crops due to floods and droughts, said Ollie Smeenk from Kukua. “Food is the basis for survival,” he said. “Extreme weather conditions can endanger their source of food.” As Kukua’s chief product officer, the third-year BSc in International Business Administration student said the solution is to bring Dutch weather technologies to African farmers, using existing low-cost technologies and sending weather forecasts to farmers via SMS. “We’re working with telecom companies to reach farmers with mobile phones, so commercial and smaller farmers benefit,” explained Smeenk, adding that Kukua keeps ownership over the data. “We provide food security for less than one euro per farmer. In 10 years we aim to provide security of food for every farmer in Africa.”

Attacking sexual assault without violence

By developing the Pearltect Bracelet, its founder, RSM alumnus Roel van der Kamp, addresses sexual violence worldwide. The self-defence product looks like jewellery and, once activated, an unpleasant smell and an invisible DNA marker will be released to link the attacker to the crime scene. “Sexual violence is everywhere. One in three women deal with assault or rape at least once,” said Carlijn Bettink, who is responsible for Pearltect’s partnerships. She said smell is the most underestimated sense, but also very powerful. “The bracelet sexually demotivates rapists, so women can defend themselves without using violence,” said Bettink. “And with our ‘buy-one-support-one model’, we’re making it affordable to empower women in developing countries as well.”

Challenging questions and decision

After asking each other tough questions and taking challenging questions from the jury, three teams – Reflow, Edibles and Kukua – continued to the final round. They each made a one-minute elevator pitch using storytelling and providing more statistics to the jury – and the audience – to explain how their team’s Big Plan shows willpower, how it would change society and inspire others and why they should win € 15,000 to put their idea into action.

After a long deliberation from the jury, Kukua came out as the winner. In addition to the I WILL Award, there was also an audience prize of €2,000. The audience prize went to Pearltect.

I WILL Get in the Ring was moderated by Dory Grandia, faculty member and assistant director of career services at RSM. The jury members were Johan Hofstra, CEO of marketing innovation company ProjectX; Dr Ting Li, associate professor at RSM; Suzanne Bickes, chairwoman of STAR; Steef van de Velde, dean of RSM; and Willem Koolhaas, RSM’s director of corporate marketing and communications.

I WILL

The I WILL movement shows the ambitions and intrinsic motivations of RSM’s diverse community of international students, faculty, alumni, business leaders and staff, each identifying what they want to create, now and in the future. These commitments – saying ‘I WILL’ – is what RSM wants to create. I WILL is interactive on Facebook and throughout the campus with stylish I WILL photographic portraits and statements from RSM’s students, faculty and staff on proud display. I WILL is also part of students’ studies; for example, it is integrated into the goal-setting segment of the curriculum of the BSc in Business Administration programme.

Previous winners of the I WILL Award are mentoring community Dwillo (2014), and CroMiDo (2012) which allows donors worldwide to help another person in need with a new system of micro-donations sent by mobile phone.


More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s leading business schools, and ranked among the top three for research. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who carry their innovative mindset into a sustainable future thanks to a first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes. RSM also has offices in Chengdu, China, and Taipei, Taiwan. www.rsm.nl

For more information on RSM or on this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, Media & Public Relations Manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at mschouten@rsm.nl.

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