Global Enterprise Challenge

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A few days ago, I had the opportunity to serve as a judge for the Global Enterprise Challenge, an online international enterprise skills competition for high school students during a 24 hour period in June.  (As a strong advocate of encouraging young people to stretch themselves, and given my expertise in business, strategy, and presentations, I often help out programs such programs, in ways ranging from keynote speaker to judge at such events (e.g., Merrill Lynch’s Global Business Challenge.)

GEC competitions have taken place for over a decade; they have been sponsored by several organizations in different countries; this year, the host is the Australian Business Week. GEC enjoys the support of NASA and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), with the latter awarding a gold medal to the winning team and individual certificates to each team member.

Governments around the world are recognizing the necessity of developing an enterprising culture in their young people. The World Economic Forum in their recent report Educating the Next Wave of Entrepreneurs highlights as their peak recommendation that governments “develop ambitious national plans for entrepreneurship education at all levels.”

GEC gives students the opportunity to develop their knowledge and experience of enterprise and business, and assist them in the transition from school to work, including the ability to create and manage personal, community, business and work opportunities. They develop innovative, creative, and feasible solutions to issues and problems that are now emerging in the global community. Many of the challenges involve technological and scientific concepts. Students are also given the chance to develop and nurture career-focused skills in areas including team work, communication, leadership, enterprise and creativity, innovation and time management.

The High School teams log on to a central site and are given the challenge. They choose from one of three time zone periods, and then compete within a 12-hour timeframe starting at 9.00 AM local time. Each team submits a completed video presentation, written report and PowerPoint presentation (optional) online. The 2013 challenge was to develop a business proposal to increase tourism visitation and income for a national, regional, or local tourist attraction, which you will present to a panel of venture funders. These investors are particularly interested in business ideas where you need to apply science and technology to manage the environmental issues. You will need to balance the revenue needed to sustain profitability, against the cost of preserving and improving the attractions environment for future generations of tourists.â€

I had the opportunity to judge a dozen teams from Malaysia, Japan, Korea, and Australia. The students addressed a wide range of enterprises, including Holographic shows to attract people to Botanical Gardens, Apps to increase museum and historic site visits; Ecovillages and eco-tourism to encourage tourism to see the Aborigines, the Australian Rainforest and indigenous wetlands. The most unique was a simulation experience of an old Australian prison site. One team came up with a program for using apps to help New Yorkers use the new Citibike program for individualized tours.

As someone who writes business plans for clients and reads countless ones in business and from colleges, it was refreshing seeing the creativity of these high school students, and rewarding to know that as a judge I was providing some encouragement. Some of these students are engaged in mentorships to learn more about entrepreneurism, and it is clear that they are learning important skills, especially as innovation, and sustainability are critical to our planet’s future well-being.  The time to start is High School! Do you have similar experiences with students?  If so, please share them!