Viewpoint: Why the Ivy League Needs the Hult Prize
Friday, April 3, 2015
How do we get Ivy League students interested in changing the world? Fluorescent pink posters with one simple message: “Do you want to win $1,000,000?”
Now, the Hult Prize is far from just a contest to win a million dollars. The Hult Prize is the world’s largest student competition for social enterprise. Partnered with President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative, and funded by Bertil Hult, the award is given to one winning team that has spent a year fine-tuning an innovative idea to solve an important global issue. And yet this pink poster is evidence that, in order to get Ivy Leaguers attention, it seems that success always needs to be quantified.
Don’t get me wrong; Ivy Leaguers are incredible risk-takers — on paper. They have an insatiable thirst for knowledge about unique subjects and are constantly exploring different intellectual themes. They learn impractical foreign languages; spend their summers volunteering in far-away places, and research the most niche topics. Yet, when it comes to execution, the majority of the student body is still entirely risk-averse. When junior year rolls around the corner, we all turn our heads back to that safe summer internship that propels us into future success. Although “social enterprise” is now at least a known term, students still don’t view it as a safe and viable career option.
My peers still don’t quite understand, or believe, that it’s possible to work for an organization that achieves both social impact and financial success. Social good and profit are considered dichotomies. It’s either about making a sacrifice to join the Peace Corps, or taking the first step towards economic success by joining a two-year program at a prestigious company, en route to a six-figure salary — with the hopes of helping society once financially stable. But like Ricardo Semler, CEO of Semco Partners and author of Turning Your Own Table, says in his TED Talk, “When you think and you say, now is the time to give back — well, if you’re giving back, you took too much.”