The ‘My Little Big Thing’ Universities Challenge

The ‘My Little Big Thing’ Universities Challenge

The ‘My Little Big Thing’ Universities Challenge

Human beings today are living like the last inhabitants of earth. As a race, we are pursuing economic advancements at a great cost to the planet. 2016 has been confirmed as the hottest year on record. This is according to a consolidated analysis by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and is consistent with findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate: global warming of more than 2°C would have serious consequences, such as low-lying island nations being submerged under water, super-charged droughts and storms and a third of species being put at risk for extinction. All this would stall and then reverse the economic gains made over the past two decades.

Climate change has become an issue that has woven together many of the challenges facing humankind as either a cause or effect. In December 2015, 194 countries reached an agreement to ensure that the global temperature does not increase by over 2 ºC by the end of this century thereby consenting to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Driven by the UN, the SDGs are a set of 17 global goals with 169 indicators that governments are expected to adopt. The goals set the 2030 global development agenda with the following common areas: end poverty, combat climate change and fight injustice & inequality.  Those in poorer countries – especially in Africa, will experience many of the most severe impacts of climate change. Kenya, through the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, has picked five key areas from the SDGs to guide its development for the next 15 years. Implementation means moving the SDGs from decisions to actions.

MK-Africa is running a competition targeting university & polytechnic students across Kenya aimed at promoting innovation and enterprise around these 5 areas. The campaign aims to push for the development of alternative technologies that allow for existing lifestyles and patterns of consumption and development to remain relatively unchanged while changing the technologies of products and production to reduce their impact on climate.

Dubbed the, ‘My Little Big Thing’ SDGs Campaign, the competition is inspired by Kenya’s Nobel laureate, the late Prof. Wangari Maathai who is famously quoted as having said, ‘It’s the little things citizens do that will make a difference. My little thing is planting trees’. The competition is in partnership with Strathmore University Centre for Sustainability Leadership and the Cambridge University Institute for Sustainability Leadership, South Africa (CISL SA) and targets undergraduate university and polytechnic students across Kenya.

It is expected that the competition, which will run on digital platforms and social media, will attract at least 1000 entries from which the best 20 will be short-listed by a select panel of judges moderated by audit firm KPMG. The 20 finalists will then be taken through a comprehensive 2-day business skills training program. At the end of this program, the finalists will be expected to refine their proposals and pitch them as business ideas. The judging panel will then select the best 10 for presentation to the public who will then select the top 3 winners through an online voting gallery. The winners will win a place in the Sustainability Practitioners Programme that is run by University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership in Guateng, South Africa in August 2017. They will also get to visit companies in South Africa that have sustainability at the core of their business.

An example is one of the ‘My Little Big Thing’ campaign partners, the South African Airways Group (SAA) who operate Africa’s first sustainable biofuel flights. These are the first flights to operate with biofuel made from locally grown tobacco plants. Winners in the ‘My Little Big Thing’ competition will get a chance to visit SAA in Johannesburg and learn more about the first sustainable biofuel flights on the African continent.

They will then return to Kenya for a 3-month paid internship program where they will get support from top companies in developing their project prototypes. The ‘My Little Big Thing’ competition aims to challenge young people, who are key drivers of change in any community to come up with the kind of simple ideas that will have a big impact on social developments through activism, social movements and creative expressions. With the right support, young people can transform the world into a better place for all.  We welcome you to be our partners in this campaign.