Food waste in Kenya and India: will you dare to solve it?

Diary of UNYA Case Competition participant

Tamara Beresh, Ukrainian living in Denmark, while pursuing the 1st year of Joint MA in Global Studies from Roskilde University and University of Vienna, working in Danish Red Cross, Humanitarian Diplomacy and Advocacy Unit.

21/05/2017 – Copenhagen, Denmark – We often consider learning as something rigidly scheduled and academic. Something you are graded for. But what if we take learning as agile self-development process aimed to collaborate, convince and communicate on in a fast and flexible way?

This is exactly what 2-round Case Competition, held jointly by UN Youth Association in Denmark, World Food Program and WFP Innovation Accelerator in Munich in UN City Copenhagen, offered to 39 Danish and international participants. During two days we all collaborated with peers and skilled humanitarian relief experts to provide sustainable and innovative solution for two cases directly linked to “real life” projects run by WFP.

Day 1

Given we had to solve the case without any prior contextual information World Food Program provided a brief but highly informative webinar by specialists based in their Munich Innovation Accelerator. The task was tough: give us, participants, an overview of innovation angle in WFP humanitarian work, update on savvy sustainability approaches in humanitarian field, set the rules of approaching the case, and shortly train on pitching techniques we all needed to present a case solution in our limited timeframe: 3 minutes!

We could hardly enjoy the work on the case better since each group consisted of 4-5 people of diverse and value added profiles which both challenged and complemented one another when achieving balanced solution making.

Just imagine collaborating with edgy DTU engineer student from Italy, sharp minded entrepreneurial CBS student, ex-lawyer and KU international development student from New Zealand, innovative Danish specialist in Global Health and former UN communication person from Ukraine to answer the following:  how to address innovatively food waste problem in Kenya solving the cost, transportation or logistic component in WFP food program for Kenyan schools called “Transformer”.

Our – as well as every other`s -team had 6 hours to familiarize with case, build up the evidence based argument, create presentation. And yes, only 3 minutes to convince WFP experts from Munich and Copenhagen in accuracy of your solution in public!

Day 2

Following the jury panel decision, only four teams, including ours, proceeded to the next round and began anew with another and even more complex case of food waste problem in India. To make the long story short, we faced a new challenging day: six hours of team hard talks, dozens of hypothetical solutions, liters of coffee, plausible business models and innovations apt to fix the technicalities of wood storage and transportation in India which resulted in a 3 minutes pitch for humanitarian professionals.

Our solution didn’t make it.  However meaningful feedback, pitch improvement recommendations, professional network expansion and immediate boost of cognitive skills made UNYA Case Competition different from “winner takes it all” competition model. Wrapping the intense competition up with the excursion into UN City Copenhagen – the most sustainable UN facilities worldwide – guided by enthusiastic WFP interns  made us all likeminded colleagues rather than regular competitors.

Based on my former public information experience at UN Refugee Agency and UN Resident Coordinator Office I see this UN youth Advisory Panel  – WFP initiative is way beyond competition. It is a forum for ideas exchange between young blood and skilled experts and cornerstone for Public-Private partnership nexus, embedded into 17th Sustainable Development Goal.

Don`t miss the chance to get experience based learning next year and watch a competition video to make sure t is absolutely worth it!

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