What if one million dollars and five students could improve the lives of 25 million people in 5 years? This might be unimaginable now, but we, Harambee, are hoping it will be a reality soon. Back in November, 2013, as an entrepreneurial group from ESADE Business School motivated to do some good, we decided to submit our application for the Hult Prize Competition. Harambee has brought together people from different ends of the world -- The Philippines, Lebanon, Bolivia, Belgium and Germany -- with even more diverse backgrounds ranging from consulting to medicine, and so we managed to converge our divergent experiences and schools of thought to come up with a solution for the 2014 Hult Prize "President's Challenge."
This year's challenge aims to alleviate slum dwellers of non-communicable diseases. When I first read the case I was overwhelmed by the, what seemed infinite, parameters of the challenge. What disease do we tackle? Cancer? Hypertension? Asthma? Cataracts? Alzheimer's? All? Then, at what stage do we step in? Diagnosis? Treatment? Care? Which slums do base our solution upon? Brazil? India? The list goes on. As you can see the challenge is broad in nature but that only provided us with the necessary freedom to customize the challenge according to our own discretion and thereby choose a cause that would be close to our hearts.
Harambee helps NGO's integrate and monitor a holistic, cost-effective and scalable solution to tackle hypertension in urban slums by leveraging on the existing HIV infrastructures. We noticed a trend: a similarity among HIV and NCDS. HIV was put on the global agenda and consequently received the necessary funding. As a result, an extensive infrastructure was built and today was see the immense impact it had. NCDs (Non-Communicable Diseases) are now on the global agenda, they are set out to receive the necessary funding but what is the missing link between this and impact? It is the infrastructure. This is why we chose to leverage the HIV infrastructure to combat hypertension.
We leverage the existing, extensive HIV infrastructure, mainly NGOs. Harambee uses their physical infrastructure, their local tacit knowledge and the trust they've built with the local community.
We based our model on a two-year research initiative carried out by the African Population and Health Research Center. The research was conducted in the Korogocho slum in Nairobi and it lays out an optimal operating system to increase the percentage of slum-dwellers who are aware, diagnosed and treated for hypertension. The pillars of this system lie in its cost-effectiveness and its high adherence numbers.
"Our team's name, Harambee (HRBM), was inspired from the Swahili language and means "let's all pull together." We decided to base our efforts in Kenya as we can create the most impact where the most prevalent need exists and Kenya is home to some of the biggest slums in the world. We choose to pilot in Korogocho because of the contacts we have already established there." --Caela Tanjangco
Our lives have changed ever since we were announced the Dubai Regional Hult Prize winners; it was a leap of faith and it worked out well for us. The team travelled to Kenya last month to carry out field research, establish and grow a local network, develop the business model and of course, see some zebras. Our main focus was to get acquainted with the slums and the habits of the slum dwellers for any solution we present must compliment the slum dwellers' daily routine and integrate easily in order to achieve maximum impact.
We will be working on fine-tuning our idea before the accelerator and ESADE, with a special mention to Alfred Vernis, the communication team and our professors, will have a hand in developing our business model by listening to our pitches and offering advice, which is invaluable. We expect our proposal to be sliced up and rearranged, looking very different to what it is now by the time we present our final business plan in September to Bill Clinton and Muhammad Yunus. Exciting times await us!
Our team at Harambee: Caela Tanjangco, Gabriel Rojas, Tamara Zakharia, Bijan Mashagh and Ruben Camerlynck.
This post was produced by The Huffington Post and the Hult Prize, where teams of college and university entrepreneurs compete for $1,000,000 in funding for compelling social business ideas. The posts are written by the "Big 6" competition finalists. To learn more about the 2014 Hult Prize, please visit here. Read all posts in the series here.