“Protecting human rights in a post-truth world.”
It’s a tall order… the ‘Mission Impossible’ faced by this year’s challengers at HEX’s Great Global Challenge.
→ Six gruelling days and endless nights of non-stop programming.
→ 10 global universities*.
→ 160+ students in 15 different timezones in 5 continents.
→ Phenomenal speakers from Google, Lyft, TikTok, Dropbox, blockchain, FinTech, cyber security and journalism.
→ Incredible mentors including a Palo Alto VC, a tech ethicist and a TED pitch coach.
Twenty-eight teams completed the challenge. Poetically, Team 28 emerged victorious.
Rahul, Kelly, Cindy and Nilla (aka Team 28: The Passionate Pioneers) started with a simple problem…
“As a group of university students, we are lacking a safe place to express our views on certain topics, especially during COVID-19 when everything is taking place online.” — Cindy
…which led to a simple inspiration…
“We were inspired … to create an environment where people could develop empathy for others by listening to their opinions and develop mutual understandings through discussion.” — Team 28 Project Summary
So they created Youniversal, an app prototype that brings students together in a safe space using AI moderation to discuss diverse opinions, improving empathy among diverse university students.
We asked the team a few rapid-fire questions about their GGC experience…
Why did you choose to join the GGC?
All of the team members signed up for very pragmatic reasons…
“Entrepreneurship, and the startup space, has always piqued my interest, but for the longest time I didn’t really know how to go about approaching it.” — Nilla Kumaran
“I have a budding interest in exploring technology since my fiancé studies Data Science and we like to exchange ideas… It also helped that my university was offering the GGC for free.” — Kelly Van Roy
“The reason why I chose to join the GGC was to explore the ‘entrepreneurial side’ within myself and to look for some inspiration for my upcoming dissertation.” — Cindy
“I joined the GGC because I wanted to test my business and finance skills along with other soft skills such as leadership and teamwork. I also enjoy… making new friends across the globe.” — Rahul Jain
But don’t let that fool you; these legends are also DETERMINED to have a positive impact on the world. Kelly is studying for her Masters in International Politics and Human Rights. Nilla is a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion. Rahul knows that “I want to leave a mark in this world and make it a better place… leaving a better planet for future generations.” And Cindy is proactively looking for her personal DNA.
How / why did you choose your problem area?
“We were trying to delve into how exactly a post-truth world was damaging human rights, and how we could even try to mitigate it,” Nilla explained.
“Our immediate thought was about the fake news phenomenon and potential ways to combat that… [But then] we saw an article defining post-truth as people placing priority in emotions over facts,” Kelly said.
“Also, truth or fact can be temporal,” Rahul contributed.
“To us, the bottom line seemed to be that we needed to encourage more empathy in our communities,” Nilla concluded.
And we couldn't agree more! In fact, building greater empathy worldwide was a big factor leading HEX to choose a challenge focusing on human rights.
Do you have any favourite ideas or moments from the event?
“Some of my favourite moments came from the talk with [transgender journalist, entrepreneur and angel investor] Joan Westenberg, who is a firm believer in letting people be people. I particularly liked what she said about what we actually have human rights to — water, shelter, not experiencing violence against us… Joan’s confident belief in the bare necessities of what we need as humans really struck me as radical in its simplicity of form.” — Kelly Van Roy.
“You can’t separate technology from humanity.” And “It’s not about saving human rights; it’s about understanding human rights.” — Nilla Kumaran
“Lots of memes really added a fun element to the challenge.” — Rahul Jain.
What are your future goals? Is there anyone you’d like to connect with to achieve your goals?
“It’s always been a goal of mine to start something of my own… to create something that can help people. And now, that goal is very tangible and that much closer!” — Nilla Kumaran
“I believe dreams are what keeps us going. Personally, I would love to write and illustrate children’s books someday. Maybe throw in a graphic novel too. Professionally, however, I want to start by working in charities or NGOs and build up knowledge about… different societal issues and the specific problems people face… I’m open to connecting with a variety of professionals who feel they can offer advice to an aspiring dreamer like myself. — Kelly Van Roy
“I would like to develop my skills by observing successful people… Understanding each other is a key to working together and accomplishing goals.” — Rahul Jain.
“I would love to connect with mentors or recruiters from any business consulting or education startup firms, please, to further expand my skills and knowledge and receive guidance from people who are experienced in these fields! — Cindy.
Any final words?
“Because of GGC, I am now interested in using a technological mindset to view problems and see what tech solutions can do to help solve them.” — Kelly Van Roy.
“I’d like to pursue our ideas and intentions behind Youniversal and see what we can create from it to share with the world.” — Nilla Kumaran.
If there's anything the past year has taught us, it's that being isolated highlights the importance of empathy, friendship and communication. With over 18,700 Slack messages sent over 6 days, and 98% of Challengers saying they'd love to stay in touch with someone they met on the GGC, we're really proud that HEX played a part in bringing people together to help build a better future.
*A huge thanks to the incredible universities that took part in the Great Global Challenge:
- RMIT University (Australia)
- Monash University (Australia)
- Griffith University (Australia)
- University of Technology Sydney (Australia)
- University of Auckland (New Zealand)
- University of Southampton (UK)
- City, University of London (UK)
- Cardiff University (UK)
- University of California, San Diego (USA)
- Rochester Institute of Technology (USA)