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Solve Challenge Finals 2022: Unveiling the Entrepreneurs Who are Changing the World

After three years of virtual programming, Solve Challenge Finals returned to New York City during the United Nations General Assembly Week, grounding Solve in our ongoing commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While world leaders gathered to discuss the pressing issues of our time, we convened the individuals and community who are poised to solve them. 

During the event, we revealed the new 2022 Solver Class – 40 early-stage social impact solutions that are addressing this year’s Global Challenges. These individuals hail from all over the world, including Myanmar, Benin, the Navajo Nation, and more. They gathered in New York City on September 18 to pitch their solutions to our community, win prize funding, and forge connections with supporters who will continue to empower them throughout their entrepreneurial journey.

There was palpable excitement and energy throughout the event as everyone awaited the announcements of the prize winners. Over $2M in prize funding was available this year thanks to the generous contributions of our supporters. Prizes were announced throughout that day and were met with loud applause, cheerful tears, and the promise of scaling our collective impact.

Here are some of our key takeaways from the momentous day. 

Harness the power of partnerships

Alex Amouyel, Executive Director of Solve stated in the opening plenary, “The magic is in the connections you make today that turn into real partnerships that make a transformative impact.” Almost 300 individuals attended Solve Challenge Finals spanning various sectors and organizations, all driven by the shared desire to support proximate leaders

(Gayatri Datar, Co-Founder and CEO of Earth Enable, embraces Alex Amouyel after being named a recipient of the Andan Prize for Innovation in Refugee Inclusion)

During a conversation with Blackstone Charitable Foundation and General Motors, moderator David Gelles of the New York Times asked the panel where they see the role of government, philanthropy, and business coming together. Maura Pally, Executive Director at Blackstone Charitable Foundation expressed, “No matter what side of those entities you’re on, you’re always looking for another one to come and work with you..I really do believe that the confluence of government, private sector, not for profits, and philanthropic money, can truly drive any cause a little bit further.” 

Hina Baloch, Executive Director of Sustainability & Environment at General Motors, also reminded attendees that it is time to topple the hero narrative and savior complex. “Solve is an example of what can happen through collective action and what I see is that collective action is what moves us forward.” 

People first, technology second

Technology is a fundamental component of Solver team solutions, but we heard throughout the day how the human element is what grounds these ideas based on lived experiences and community needs. 

Solver teams pitched their solutions to some of the world's most pressing issues like inequitable maternity care for Indigenous women, supporting family-caregivers, bringing learning opportunities to blind students, and much more.

(Gauri Malaviya shares 2022 solution, Annie, to Solve supporter Ryan Smedes)

Nelufar Hedayat, Correspondent & Program Host of Doha Debates, asked David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, to share advice with the Solver teams on how to make lasting change. Miliband responded, “Don’t be obsessed with technology providing the answer.” He explained that innovation and technology are not substitutional words. Technology is an enabler of goals, not the sole scapegoat nor savior for societal problems. 

June Sugiyama, Director at Vodafone Americas Foundation echoed similar sentiments, “MIT as an institution is built on the bedrock of innovation. But, as conversations throughout the day have shown, innovation by itself really doesn’t do much. Passion along with innovation can truly make a difference, and we believe that.”

Lead with a solution instead of a problem

Although the state of the world continues to present daily challenges for communities around the globe, the 2022 Solver Class reignited our hope for a better future. As David Miliband aptly observed, “These world leaders who are arriving here this week for the UN General Assembly, they need to be confronted with solutions, not just with problems. A lot of NGOs spend their time telling political leaders what’s wrong. [Political leaders] know what’s wrong. What they are interested in, or should be interested in, is the solutions.”

(Solver delegates left to right: Emtithal Mahmoud, Laura Stachel, and Doreen Toutikian)

These leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators are paving a path of change in their own communities around the world and will only continue to make strides in the next nine months as they go through the Solve program. 

2022 Solver and poet, Emtithal Mahmoud, left us with these eloquent words to carry into the rest of UNGA and beyond: “If you talk to someone politically, they will respond politically. If you speak academically, they will respond academically. If you speak with hate, they will respond with hate. But, if you speak to someone with humanity, they will respond with humanity.”

If you want to help the new Solver class scale their work and impact, learn how you can support Solve. And if you are interested in staging engaged with our US Equity work, you can keep an eye on our event page– Solve will host the annual US Equity Summit March 22-24 in Tulsa Oklahoma! 

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