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Quralew Co-op members Bibi Mohamed '22 and Bineyam Tumbo '21, pictured front center, were winners of this year's "Elevator Pitch Round" of the Earlham Prize for Creative Capitalism. The students will compete at the Boston regional of the Hult Prize later this month.

Earlhamites to showcase solution for poverty in Ethiopia at Hult Prize’s Boston event

March 08, 2019

A team of Earlham College students wants to improve unemployment and pollution in one of the world’s poorest countries by redefining how they look at garbage and waste management.

With mentorship from Earlham’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Irving Lopez ’20, Bineyam Tumbo ’21, Ian Shriner ’21, and Bibi Mohamed ’22 have launched Quralew Co-op. The social enterprise enlists families to pre-sort and transport their own waste to local and national recycling centers.

“We plan to flip the coin on the traditional waste management model,” Mohamed says. “Families will pay us nothing and in return will receive household and school supplies as an incentive to sort and properly dispose of their trash.” 

The team has been selected to compete in the Boston regional of the Hult Prize, the world’s largest student competition for social good. The winner of the 59-team field during the March 15-16 event, and top finishers from the Hult Prize’s 25 other regional events, will advance to a final competition in September. The grand prize is $1 million in seed capital and an audience with former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who announces the winning team each year.

“We’re nervous, excited, all of the feelings that you would expect,” Tumbo says. “It’s a lot of pressure and we’re putting in a lot of work. But hopefully it pays off in the end.”

Quralew Co-op is multinational, multidisciplinary team. Tumbo, a Global Management major from Ethiopia, has experience running sustainable real estate businesses in his native country; Mohamed, a Politics and Geology double major from Guyana, has previous academic experience in social entrepreneurship at the United World College in Costa Rica; Lopez, a Biochemistry major from Mexico, offers a background in social justice and public health, and Shriner, a Biology major from Oregon, offers a scientific perspective on environmental sustainability.

This year's Hult Prize must meet the following challenge: Use a social entrepreneurship venture that will provide meaningful work for 10,000 youth within the next decade."

“We chose Ethiopia because unemployment is so high,” Mohamed says of the African nation where a staggering 10 percent of the world’s unemployment is located.

Quralew Co-op plans to pilot this venture in Hoseana, a city of about 105,000 people in southern Ethiopia where about 11 million kilograms of waste is generated annually. Of that waste, more than 80 percent is left uncollected each year, resulting in a public health crisis that is not being addressed, according to a 2014 research paper published in the American Journal of Environmental Engineering.

Earlham College has a rich history of engagement with the Hult Prize, including producing the grand prize winner in 2016. Every year, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation supports quarterfinal competitions on campus and funds travel for teams of students to compete in regional competitions around the world.

Quralew Co-op is one two Earlham teams are competing in regional competitions this year. The Mashinani Farmers Initiative, a social enterprise aiming to provide agricultural consulting services and access to major urban markets for small-scale farmers in rural Kenya, is in its second year of competition. At the Mexico City regional earlier this month, team members Daniel Kibet ’19, Summia Tora ’20 and Leonora Lomoki Akporyoe ’19 finished second out of 53 teams and will apply to the online round of competition seeking a wild card berth into the finals.

The Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation also supports the Earlham Prize for Creative Capitalism, a business plan competition on campus that awards a $20,000 grand prize. Quralew Co-op recently won the “Elevator Pitch Round” of this year’s competition.

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Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. We rank 7th nationally by Princeton Review for Best Classroom Experience and 22nd by U.S. News and World Report for commitment to undergraduate teaching.

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and zimmebr@earlham.edu.


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