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The Ideas for Action Initiative is a competition in its first year that was created through a partnership between the World Bank Group and the Zicklin Cente

Photo: Courtesy of Creative Commons

One Wharton competition links students from Penn and beyond directly with the World Bank.

The Ideas for Action Initiative is a competition in its first year that was created through a partnership between the World Bank Group and the Zicklin Center, which is part of Wharton's Legal Studies Department.

I4A asks youths ages 18-35, in teams of two to five, from all over the world to submit proposals with their ideas for financing solutions to deliver the post-2015 development agenda — namely the Sustainable Development Goals, which are set to replace the Millennium Development Goals at the end of 2015.

The Initiative was spearheaded by Wharton senior fellow, Legal Studies professor and World Bank advisor Djordjija Petkoski.

Petkoski said that the idea for the competition stemmed from his own personal experiences and passions, particularly through his work at the World Bank and engaging in several large initiatives with youth in countries like the former Yugoslavia, Russia and the Philippines.

“There is a lot of this conversation related to the post-2015 development agenda that will change the way governments and companies and NGOs operate,” Petkoski said. "Two areas have not been properly addressed: the role of the private sector and the role of young people.”

"I realized that we can better utilize [young people’s] enthusiasm for higher impact, and at the same time provide opportunities for [youth] to learn," he added.

Petkoski emphasized the “action” element of the competition.

“It needs the angle of implementation,” he said. “We didn’t want the participants to be driven by money, but by interest in impact. The awards are opportunities to further develop their ideas working together with experts in the field — people from the World Bank or the corporate sector.”

Specifically, winners will have the opportunity to present their proposals to leaders at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank — to “have the opportunity to impact the broader development agenda,” Petkoski said.

Over the past year, a small team of undergraduate and graduate Penn students have joined Petkoski in working on the social media and promotion of the competition, as well as on the first-round judging of the submissions.

College and Wharton junior Debi Ogunrinde joined Petkoski’s I4A team this past semester.

“I have been interested in international development for a while,” Ogunrinde said. “I did research in South Africa on post-colonial development the summer after freshman year … and am taking an economic development class in the Business Economics and Public Policy Department.”

The student team at Penn promoted the competition on campus by holding a case competition in conjunction with the Social Impact Advisory Board, Penn Society for International Development, Penn Social Entrepreneurship Movement and IMPACT Magazine. The proposals presented at the competition ranged from microfinance to mutual funds, and Ogunrinde praised the “very well researched” and “sophisticated” ideas that Penn students produced.

Ogunrinde was also one of the first-round judges for the I4A applications submitted in French, as applications could be submitted in any language.

“A lot of ideas that stood out as best and most feasible were the most simple. Even if you don’t have breadth of knowledge, depth is still really important,” she said.

Ogunrinde said that she has made personal gains from participating in the administrative side of I4A.

“I am learning about how large organizations deal with development,” she said. “It’s an iterative process. They are constantly improving ideas. Just looking at different ideas proposed from different geographies, it is clear that there are so many different ways to approach the same problem.”

Ogunrinde also mentioned that there were a few submissions from Penn students, and that she herself would submit a proposal if she came up with an idea.

One of the judges for the final round of I4A is President of PepsiCo Latin America Beverages Luis Montoya, who was invited by Petkoski to partake in the competition.

"Being a judge at Ideas for Action is a great opportunity to contribute with private sector real life experiences. It can also give me ideas on new approaches and shed some light on a few of [PepsiCo’s] own challenges,” Montoya said.

Montoya agreed with Petkoski in the importance of engaging young people in the implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals.

“I think young people bring the freshness of ideas. [Young people] also have the energy and the passion to support their points of view, and that translates into the proposals,” Montoya said.

The finalists of the competition will be announced by the end of April.

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