AIM shines at UN Breakthrough Innovation Challenge 2017

I was rushing a WAC for our Financial Analysis and Planning class when the alarm rang. It was 12:00 a.m. and I needed to prepare for our trip to New York. My group agreed to meet at the AIM lobby at exactly 1:00 a.m. to get to the airport two hours before our boarding time. I was sleepy but time was of the essence and so I had to set aside rest. I looked at the list of things to bring, which I copied from my roommate Jeremy, who also went with us, but  I missed my phone charger. I unzipped my luggage and chucked it all in. All was set, I thought. Then I went to the elevator and headed to the 2nd floor to say goodbye to MK before going to the ground floor where a group of familiar faces greeted me. We are ready.


Nineteen hours, three full meals, and a couple of snacks later, we finally arrived at the John F. Kennedy Airport. I looked at my phone and it said September 19, 10:45 PM but it was bright outside. A lady, who looked calm and collected with a bit of gray hair styled well, welcomed us. She was Ms. Tin, Asst. Dean Mela’s cousin. We rode the AirTrain to New York City proper, and as I looked out the window I saw houses similar to what I see in New Manila (near Cubao in Quezon City). The outskirts of New York City looked and felt like a mix of Subic and Quezon City—different yet oddly familiar.


I forgot the station where we got off but it was near the Central Park. We counted off to make sure we’re complete: Prashant, Crystal, and I —3 from Team Cultivate; Saksham, and Jon—2 from Team Puweblo; Jeremy, Dongwei, and Emil—3 from Team Bayanihan; Prof. Matthew, Ms. Mela, and Ms. Tin. Eleven, we we’re complete. As we walked to get to the place we rented on 10th ave, via Airbnb, most of my teammates were taking pictures of the buildings trying to pierce the sky; the sidewalks filled with people shopping excitedly; and the strip of restaurants beckoning us to eat. We were finally here in the concrete jungle where dreams are made of. After minutes of walking, we arrived at the place where we were supposed to stay for the entire trip. We bought some grocery items before going through the four flights of stairs, dropped our bags and rested. We then went straight to Times Square. What a way to get ready for what was about to come.


The UN Breakthrough Innovation Challenge (BIC) is a way for the United Nations to involve corporations and schools around the globe to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through UN Global Compact, companies were invited to share the challenges and problems they encounter related to the SDGs. They shared these challenges to schools worldwide, through UN PRME (Principles for Responsible Management Education), which AIM is part of, and sought ways to create business models out of these challenges.

BIC was launched earlier this year and the results were released in May. Out of 130 teams who participated around the world, only 7 were chosen – one for each company who participated. Three of the seven winners came from AIM, which is almost 50% of the winning teams. Winners were awarded a full-night accommodation at Hilton Midtown Hotel and the chance to work with their respective companies to refine and improve the business model and present it at the UN Leaders Summit, which why we came to New York City.

The following are the three AIM teams which won the competition:


Led by Jeremy Bedano (MIB), with members Emil Tanchico (MBA), and Dongwei Tan (MDM), the team proposed to develop a platform that will foster information-sharing and feedback to enhance the livelihood of the consultants of Natura. Natura is a Brazilian company that manufactures beauty products (these products are then marketed by consultants in Latin American countries like Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru).



Team Cultivate’s proposal included a commission-based business model, enabling locals to teach sustainable agricultural practices and introduce new technologies through the use of mobile phones. This is in response to Braskem’s concern of increasing the output of small holder farms. Braskem is the largest petrochemical company in Latin America. The team was composed of MIB team leader Leonard Cruz (me), and members Crystal Anievas (MDM), and Prashant Verma (MBA).



Team Poweblo which is a duo composed of MIB team leader Jon de Omana, together with Saksham Kumar (MBA 2017) aimed to address Iberdrola’s challenge of providing people access to clean and affordable energy. This will enable the electric utility company, which is based in Spain, to use smart technologies to share and sell renewable energy between homes.


We all learned a lot from this competition and central to my learning is the value of collaboration in trying to solve real world challenges. By organizing the competition, the UN emphasized the importance of collaboration due to the increasing complexities of our present situation. Without collective action, the Sustainable Development Goals will not be realized.

By participating in this global event, we met new people, learned from their experiences, and enhanced our social and networking skills. More importantly, the event was an avenue for real life application of all the learning in the classroom—a praxis for all of us.


I woke up at the sound of the alarm. It is the last day of our New York trip. It wasn’t all work though. We had time to visit famous landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and the Museum of Modern Art. The trip was productive, insightful, and inspiring. We were given the rare opportunity to learn, contribute something positive, while having a bit of fun.

Words by Leonard Cruz (MIB 2017)

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