2023 Competition Roadmap

Your Challenge:

The global sustainability crisis requires innovative solutions that promote human flourishing without compromising the natural systems upon which we depend. For this competition, you will rise to this challenge by developing an innovative plan or solution that promotes one or more of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while taking account of other relevant SDGs. In doing so, you will address a particular sustainability problem or challenge which could be at a local, regional, national, or international level anywhere in the world. Your plan or solution could be a program for a government or private entity, proposal, product or service, system, business plan, event, social media platform, app, game, law, organization, educational initiative, or something else. Your plan or solution must be presented in the form of a fact sheet.

We welcome submissions from individuals and teams from all participating universities and colleges. Students from other universities or colleges may serve as members of teams that enter the competition provided the lead student is enrolled at a participating college or university. (For more details see “Competition Rules: Eligibility”). The participating universities and colleges in 2023 are University of Birmingham; International Humanitarian University, Odessa, Ukraine; University of Illinois, Chicago; University of Illinois, Springfield; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; University of Johannesburg (to be confirmed); University of Pretoria; Vienna University of Economics and Business; Waubonsee Community College; Zhejiang University. To repeat, undergraduate students from any university or college may serve as members of teams led by students from participating institutions. 

How to Enter:

The first step is to register your team (beginning NOW). As you research and develop your idea, you must seek the advice of a specialist to research and refine your concept. You will express your idea in a compelling fact sheet. Presentations by finalist teams will be evaluated by the finalist judges.

Application Cycle

RegisterOct. 9, 2023 | 11:59PM CT
Seek the Advice of a SpecialistOct. 22, 2023 | 11:59PM CT
Submit a Fact SheetNov. 19, 2023 | 11:59PM CT

Finalists Cycle

Finalists NotifiedNovember 25
Finalists prepare their presentationsNovember 26-December 1
Awards Ceremony (in-person or virtual, TBA)December 2 | 9:00AM CT


  • Top Prize (1 winner): $2000
  • Second prize (2 winners): $1000
  • Third prize (3 winners): $500
  • $500 award by the UIUC Center for Global Studies for the best submission on climate change.
  • $500 will be awarded to the team that has made the most progress towards implementing their idea in practice. (For example, you might build a prototype, engage in a field trial, discuss your idea with companies in the market, or develop a business plan.)
  • $500 for the team with the most multi-disciplinary idea. (Sustainability challenges are inherently complex and interconnected. This award is for the submission that most effectively integrates knowledge from multiple disciplines or fields.)
  • Professor Mike Yao (UIUC College of Media and the UIUC Gies College of Business) will guide two or three of the winning teams in identifying viable pathways for further idea development and assist them in securing appropriate resources for their specific projects.
  • Depending on sponsor support, other awards such as internships may be available.
  • Participants will improve their career prospects by interacting with sustainability professionals in industry, consulting firms, government, or academia.


  • Everyone who enters the competition must review, acknowledge, and agree to the competition rules.

Judging Criteria:

All entries will be evaluated in terms of the five criteria below for a maximum overall score of 60 points:

Point ValueCriteriaDescription
0-20 Novelty An original (new, fresh, innovative, ground-breaking) idea or synthesis of existing ideas into a new strategy that creatively advances one or more of the SDGs. Winning submissions will have that elusive “wow factor,” eliciting feelings of excitement and admiration! (These are projects that the judges would like to recommend to the Gates Foundation for funding!)
0-10 Feasibility A convincing case is made for implementability. Implementation might rely on, say, existing or new technology; proven or new social organizations, markets, or science.
0-10 Scalability/ReplicabilityThe idea can be scaled up and widely replicated.
0-10 Connection to SDGsThe analysis takes account of all relevant SDGs, of the ways in which they are relevant, and of the relationships among them as they pertain to the chosen sustainability problem.
0-10 Compelling CommunicationThe submission is written with clarity, is visually engaging, and is easy to follow. The submission has a powerful and compelling narrative.