A palpable tension is in the air in the hall of the Utrecht University on Thursday 9 February. However, this time the damp armpits and stressed little faces aren’t the result of any exams, but are caused by the breath-taking Changemaker Challenge semi-finals. During these semi-finals, twenty potential Changemakers cross swords in order to obtain one of the ten highly coveted places in the finals.
The twenty master students who made it to the semi-finals have been selected from the over 50 entries that were sent to the Dopper Foundation inbox earlier this year. The candidates originate from the Netherlands, Sudan, Indonesia, Colombia, Bangladesh and other countries, and are all students at a Dutch university. Their academic backgrounds are equally varied: from Industrial Design and Earth Sciences to Biotechnology and many other programmes we didn’t even know existed until recently. Our candidates may be highly diverse, but they are united by at least one common characteristic: They all have it in them to become a true changemaker.
Before the semi-finalists make it to the intellectual battlefield, they introduce themselves and their subjects to the visitors of the Sustainability Career Event that is hosting us. Presentations are held using posters made by the candidates themselves. Having a poster to offer assistance turns out to be far from superfluous, because the subjects that these master students are looking to tackle are complex and highly ambitious. Birgit wants to use a super mushroom to filter toxins from our drinking water; Eric will trace antibiotics molecules in water by generating electronic fields; and Alejandro is determined to provide Colombian desert communities with fresh water by combining state-of-the-art technology with traditional knowledge… You’re probably not the only one that’s having trouble keeping up!
After the lunch break, the candidates quickly try to memorise some last icebreakers and wipe the sweat from their brows before it’s time for the semi-finals themselves. In a mere 2-minute pitch, the candidates will try to convince the jury that they deserve a € 3000 grant to do their ground-breaking research. The jury consists of Thomas van Thiel of By the Ocean We Unite, Francesca Miazzo of Wasted, the Plastic Mining Company’s Daniel Poolen, and Lonneke Craemers of the Dopper Foundation, and these experts have all kinds of critical questions. All twenty candidates have had their moment in the spotlight and can finally relax, and now it’s up to the jury to decide. Thomas is mostly looking for enthusiasm, Fransesca weighs how an idea will affect a community, Daniel puts the microscope to overall feasibility, and Lonneke considers passion and impact to be the most important factors. After long deliberations, the jury finally manages to select the ten best contenders. These potential changemakers will literally board the finale on the Passaat sailing vessel on 22 March.
Are you curious about who these finalists are? Check the Dopper website and Facebook