Design to Nurture the Planet

New student competition with the prize pot of €25,000 aspires to help end hunger

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International think-tank BE OPEN and Cumulus Global Association of Art and Design Education and Research announce the start of a student competition Design to Nurture the Planet to support the sustainability goals, set by the UN states as a call for action to the whole planet.

The competition programme is open for students in design, art, and media who are encouraged to submit ideas and projects that focus on SDG2: Zero Hunger. Under the umbrella of zero hunger, SDG2 is not only about ending hunger, but also achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture. The competition expects to see hundreds of innovative solutions that can contribute to how we transform our food systems to end food insecurity and create better conditions for an equitable and environmentally prosperous world.

The Founder of BE OPEN, a Forbes-listed businessperson and philanthropist Elena Baturina agreed to talk about the competition and her vision of why creative action is so important to achieve a better future.

Why SDG02 was chosen as a focus for the competition?

I am afraid that the urgency of achieving food security is immediate and vital. The number of people who suffer from hunger and undernourishment is on the rise. In the last two years, the COVID-19 global pandemic has accelerated the problem for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable groups. Hunger is the leading cause of death in the world. And we need to realize that it’s not about resources, our planet provides us with plenty – it’s about how we use them. If we promote sustainable agriculture with modern technologies and fair distribution systems, we can sustain the whole world’s population and make sure that nobody will ever suffer from hunger again.

Why do you put so much faith in design and creativity as a means of solving this problem?

From designing new irrigation devices and urban water-saving facilities to developing educational programmes about farming, recycling, and proper nutrition, food security requires a multi-dimensional approach to truly transform food systems to achieve a more inclusive and sustainable world. It requires unconventional and sustainable solutions for not just quantitative, but qualitative progress. Developing these solutions requires design thinking, in-depth research and analysis, creative use of multifunctional components, and the application of ecological and sustainable design principles.

What do you think students, albeit the most creative ones can do about it?

Every time we run a design student competition, we are deeply impressed, without fail, by the participants’ hard work, commitment, and creativity. Each competition is an incredible journey that brings us to the most stunning results of dozens and dozens of carefully researched beautifully designed projects. They are capable of developing desperately needed ideas that we hope will inspire actual change very soon. Each of the submissions has the best of humanity at heart, strives to make a real difference for us all, and therefore deserves to be applauded and celebrated in every possible way.

What is the best way to motivate students to get involved and participate?

Well, the money pot would be the most obvious option, wouldn’t it? Thanks to our partnership with Cumulus, this year the prizes are quite impressive: the First prize of €10,000; the Second prize of €6,000; the Third prize of €4,000; there are also BE OPEN Founder’s Choice prize of €3,000 and the Public Vote prize of €2,000.

But I genuinely believe that money is not the main motivation behind any kind of creativity, and especially behind developing innovative solutions that can contribute to food security and therefore to a more prosperous, healthier, and happier world.

Do you plan to hold any celebrations for the winners, the jury, and all those involved?

Unfortunately, COVID-19 made it impossible to celebrate the winners of the last competition, as we planned it at a festive awards ceremony together with Cumulus. We have not abandoned our intention though; we will have an international celebration as soon as an offline gathering is a safe option again.

How else has COVID affected BE OPEN’s work and plans?

The pandemic made the topics of the SDG-focused competitions much more important and urgent. We encourage young designers to invest their creativity into reflecting on how everyday reality can be made safer in such extreme circumstances as the global pandemic. Seeking sustainable solutions for global issues are more important than ever, and to highlight this urgency, we promote the UN SDGs among younger generations.

What’s next for you and BE OPEN?

Despite the unstable situation internationally, BE OPEN intends to continue working to promote people and ideas able to transform the world for the better, with competitions among other things. We do not intend to stop, as we are positive that creativity, or as we call it design-thinking, is integral in the shift to a sustainable and circular future.

Like everyone else, I am a child of the earth. I love my animals, and I love the environment. As modernization pushes us forward and introduces us to an exciting new world filled with advanced technology, it is easy to forget about.

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