On 22 March, World Water Day, it was all hands on deck for the 11 Changemaker Challenge finalists competing for the prize of € 3,000. Because the sizzling final was battled out aboard the Pasaat sailing vessel! Perfectly peacefully, of course.
‘Win € 3,000 to support your ground-breaking research about water & waste, for example, to develop your own prototype, or a Hollywood film about your findings (with Scarlett Johansson playing the lead)’. This was our appeal to Dutch universities at the end of last year as we went in search of ambitious master’s students who wanted to finish their studies with popping corks rather than a lukewarm pint. And evidently, there were quite a few! We received over 50 registrations in our virtual post box, of which twenty were selected for the semi-final in February. It was a challenging task, so we left it to a jury: they had to select the ten best candidates from the potential Changemakers. And so it came that there were twenty-two hands on deck for the final on 21 March. Because such was the talent, that an eleventh finalist was included as a wild card.
‘Keep your friends close and your enemies closer’, a wise man once said. Therefore, but mainly because it is inspiring and fun, the evening before the final was dominated by introductions. The finalists were all at sea. Jury member Bahram assured the students that ‘there is always someone who is interested in your story’, Ricky argued in favour of the necessity of challenges in life, and Eric offered a golden tip for writer’s block: go and have coffee with someone who is smarter than you are. Against all odds, the conversation flowed more freely than the wine and the evening ended at a godly hour. Simply because D-Day was set to start at an ungodly hour: sunrise!
After a breath-taking sunrise, mudflat hiking and full lunch, the tense faces gave away the next part of the programme: the pitches! One by one, the Changemakers were given one minute in which to convince the cabin of their trailblazing research. From drinking water provisions in the Colombian desert, we moved on to the cultivation of rainwater in Bangladesh and the sewers of Kampala to arrive at the litter in the canals of Amsterdam. Jury members Bahram, Merijn Tinga and Merijn Everaarts subjected the ambitious finalists to critical questioning and evaluated the pitches primarily against impact, relevance, feasibility, presentation and long-term vision. After the presentations, the gents really had to roll up their sleeves. There was quite a tug-of-war aboard the Pasaat, but ultimately, the jury was unanimous: all 11 finalists were Changemakers. Since they were hauled aboard for a reason, the jury was kind enough to compile a top 3. To loud applause, Brigit, Eric and Gayathri each received a cheque for € 3,000. Not to produce a film of their research featuring Scarlett Johanssen, but for their research into a super-mushroom that cleans pollutants, a method for detecting antibiotics, and research into the incidence of microplastics at the start of the food chain respectively. No need to walk the plank thus!
Want to know more about the 11 Changemakers? View their ideas here!