After making it to the final round of six, a group of business school classmates on Saturday took home the $1 million Hult Prize, beating more than 20,000 applicants in an attempt to present a real-world solution to this problem: How can early childhood education be improved for 10 million children under age 6 in urban slums by 2020? Calling themselves Team IMPCT, the students from the National Chengchi University in Taiwan proposed investing in existing informal day care centers many women in the developing world already run out of their own homes by extending access to low-cost capital via micro equity, they report on Indiegogo. "This concept is so powerful because it means the profits generated by the schools can be reinvested into growth or increasing quality instead of being used to cover interest payments for loans," they write.
Investors will receive a portion of the day care centers' profits as a dividend, which they can use to reinvest in other projects, enabling a "sustainable investment cycle." The team has already built a test center in El Salvador with the help of an NGO that specializes in transitional housing and the $58,000 they raised on Indiegogo. NPR reports the caregiver they partnered with had previously watched four children in La Cuchilla; she received education-related training and now runs a newly built center with 20 students who still pay only $2 a day. The $1 million prize money will go in part to launching at minimum six more pilot schools; each will require an estimated $8,000 to jump-start, with the goal being 30,000 schools by 2020. "Meeting Bill Clinton and winning a million dollars felt amazing," one teammate says. "But the feeling when we went into school the first day [earlier this month] and saw kids learning that wouldn't have had the opportunity otherwise felt even better." (See who else firmly believes in investing in early education.)