Stop the Traffik's chief executive Ruth Dearnley with members of the winning team Umoja

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Students from Harvard Kennedy School in the US, Oxford’s Saïd Business School and Spain’s IE won this year’s FT MBA challenge for their plan to market an app to report suspected human trafficking. Team Umoja focused the campaign on South Africa due to its reputation as a trafficking hotspot.

Stop the Traffik, the contest’s sponsor and this year’s FT Seasonal Appeal partner, had set the task to raise awareness of the NGO’s new smartphone app, which collects data on the criminal trade of people for forced labour or sexual exploitation.

Ruth Dearnley, Stop the Traffik’s chief executive, praised the campaign, which was developed over Skype calls and emails by a team of eight students working across three continents, at the prizegiving ceremony on Wednesday.

“What we liked was that they had ideas that you could put into practice immediately, so we have nobbled some of them,” she said.

Umoja’s plans included encouraging audiences to engage with the app through social media and gamification strategies. The idea of focusing on South Africa came about because two of Umoja’s members were on overseas assignments in the country as part of their degree courses.

Judges were also impressed by the idea of partnering with Vodacom, South Africa’s mobile phone carrier, and the rigorous research that underpinned the award entry.

“It seemed to be sprinkled with good ideas throughout,” according to one judge. Marks were also awarded for the presentation, which the judges said felt like a true team performance.

All the participants in the FT’s 2016 MBA Challenge had to collaborate remotely over a period of five months and then submit a 12-page proposal to a panel of four judges.

The practical and innovative nature of Umoja’s pitch gave it an edge over the two other teams of finalists, Eureka! and Race Against the TraffiCK, according to the judges.

Eureka!, which gained the runners-up prize for a team drawn from schools in Canada, Singapore, France and the UK, was praised for its good strategic analysis and campaign ideas. Race Against the TraffiCK, in third place, with students from Cass and Kellogg on the team, was picked out for its astute critique of the existing Stop the Traffik website.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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