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Strengthening Disaster Resilience: The 2021 HUMLOG Challenge

Thirty days after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, less than 500 damaged roofs had been covered with blue tarp, though an estimated 30,000 installations were needed. The already catastrophic loss was made considerably worse because of the additional damage, including rot and mold, which could have been prevented. In 2020, Puerto Rico was hit again by Hurricane Isaias and had barely escaped Tropical Storm Elsa in the last few days.

A year later, the southern Indian state of Kerala received four months of rain in just two and half months. The devastating floods caused by the rain could have been avoided had dam operators released water at an earlier time when the area was relatively dry. Floods are the most common disaster in India. A study that looked at the 65 years between 1952 and 2018 concluded that “there was not a single year when floods didn’t impact the country with significant losses to lives and property.”

Australia experienced the worst bushfire season on record in 2019-2020. More than 15,000 fires destroyed 11.46 million hectares across the country. The capital area reported an air quality index 23 times higher than what’s considered “hazardous,” creating serious health threats for thousands of vulnerable people. And, according the World Wildlife Fund, nearly three billion animals were killed or displaced.

In February this year, the power grid in the U.S. state of Texas collapsed in the wake of an extraordinary winter storm. That was followed by the failure of its water systems. As many as 4.5 million people were left without power and nearly half the state’s 26 million people were under a boil-water order. People fled the state, risking covid infection. Hotel rates and gas prices spiked.

Think Europe is off the hook? A recent study stated that “Europe’s north will struggle with floods and fires” and the “south will be hammered by drought, urban heat and agricultural decline,” according to this provocative article published in Politico. The list can go on—earthquakes in Turkey and Chile, cyclones and volcanoes in the Philippines, flash floods in Indonesia, droughts across Southern Africa, and so much more.

Major hazards constantly threaten our communities, and climate change and population growth will only accelerate and exacerbate the threats. Yet, as these examples (and the Covid-19 pandemic) show, it is not easy to respond effectively and recover quickly from disasters. It is important to learn from our experiences, identify potential problems in advance, and develop and deploy workable solutions.

That is why this year’s HUMLOG Challenge focuses on Community Disaster Resilience, hosted in partnership with the HUMLOG Institute at the Hanken School of Economics. The main objective is to identify important problems and crowdsource solutions to reduce the potential impact of humanitarian crises, especially on the vulnerable communities who tend to disproportionately be affected by disasters. In the process, The HUMLOG Challenge provides meaningful experiential learning opportunities and global experiences for business school and university students worldwide.

We conducted The HUMLOG Challenge for the first time last year, with 420 students in 113 teams from 38 schools in 21 countries addressing local medical and food supply chain issues. The top three teams offered a water supply solution for La Guajira, Colombia, a covid testing solution in Vienna, Austria, and a PPE shortage solution in Harris County, Texas. This year’s challenge will be even bigger—with more teams representing more countries—and will encourage cross-border collaborations between teams working on similar challenges and engagement in the broader community on the GBSN Localized space. In addition, students that participate in the educational experiences and complete the challenge will be eligible for a GBSN certificate of achievement. And remember, there are much more opportunities offered to students in the Learners Track, one of three tracks offered by GBSN Beyond in October. These three parallel track will lead up to the Virtual Conference November 15-17. Similar to last year, in order to make GBSN Beyond more inclusive and accessible, schools pay one low registration fee for an unlimited number of student teams, faculty participants, and leaders to engage with GBSN Beyond. Early Bird registration is open now. More information can be found at www.gbsn.org/beyond.

Dan LeClair


Dan LeClair is CEO of the Global Business School Network (GBSN). Widely recognized as a thought leader in management education, Dan is the author of over 80 research reports, articles, and blogs, and has delivered more than 170 presentations in 30 countries. As a lead spokesperson for reform and innovation in management education, Dan has been frequently cited in a wide range of US and international newspapers, magazines, and professional publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Times, China Daily, Forbes, Fast Company, and The Economist.