This spring, a team of three Georgetown University students won the Accenture Innovation Challenge, an elite nationwide case competition for 1,375 students across 53 teams from universities and diversity partner organizations nationwide.

Anne Botos (B’20), Sarah Pavlak (B’19), and Suraag Srinivas (SFS’20) progressed through three rounds of the competition before winning the final round on April 13, beating out Wharton, Notre Dame, and UCLA. The team received $5,000 in prize money as well as summer internships with Accenture, a leading professional services firm.

The Accenture Innovation Challenge, which began in 2012, is an annual case competition for college students to create an innovative proposal solving a real challenge of a nonprofit organization. This year the competition benefited CARE USA, a nonprofit focused on fighting poverty and hunger in 94 countries, and its She Feeds the World project aimed at increasing access to agricultural inputs for women in developing countries. CARE USA sought assistance in creating a scalable pilot model for the initiative.

The team’s winning proposal detailed a three-tiered approach focused on awareness, development, and empowerment. The students ultimately strived to create an approach that would raise women's awareness of the opportunities within the agricultural industry, decrease cultural barriers to becoming main income earners, and help them to develop the skills necessary to succeed. The students planned to accomplish these goals and reach 1.7 million women globally in five years through strategies such as market trips, farmer-to-farmer ambassadors, and helping to increase access to seeds and microloans.

“The foundation of our solution was based on elements of CARE programs that we evaluated for feasibility and long-term impact. After selecting the ideas that we saw as having the best combination of these two elements, we did a lot of brainstorming, in which we came up with some really creative, original ideas that made our solution unique,” Botos said. “I believe it was the combination of methodical evaluation and outside-the-box creative thinking that made our solution so engaging.”

Some of their innovative ideas were inspired by Georgetown classes. For example, the market trips program was influenced by learning about Walmart’s logistics in Arthur Dong’s Strategic Management class in the McDonough School of Business.

Previous work experience also proved beneficial. “Having interned at a nonprofit before, I understand what it's like to always have more to do in the field and not enough time to do it,” Srinivas said.

The students are working full-time at Accenture this summer to implement their $70 million proposal with CARE USA and gain strategic consulting experience.

“It’s so amazing to be able to work for a company that encourages such creative ways of collaborating and thinking. The work we did in the Accenture Innovation Challenge prepared us well for a career with a professional services firm like Accenture,” Botos said.