The Yunus Challenge

The Yunus challenge was launched in December 2006 in collaboration with the MIT International Development Initiative. Every year the Yunus Challenge focuses on a different problem faced by some of the poorest communities in the world in an effort to bring these problems to the forefront of the academic community. Areas covered are drinking water, fuel efficiency, sanitary health & hygiene, de-worming and other affordable consumer products.

Support to tackle the challenge is given through Public Service Fellowships, the MIT IDEAS Competition, and the innovative D-Lab service learning course. The IDEAS Competition team with the best solution will win the Yunus Challenge award at the Competition awards ceremony in May each year and when possible, Dr Yunus will try to present the award in person. The next one is possibly 3rd May 2010.

Future challenges will be informed by and build on the growing partnerships between developing country organizations and parts of the MIT community, including Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab and the International Development Initiative.

How it works:

  • The IDEAS Competition kicks-off in October.
  • Students can submit initial proposals each month from then through to March.
  • Final entries come in mid April and are judged early May.
  • The teams then have 15 months in which to spend their awards.

The Challenge is also supported by the Fellowships, Internships, and Grants programs which typically send students to work on their projects over the summer or the January break, although it would be possible for students to receive support to work on their projects at MIT during the semester.

Applications for these programs are received from the middle of each semester. The classes that tackle the Yunus Challenge run both semesters and also have a major fieldwork component during the January break. Some students can also travel with support from these classes over the summer. It's a pretty continuous process.

Currently, there are discussions underway that could expand the Yunus Challenge to include Cambridge University in the UK. This may be done in conjunction with the "Engineers without borders" branch at the university.

The best way to get updates is by this live website:

Past events and subsequent winners

2006 TB Challenge

In the same competition, Jose Gomez-Marquez, who was a key member of one of the first IDEAS Yunus Challenge winning teams (New DOTS/XOutTB) and who is now a member of the IDI staff at MIT was named Humanitarian of the Year by the magazine Technology Review:

2007 Indoor Air Pollution Challenge
2009 Energy Storage Challenge
IDEAS Global Challenge

In its basic conception, this is a web-based mechanism to enable the global MIT community, particularly alumni, to get involved in the IDEAS Competition. Using this mechanism, MIT alumni around the world will be able to network and take part in IDEAS as mentors, team members, and sources of information on community issues and resources. We are interested in the idea of extending this concept to also enable cross-institutional collaboration between MIT and Cambridge on the Yunus Challenges. tellyseries