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Manas Punhani

Manas Punhani ’21 Wins Reimagine Challenge 2020 Global Competition

Second-year MBA student Manas Punhani’s proposed learning platform for marginalized migrant and refugee communities hit hard by the pandemic was among 20 innovative ideas honored with the prize.

By Karen Guzman

A Yale School of Management student proposal to create a learning platform for the marginalized migrant and refugee communities hit hardest by the COVD-19  pandemic has won the Reimagine Challenge 2020 Global Competition

Manas Punhani ’21 is one of 20 students selected as winners of the annual competition, which solicits fresh ideas on how to improve the world through science and technology. “I’m thrilled,” Punhani said. “The Reimagine Challenge gave me an opportunity to rethink the economic and social fragilities that affect us, and look past temporary, stop-gap solutions.”

Punhani’s project envisions a learning platform that would enable migrant and refugee communities to access globally accredited certifications and degree-granting programs, by mobilizing professional-development resources and permitting migrant payments to be drawn from future income. 

The Reimagine Challenge is hosted by Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt. Eric Schmidt served as Google’s CEO and chairman from 2001 to 2011, and later served as the company’s executive chairman and technical advisor. 

Winning students receive a $25,000 tuition scholarship, and the university where they’re currently enrolled receives a matching grant. The winners’ proposals are published in an online anthology.

For the challenge, participants had to craft a proposal to respond to one of two prompts. One asks for proposals aimed at helping communities hit hardest by the pandemic; the other solicits ideas on how to spark a global movement capable of motivating one million people to work together to make the world “meaningfully better” within 10 years.

Judging criteria included a proposal’s effectiveness, innovativeness, feasibility, ability to measure impact, inclusiveness, and measures to ensure that people act on the suggestion in ethical ways.

Two of the winners of this year’s Reimagine Challenge are Yale students; the other winner was Yale College senior Phyllis Mugadza, who is also working toward a Master of Public Health degree in the Healthcare Management program, a partnership between the Yale School of Public Health and SOM.

Punhani said that the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled societies to ask themselves difficult questions: “Why do our systems create such immense inequality? What can we do about our shredded social safety nets and what, or who, is deemed as essential?

“As the grandson of immigrants, and given my past experience working with migrant workers in Singapore, I focused my efforts on this direction,” he said. “I hope the ideas generated through this challenge are a step towards creating a better, more just world.”

Listen to an audio version of Manas Punhani’s proposal.