IDS students win Pitch for the Planet prize

Published on 27 August 2021

A group of IDS and SPRU students have been awarded a cash investment to develop a sustainable behaviour and gamification project that will help the University of Sussex to realise it’s Sustainable Sussex strategy.

(Left to right) Rei Hirayama, Stefania Pappalardo, Younes Labbar, Marisol Delgado, Leyla Khademibami, Zoe Hua. Photo credit: Su Myat

The Pitch for the Planet event was held on 27 July at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts. The event was hosted by The Independent’s Climate Change Correspondent, Daisy Dunne and watched by a live and online audience.

Four shortlisted student teams from across the University of Sussex and IDS vied for a share of a £20,000 cash prize (sponsored by the Higher Education Innovation Fund) to realise their vision of a sustainable project, that will be implemented on campus in the next academic year.

Their innovative ideas included proposals for vertical gardens which significantly reduced water usage, sustainable fashion events and an organic food waste system which provided protein-rich food supplies to local food producers.

The proposals were delivered to a panel of judges comprising of:

  • Ella Daish – founder of an award-winning campaign to remove plastic from menstrual products.
  • Cemal Ezel – founder and CEO at multi-award-winning social enterprise Change Please which trains people who are homeless to be baristas.
  • Darren Tenkorang – University of Sussex Business School graduate and founder and CEO at tech-enabled mobile barbershop TRIM-IT. He was named Brighton entrepreneur of the year in 2016.
  • Adam Tickell – Vice Chancellor, University of Sussex.
  • Kelly Coate – Pro-Vice Chancellor – Education and Students, University of Sussex.

The panel chose four ideas, all of whom will receive a proportion of the £20,000 financial support available plus support from subject experts and start-up advisers to help successfully bring thier ideas to life.

Achieving sustainability through gamification

Marisol Delgado, Younes Labbar, Leyla Khademibami, Stefania Pappalardo, Rei Hirayama and Zoe Hua were awarded a prize for their winning proposal ‘Sustainable Rewards’ which gamifies sustainability on campus through a new sustainable behaviour change app.

Marisol, Leyla, Stefania, Rei and Zoe are all MA Development Studies students at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and Younes is studying for an MSc in Strategic Innovation Management at Sussex Policy Research Unit (SPRU).

Together, they proposed an app that would engage Sussex students with sustainability through behavioural change and gamification. The app will offer students and staff a list of sustainable challenges and learning experiences to materialize their will into a more social and environmentally sustainable life. For example, challenges might relate to more inclusive and equitable ways of networking; better ways for consuming consciously; and volunteer work to support sustainable intiatives. App users can earn points for every action taken, which can then be redeemed into rewards. The platform will also offer a ‘dashboard’ view of students’ individual and collective impact on the environment and the community.

The project will empower university staff to easily convert their sustainable initiatives into ‘gamifiable’ challenges and to follow-up on students’ engagement and impact. In the longer-term, insights from the app will be used to help the University evolve its strategy, promote research and inform data-driven decisions around sustainability in universities.

IDS master’s student, Marisol Delgada said:

“It has been a joy to work with such a diverse team on this endeavour. We are delighted to be winners of the Pitch for the Planet prize and we cannot wait to bring our project to life in the coming months.”

Key contacts

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Carol Smithyes

Senior Communications and Marketing Officer


+44 (0)1273 915638


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