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just IMAGINE if... 2022: Ideas to Solve Global Challenges

New Ideas. Where do they come from?  When we have a new one, why hasn’t anyone thought of it before?  How is it that some develop into reality and others don’t? Is it possible to solve global problems without new ideas becoming reality?  I don’t think so, and so they fascinate me.


I find it mind blowing that a new idea, never before thought, can evolve into a new thing because someone has the imagination and ingenuity to make it so: and so create an invention or innovation that has the power in itself to improve the world. 


Was the person who first invented the wheel, the first to have the idea of a wheel? If not, why did the wheel inventor succeed where the wheel dreamer did not?  What skills, support or collaboration did the inventor have that made all the difference? These were the type of questions buzzing around my mind when I had the idea for a competition about ideas, to help more of them have a chance to improve the world by becoming a reality.


That’s when just IMAGINE if... was born. A unique innovation and social enterprise competition designed to find business ideas to help address our global problems.


Our 2020 competition, disrupted by the global COVID pandemic, was re-imagined and re-launched, and wow, has it been worth it! Our 10 just IMAGINE if… finalists come from 5 continents and were selected out of over 350 entrants.  Each has a brilliant, sustainable, business-model driven idea to address one of the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals, each is looking to win £100,000 worth of support from Durham University and our sponsorship partners, each is already imaging a world better because of their idea.


The last few weeks have seen intensive support to all 10 finalists from Durham Business School, Durham City Incubator, one-on-one mentors and our other partners.  All are about to travel to Durham University for the final pitches and presentations on 24 March  when the winner will be decided.


Our finalists’ ideas, each already progressed to a product in development or in the market, range from carbon negative concrete to algorithms tackling discrimination and biases in AI models, from managing food or plastic waste across fish feed, aggregate, shoes and biofuels to increasing yields of crops in challenging environments, and from sustainable alternatives to animal leather to affordable housing for communities in crisis. Each will present their work succinctly and persuasively and each could easily win the top prize. 



Listening to our finalists and the commonality of the business ideas coming from their own experiences, I realised that the best ideas come from real lived experience of a problem. From that point, any idea then has the potential to change the world, it just needs the right support behind it and right measure of success to focus upon.


Seeing these diverse ideas, born from unique lived experiences yet united by common ingenuity, it is clear that the power of learning by listening and of putting yourself in other people’s shoes is really, really powerful and we look forward to accelerating their ability to do this in Durham at our final. Our finalists will join us from across the world: from India to the US, from Kenya to the UK and lots of places in between, yet each will listen to their fellow finalists’ stories, ideas and actions and each will learn more about themselves and their idea, as well as connecting to people with similar mindsets but with different problems to solve. Suddenly the world will seem smaller, and the problems we all face more solvable.


just IMAGINE if… not only helps ideas become reality; but also helps us to understand different perspectives by seeding new ideas and connecting the communities of can-do people across the world. Now that’s an idea I hadn’t thought of before...


We really look forward to welcoming our just IMAGINE if… 2022 finalists to Durham, next week, on 24th March.



Meet the finalists: