About the Challenge

The Ultimate Combination of a Case Competition and an Investment Proposal!

You get to choose the case and then propose a blended finance solution with impact!

Using blended finance and impact investing to address the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), if done correctly and inclusively, can drive social equity, social justice and economic mobility for underserved communities everywhere.

The Center for Sustainable Enterprise’s Launching Investment for Future Transformation (LIFT) with Bank of America calls on students from around the world to develop blended finance and impact investing strategies for triple bottom line sustainability that drive social equity and economic mobility. 

Create a team of 3-5 students and submit your best blended finance solution for a chance to win a share of $15,000 in prizes, make powerful connections, and help change the world.


Question: What is blended finance?

Answer: We have a more technical and detailed answer for you on our resources page and on this introduction page. But all you need to know, in order to get started, is that blended finance can be a combination of public/government financing and sometimes philanthropy for big sustainability projects that help reduce risk in order to make it more attractive to private capital to join based on its risk/return preferences.

Q: Can you provide us with some examples?

A: Absolutely! We have a number of examples, organized by Sustainable Development Goal, here. Peruse these and use them as guides for your solution!

Q: What if I don’t know anything about blended finance?

A: That’s OK, we don’t expect you to know. We created this so that students can learn about it by applying the concepts to something they care about. In fact, that’s why we will provide coaching sessions and work with you to help you learn about blended finance.

Q: How much time will this take?

A: You can start by joining us for a LIFT workshop: times and dates are TBD. Email us using if you are interested. Also, you can work on it as much as you want. But you can also treat this like a case competition where you get a case on Thursday and present a solution by Saturday or Sunday. In fact, we will schedule an optional LIFT Hackathon for LIFT registrants in December or January, where you can attend information sessions about blended finance, ask questions and get some coaching on different aspects of your proposal. You can even use the LIFT Hackathon as your launch pad to a weekend working on your idea with your team.

Q: Do I have to be a business student?

A: No, any undergraduate or graduate student team can enter. We want to learn about everyone’s ideas!

The Timeline

Register using the form linked here.

Below are the steps to follow after you register. Have fun!

Step 1: Submit a Concept Note (As Soon As You Can)

  • Create a team of three to five students.
  • Choose one or multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) you want to address.
  • You can pick a challenge/opportunity anywhere you want: locally and close to home, regionally or globally to facilitate. This can be for a proposed initiative, an existing initiative, an existing organization or a group of stakeholders/organizations. We welcome collaboration between students and organizations – it is a perfect opportunity to gain experience, work together and solve real issues!
  • Submit a two or three paragraph concept note. We do not use your concept not for judging, only to match you with coaching and learning opportunities relative to your general idea. We will accept registration/concept notes on a rolling basis. You can also register and find more details about the concept note on the “Student Interest” page.

Step 2: Create and Submit Your Proposal (by Jan. 20, 2022)

Develop your proposal and submit it by January 20, 2022. As soon as you have registered and submitted your concept note, you will receive a link to start your submission, which will provide detailed guidance. Your proposal will consist of:

  • A new, required three paragraph summary of your proposal.
  • A required presentation slide deck up to 25 slides.
  • An optional two page narrative describing the proposal.
  • An optional spreadsheet illustrating financial and impact details of the proposal.

Step 3: The Finals (Feb. 10 – 11)

If your team makes it to the finals, you will be invited to pitch live to panels of judges virtually (online) February 10 and 11, 2021.

More Background: The Objective

We invite your student team to pitch an idea in line with the UN SDGs, and identify untapped opportunities and bridge gaps to solve social inequities and create opportunities for economic mobility.  There is no single path in the fight for social justice and equitable economic opportunity. The world needs ideas for all sectors, topics and regions. So no matter where you’re from, teams can pitch solutions for high-income countries, low-income countries, and everything in between.

The world is experiencing monumental challenges; from climate change to the lack of access to clean water and sanitation, from the need for affordable housing to sustainable energy and infrastructure. The impacts from these challenges have been disproportionate, affecting the most vulnerable, underserved populations and communities.

We can tackle these complex sustainability issues in a manner that advances social equity, justice and economic mobility. Blended finance can help us do this successfully! We need unique solutions that combine multiple finance and investment mechanisms to support innovation from and for all stakeholders. 

Solving complex sustainability issues requires strong collaboration between all stakeholders and an extraordinary level of capital investment to scale solutions. According to the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, as much as $90 trillion is needed over the next 15 years to develop a sustainable infrastructure that can begin to address the world’s most pressing environmental, economic and social issues. But where will all that money come from? The world has trillions of dollars to invest but how can it be organized? 

The Blended finance approach is gaining recognition for leveraging the power of private capital to solve issues that are too big for any individual organization to tackle on its own. With a blended approach, sustainable development projects that typically start with public or philanthropic capital are complemented with (and get a powerful boost from) private investment capital seeking both financial returns and the satisfaction of contributing to sustainable solutions. 

Learn more here.

We support the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals


Ackerman Center for Excellence in Sustainability

The Ackerman Center for Excellence in Sustainability drives responsible thought leadership and inspired action to accelerate progress in social and environmental sustainability through innovative and profitable business solutions.

We accomplish this by engaging with and connecting stakeholders to empower students, faculty and businesses to create impactful solutions, strengthen resiliency and identify breakthrough opportunities.


⯈ UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

UNC Kenan-Flagler is a leading global professional school of business. Our research influences business leaders, academics and policymakers. Our graduates are known for their effective and principled leadership as well as their technical and managerial skills. We are a workplace of choice for faculty, staff and students; a valued member of the UNC-Chapel Hill community; and a contributor to the welfare of North Carolina and the world beyond.


⯈ Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise

The Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise develops and promotes innovative, market-based solutions to vital economic issues. With the belief that private enterprise is the cornerstone of a prosperous and free society, the institute fosters the entrepreneurial spirit to stimulate economic prosperity and improve the lives of people in North Carolina, across the country and around the world.