Published: April 22, 2021 By

Students pitch winning Net Impact Case Competition vaccine distribution plan to state COVID response leaders

nicc winning team from du

This spring, teams of MBA students from around the world devised solutions to one of the most pressing questions of the moment: how to create a vaccine distribution plan that could achieve herd immunity, and address vaccine hesitancy, as part of CU Boulder's Net Impact Case Competition (NICC). A team of students from the University of Denver created the winning solution that considered both short and long term implications and contingency plans in the case of unforeseen challenges. This week, they shared that solution with Colorado leaders working on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The students came up with innovative solutions to the crucial challenges around vaccine distribution,” said Julie Waggoner, Interim Director of the Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility (CESR) at the Leeds School of Business. “We wanted to connect them with leaders from Colorado’s COVID response in case their fresh perspective can help our society respond to this problem in an ethical and inclusive way. We were thrilled with the enthusiastic interest from our leaders in hearing these ideas.”

Meeting with State leaders

The students spoke with Beth Bean, Policy Director for Governor Polis, Mara Brosy-Wiwchar, Chief Of Staff to the Executive Director of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and Kyle Brown, Deputy Commissioner of Affordability Programs - Division of Insurance, Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.

Students from the winning team shared how their focus on the economic benefits of being vaccinated allowed them to side-stepping politically divisive debates about free speech while emphasizing benefits for all members of society. They recommended funding the plan through bonds, and demonstrated that their vaccination campaign would be cheaper than the financial costs already imposed by the pandemic. 

Discussion touched on the ways policy discussions at the state level have grappled with similar questions, and some of the controversial and unique issues that impact decisions on how to implement public health strategies for Colorado. Andrea Brands, Corporate Social Responsibility Director, Higher Education at AT&T, thanked the state leaders for meeting with these emerging business leaders and making time to hear from young people who have been deeply impacted by the Coronavirus.

This opportunity came about through the Net Impact Case Competition (NICC), run by MBA students working with the Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility at the Leeds School of Business at CU Boulder. NICC is the longest running graduate student competition exploring ethics and business. Since its inception 20 years ago, NICC has challenged graduate students from across the world to develop solutions with real world social impact to pressing business issues. This year’s case, “Economic Recovery in Response to a Global Pandemic,” was especially timely.  


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“NICC gives students practical experience in thinking about the needs of all stakeholders and creates connections between sustainability-minded leaders from top business schools around the world,”

said Waggoner

What it took to win

Ultimately, the strength in the winning team’s approach was a focus on the immediate need to save lives and get the economy back on track while keeping an eye on how strategies implemented today could support long term positive social change.

“What stood out for me with the winning team was their plan addressing each type of unvaccinated individuals with a targeted carrot/stick solution,” said judge Kerri Webster, VP Children’s Hospital Colorado. “I loved how they thoughtfully applied and highlighted the core values addressed throughout each phase of their decisions that were made. And I genuinely appreciated the data-driven decision making approach.”

Read more about this year's NICC and the winning proposal here.