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Encouraging students to help tackle the world's reaction to COVID-19 and climate change

Since Call for Code was announced two years ago by Founding Partner IBM, Creator David Clark Cause, and Charitable Partner United Nations Human Rights, we learned two important points in the process of tackling some of society’s biggest challenges: 1) We can’t do this alone, and 2) the most promising innovations often come from unexpected sources. The scope and urgency of the issues we’re facing demand diverse perspectives and expertise, and student participation is key to that. We are honored to partner with the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) for the second year and to launch a dedicated University Edition within Call for Code.

Last year, we saw students reach the final rounds of the Call for Code Global Challenge with some exciting solutions. Two of our top five teams came from universities: Team AsTeR from UC Berkeley and Rove from UCLA. Together, IBM and CGI U reached more than 10,000 students around the world. This year, we wanted to do more to encourage students to participate in Call for Code as we tackle the world’s reaction to COVID-19 and climate change.

In a “Digital Innovation” class at San Jose State University in which IBMers are mentors, students are earning course credits for building IBM Watson-powered apps to help fight COVID-19 and for participating in the Call for Code University Edition. We’re especially thankful to Professor Yu Chen for partnering with us and supporting students’ desire to help in this time of need, while learning skills that will benefit them and society. We’d love other faculty and universities to join the effort by participating in Call for Code and integrating COVID-19 and climate change projects into coursework.

Access to college and university students from around the world comes from IBM’s continued partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative University. CGI U is a year-round leadership development program where students collaborate and learn from a network of alumni and leaders from business, government, academia, and civil society. Students in the CGI U network take part in a robust curriculum focused on social impact. With its launch in 2007, the network is more than 10,000 global alumni strong who have made over 7,000 unique Commitments to Action. Learn more at

Moreover, building on the success of our partnership in 2019, we are excited to continue collaboration with CGI U for this year’s University Edition, which will offer dedicated guidance and support to help students get involved, from Cornell, Middlebury, and FIT to Georgia Tech, Miami Dade College, Arizona State University, SMU, UC Berkeley, and beyond. Virtual workshops, codeathons, and office hours will offer students opportunities to build expertise on the issues we’re facing, and to rapidly develop the required skills. Solutions will compete for a grand prize of $10,000. The grand prize winning team and runner-up will also receive the opportunity to interview for a potential role at IBM. As we’ve done the past two years, IBM will work with the teams who create the most promising solutions to build, fortify, test, and deploy them through IBM Code and Response.

We recognize the urgency to act, particularly with regard to COVID-19 in this moment, so together with CGI U there are some exciting opportunities to start learning, build your skills, and get involved right away. On April 22, IBM will host a kick-off event for the 2020 Call for Code Global Challenge University Edition. This session welcomes students from any discipline or skill level. You can participate in workshops focused on design thinking and how to use resources like the COVID-19 starter kits to create your submission for Call for Code. The deadline for submissions is July 31, 2020, but if you submit your COVID-19 idea by April 27, you’ll have an opportunity to be featured as one of the top three initial ideas at IBM’s annual Think event in May.

I invite you to start today. You can visit the Call for Code website to register for the Challenge, and join IBM’s kick-off event for the Call for Code University track on April 22. Check out IBM’s starter kits for COVID-19 and climate change to learn more about individual problems communities are facing to start creating applications tied to easy-to-understand use cases. Join the Call for Code Slack Workspace to connect with potential team members, brainstorm solutions, and receive technical support and mentorship.

University faculty and administrators, download this PDF to see how to engage your students.