Arts students rewarded for Big Ideas

February 15 / 151

The University of Melbourne 'The Big Idea' 2014 team finalists (Keisha Torres, Anna Ong, Sofia Sabbagh and Vivian Johnson)
The University of Melbourne 'The Big Idea' 2014 team finalists (Keisha Torres, Anna Ong, Sofia Sabbagh and Vivian Johnson)

A team of undergraduate students has finished in the top six in The Big Idea 2014, an Australia-wide undergraduate student social enterprise competition run by The Big Issue.

Enrolled in the subject Community Volunteering for Change the team’s theme was connectivity, drawing on their collective experiences of migration.

“Having been a team of migrants … we understood the sense of isolation that migrants can feel,” said Anna Ong, one of the team members.

They came up with ‘M Power’, a portable mobile phone charging device, housed in a re-used book.  Left in cafes and other public places, the devices support internet connectivity, while the books feature migrants’ personal stories collected by migrant journalists, offering another aspect of connectivity.  The team hopes people will read and connect to the stories, and follow up online, where the team have created a website, which may then in turn help create a social network.

Lecturer Dr Violeta Schubert was impressed with the students’ innovation, enthusiasm and social awareness. “These weren’t Business students, but Arts students, yet they picked up business concepts very quickly,” she said. “Their skills in critical thinking, their groundedness and social awareness – skills developed in Arts – really came to the fore.”

The team – which also included Keisha Torres, Sofia Sabbagh and Vivian Johnson - was thrilled to make the top six.  It was “an absolute challenge, thrill and opportunity,” according to Ms Ong, to pitch their idea to a panel and have it tested.

“We always regarded or business to be practical, not just theoretical,” said Ms Ong, “reaching the top six legitimised our idea, moving it off the drawing board and into the real world.”

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