Competition invites students to develop innovative solutions for refugees

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Preston Alder
Preston and Abby Alder visited Peru after Preston was part of the winning team for the Social Innovation Solutions competition in 2016. (Preston Alder)

Students will have the opportunity to present innovative solutions for the global refugee crisis in a competition held this month on the BYU campus.

The Ballard Center organizes competitions each year for students working in teams to develop innovative solutions to real-world challenges. BYU students have been invited to participate in a Refugee Solutions Competition this year, regardless of their political views on the topic.

President Donald Trump’s most recent executive order regarding refugees has been a controversial topic across the nation and has received worldwide commentary.

Oscar Chavez and Shirene Urry, both second-year MBA students, are co-managing the competition. Last week’s information meeting had over 130 attendees. Nearly 220 students attended the second information session this past Monday, following President Trump’s executive order.

“I have witnessed students’ desires to use their hearts and minds to help refugees through these info sessions. The integrity of their desires has been palpable and humbling,” Urry said. “While there is a lot of emotion around this topic right now, it has been particularly encouraging to see students interest in and orientation towards developing solutions, which is what this competition is all about.”
This year the Ballard Center has partnered with Nathanael Molle — one of Forbes 30 under 30 social entrepreneurs. Molle is the founder of the French-based organization Singa, which has more than 20,000 volunteers who connect refugees through friendship, housing, entrepreneurial networks and other projects. Singa partners with Ashoka, an international organization that promotes social entrepreneurship.
“These organizations solve the same-old problems: poverty, hunger, diversity issues but in a new, innovative way,” said competition co-manager Oscar Chavez. “These are organizations that are actually making a difference.”
Teams comprised of 3-5 students will receive further information at the kick-off event regarding a real problem Singa faces. The teams will then have two weeks to research and prepare a presentation about their solution. The goal of the competition is for students to present new ways to solve this problem. Teams are encouraged to use all resources available including other students, faculty and mentors.
“(Nathanael) is coming to campus because he heard about BYU students and the variety of disciplines they study, languages they speak and perspectives they have,” Urry said. “He’s excited to see and hear many of their solutions.”
The competition has certain guidelines, but students will have the chance to help this organization make global strides in aiding refugees.
“I think that students really do care about refugees. I think that this will provide them with a different experience than they might expect it will re-frame how they look at refugees and how we can truly help them,” Urry said.
Preston Alder, a senior studying business strategy, participated in and won the competition last year along with teammates William Adams and Daniel Durrant. Last year’s Ballard Center competition focused on finding innovative solutions to help productivity of small-scale farmers in South America.
Alder got married last April and in the same week traveled to Peru to implement his team’s solution after winning the competition. He had the opportunity to directly interact with the farmers he had helped.
“This experience was life changing for me because it was learning in action,” Adler said. “I was able to take something that I had designed in the BYU library with my team and make it a reality that will now impact the lives of thousands of farmers.”
The Refugee Solutions Competition kick-off event is on Wednesday, Feb. 1 in the WSC Varsity Theatre. The Ballard Center hosts an innovative solutions competition every year. (Facebook)
The competition kick-off event will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 1 in the WSC Varsity Theatre, but students can register or find a team online until 5:00 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 3. Final submissions must be submitted by Feb. 13 and the semi-final and final rounds of the competition will be held Feb. 23-24.
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