Students work with Singa to implement refugee crisis solutions

Shirene Urry
Winning teams competing in the refugee solutions competition were presented with checks and the opportunity to implement their ideas with the organization Singa. (Shirene Urry)

A team of BYU students won $5,000 and an opportunity for their ideas to be implemented by an organization positively impacting the refugee crisis in the Refugee Solutions Competition held by the Ballard Center last week.

Teams of four to five students presented polished pitches after advancing from the semi-final round. The competition was sponsored by the Ballard Center and the non-profit organization Singa. 

Founder of Singa and one of Forbes 30 Under 30 social entrepreneurs Nathanael Molle judged the competition. Singa currently has more than 20,000 volunteers who connect refugees through friendship, housing, entrepreneurial networks and other projects.

Teams were tasked to create and propose a model for Singa to develop an international movement or organization. The proposal had to be financially, legally and culturally feasible.

The four teams competing in the final round each gave 15 minute presentations, followed by a 15 minute question-and-answer session conducted by the three judges. Teams defended their business models and provided further explanation of how they intended to implement their plans.

The first place team included Temple Duke, Conner Nelson, Maggie Peterson, Sam Williams and Claire Nelson. Each teammate studies a different discipline at BYU including economics, finance, civil engineering, accountancy and global studies. The team focused on developing a social franchising model enabling community mobilizers, thought leaders and collaborative innovators to build Singa international.

Team member Claire Nelson said it felt amazing to win the competition.

“We’re just so excited for the opportunity to be able to make a difference somewhere,” Nelson said. “I mean, your time at BYU is spent learning about all these things; it’s really cool to be able to apply what we’ve learned and help a real, live organization.”

The second place team, consisting of Curtis Clawson, Tanner Clawson, Taylor Baker, Tyler Simpson and Brennan Steiner won a prize of $3,000. Their solution included a chapter system partnering with universities. The team proposed finding students and professors who are passionate about helping refugees to head a chapter at their school and sponsor activities, fundraising, and service with refugees on a local level.

“We love solving problems. Combining social aspect with a case is so much fun and it’s really motivating,” Curtis Clawson said. “It’s easy to put in the time because we love it and are passionate.”

Eli Tucker, Bryant Woolsey, Marissa Woolsey and Matt Madsen took third place and a $1,000 prize. Their team recommended a federated organization structure, similar to the structure of the YMCA. They also encouraged the international Singa model focus on large donors, while local organizations of Singa focus on small donors.

Tucker and his teammates had worked on case competitions before through the strategy program, but never with social ventures.

“We thought it would be really cool to have an impact on people’s lives, not just on dollars and cents, so for that reason we decided to enter and it’s been a lot of fun,” Tucker said.

The fourth place team included Spencer Marks, Johnny McMurray, Sam Loveland, Bethany Edgel and Cory Glover. Their vision focused on spreading the spirit of Singa by creating a culture of sharing. They also developed ideas for an internal Singa social network app, which Molle said he was very impressed by.

The judges were initially given 20 minutes to deliberate. However, it took the judges 50 minutes to choose the winners.

“The quality of the work was just amazing,” Molle said. “I mean, every single finalist, and I heard a lot of people who didn’t make it into the finals, had an amazing quality of work.”

Molle said the teams were well-researched and the presented their pitches very well.

“The cool thing is we didn’t only get the ideas, we also get the how-to implement those ideas. This is really what we were hoping for. This is just perfect,” Molle said.

Molle and the other judges deliberated and focused on choosing the team who had the most complete ideas.

“We tried to choose the team that understood the whole ‘Singa-ness’ and how to spread it,” Molle said.

Molle said he wanted the winning team to have both dimensions — organizational structure and funding.

“All of them had great ideas, so at the end of the day I think we are the winners, Singa is the real winner here,” Molle said. 

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