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Students set the bar for refugee support

18 January 2017

A group of students have developed an idea to improve the lives of refugees globally. They'll fly to San Francisco in March to pitch their vision as part of the international Hult Prize and vie for USD $1 million in funding.

Commerce/Law students William Zhang, Harrison Jin, Tom Luo and Bill Chan are preparing for the next stage of the internationally renowned Hult Prize, after winning the campus final in December.

The Hult Prize challenges students from universities around the world to develop an idea for a social enterprise. This year, former US President Bill Clinton tasked the students with building a program which could help tackle the global refugee crisis.

26 teams competed in the campus event, generating ideas such as an online psychological support system, a recruitment agency for the aged care industry and a web-based ‘map’ of NGO support services.

The winning team, Footbridge Organisation, won judges over with their idea to integrate refugees into the workforce. They hope to introduce a ‘seal of approval’, similar to Fair Trade approval, which will recognise companies who actively hire and train refugees. The ‘seal’ will encourage employers to overcome hiring biases and help consumers to easily support socially conscious companies.

Four other teams from the University of Sydney also impressed the judging panel, securing ‘wild-card’ places at regional stages of the competition in Boston, Dubai, London and Shanghai. The University is one of only four universities to be represented by a team in each of the regional finals.

“We’re looking forward to meeting the other competitors from all around the world and learning about their innovative ideas to address the problem,” said Footbridge Organisation team member Harrison Jin.

The competition allows students to hone their entrepreneurial skills and gain industry expertise, benefiting from mentoring and networking with companies such as Uber, Venturetec and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

“Learning and understanding what it actually takes to start up a business has been extremely eye opening for the whole team,” Jin said.

“Starting a social enterprise for such a meaningful cause also has its own rewards, especially for one that our team all values. Regardless of the outcome of the regional finals, we’re committed to continually growing our business and applying the skills we have learnt along the way.”

The Hult Prize is one of many on-campus start-up programs that challenges and help students boost their innovative thinking and pitching skills. To find out more, check out the Start-Up Career’s Fair held on April 11, 2017.