Postgraduate students in the University of Sydney Business School put their creative, analytical and problem-solving skills to the test in June as part of the ‘Make a Real Difference’ initiative. Run by the Business School and supported by SSEAC, the initiative tasks students with devising innovative solutions to real-world challenges in Southeast Asia.
Students identify a problem to address and work in small groups to produce a detailed business case, timeline, budget, and presentation outlining their proposed solution. In setting up the inaugural program in 2022, SSEAC’s academic members provided students with detailed guidance on topic areas and produced ten stand-alone videos that gave students an overview of each country in Southeast Asia, including cultural, political and business considerations.
The 10 leading proposals in 2023 were presented by students to a panel of academics, business and industry leaders, including from L’Oréal, NEC, Ramsey Health Care, Nestle, KPMG, Maven Data, and SSEAC. Students presented for 15 minutes, followed by a Q&A session with the panel that explored their plans in more detail.
This year’s solutions were as thoughtful and creative as ever. Among them were proposals to promote cultural heritage in the Philippines through a mobile phone game; utilise Virtual Reality technology to reduce mental health stigma in Singapore; and introduce transparent rubbish bins to influence waste disposal patterns in Malaysia.
The winning proposal, as judged by the panel, advanced the idea of an app-based platform for on-demand waste collection in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, combined with the engagement and empowerment of informal waste collectors.
“This is an excellent opportunity to bring together industry partners and students to share innovative, well-thought-through solutions to real-world social and environmental concerns in Southeast Asia,” said Dr Abdul Razeed of the Business School, who developed and coordinates the initiative together with Master of Commerce Head Tutor, Ms Angela Baxter.
“The MARD initiative provides students with a unique opportunity to enhance their learning experience through direct engagement with industry leaders,” Ms Baxter said.
Now in its second year, the initiative is offered as part of the Creative and Analytic Mindset (BUSS5221) unit, which aims to equip students with the capacity and confidence to apply analytical methods, think creatively and devise novel approaches to practical problems. It is one of the university’s largest units of study, with over 2,000 student enrolments in the first semester of 2023.
“The interactions I had with the industry professionals forced me to rethink approaches to solutions with a renewed creative paradigm but also with a grounded sense of pragmatism,” said Sebastian Djayasukmana, a student participant.