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participants in the 'make a real difference' initiaitve
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Next generation of creative minds tackle real-world issues in Southeast Asia

5 July 2022
Business students propose innovative solutions as part of the ‘Make a Real Difference’ initiative
Master of Commerce students developed a range of creative responses to real-world challenges in Southeast Asia as part of an initiative developed by the University of Sydney Business School and the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre.
participants in the 'make a real difference' initiaitve

Photograph: Maja Baska

Postgraduate students in the University of Sydney’s Business School shared a range of innovative ideas in June, as part of a new initiative that invited proposed solutions to real-world issues in Southeast Asia.

The result of a collaboration between the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre (SSEAC) and the Business School, the ‘Make a Real Difference’ initiative offered Master of Commerce students the opportunity to apply their analytical and problem-solving skills in the Southeast Asian context.

During the semester, students were presented with a range of key challenges pertinent to one or more countries in Southeast Asia, from food security and the spread of misinformation to environmental degradation and the preservation of cultural heritage. Many of these challenges were global in scope, and equally resonant for countries such as Australia.

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.

Students then worked in small teams on their chosen problem, conducting further background research and testing ideas before shaping their proposed solutions. On 17 June, 12 shortlisted proposals were presented as a business case to a panel of academics as well as industry leaders, including from CISCO AppDynamics, Maven Data, Nestlé and Ogilvy Australia. 

Their ideas didn’t disappoint!

Among the creative solutions put forward included proposals to:

  • roll out kinetic tiles in Singapore’s busy subway stations to harness green energy and help reduce the country’s carbon footprint, one step at a time;
  • utilise social media influencers in the Philippines to disseminate accurate health information related to COVID-19 and boost low vaccination rates;
  • and implement a community composting initiative in Hanoi, Vietnam to promote better management of organic waste and boost sustainability outcomes.

The winning entry, as judged by the panel, was a proposal to launch a rap competition in Indonesia—IndoRap Champion—to help preserve and promote the rich diversity of Indigenous languages in the country, particularly among younger people.

students at the make a real difference event

Photograph: Maja Baska

“The event was a great success with students putting forward ideas that were novel, useful and practical,” said Dr Abdul Razeed of the Business School, who developed and coordinated the initiative together with SSEAC’s Curriculum Coordinator Dr Natali Pearson and Business School tutor Ms Angela Baxter.

“Students were particularly thrilled to be able to showcase their ideas to an esteemed pool of industry representatives and to interact with them over lunch. The collaboration with industry partners allowed us to share practical, student-led ideas and bring a greater educative focus on Southeast Asia.”

The initiative was 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 1,760 student enrolments in the first semester of 2022.

“This collaboration with the Business School was a wonderful opportunity to embed Southeast Asia within the University of Sydney’s curriculum,” said Dr Pearson.

“We are delighted to have students engaging with Southeast Asia in such creative ways, and in a manner that truly reflects the opportunities for research and innovation in the region. The final student presentations were incredibly impressive. I have great faith in the Asia-capability of these students, and commend them for their hard work this semester.”


Hero image: Maja Baska