The Big Issue: Bachelor of Arts students finish sixth in The Big Idea 2014 competition

A team of undergraduate students from the University of Melbourne were finalists in The Big Idea 2014, an Australia-wide undergraduate student social enterprise competition. Out of the 40 student teams representing nine universities from across the country, the University of Melbourne team with their project 'M Power' made it to the top six.

The Big Idea is a competition coordinated by Australia's leading social enterprise, The Big Issue and seeks to find original social enterprise ideas that could benefit society in a similar way to existing social enterprises such as The Big Issue Street magazine.

Making it through several rigorous elimination rounds the team from The University of Melbourne which included Vivian Johnson, Sofia Sabbagh, Ana Ong and Keisha Torres  presented 'M Power', to a judging panel of business and industry leaders.  'M Power' is a concept for a mobile phone charging device that would be placed in recycled books and distributed to cafes for their patrons to read. The books would feature migrants' personal stories collected by migrant journalists. The team drew on their collective experiences of migration to tackle the theme of connectivity.

"Having been a team of migrants … we understood the sense of isolation that migrants can feel," said team member Anna Ong.

The students took part in The Big Idea as part of the subject Community Volunteering for Change which gives students the opportunity to augment their academic experience by getting involved in community volunteering projects and work placements. To successfully complete the subject, during semester the students spend the equivalent of one day a week (80 hours minimum) as an intern in a not-for-profit organisation. Whilst completing their internships, students have the opportunity to apply knowledge and skills they have acquired during their course to issues of significance to a community.

Lecturer Dr Violeta Schubert was impressed with the students' originality, insight and social awareness.

"These weren't Business students, but Arts students, yet they picked up business concepts very quickly," she said. "Their skills in critical thinking, their groundedness and social awareness – skills developed in Arts – really came to the fore."

Community Volunteering for Change is available to second and third year students in Semester 2, 2015.