11 April 2017

Footbridge Standards at the Hult Prize

Our students continue to make their mark on society, taking on competitions that help make an impact through the power of social enterprises. The Hult Prize is one of these competitions dedicated to launching the next-generation of social entrepreneurs, encouraging teams to work together to help solve the world's biggest issues. Hult Prize Campus Finalists, Footbridge Standards, was one of four teams that represented the University of Sydney across the globe, who pitched their solution that could "restore the rights and dignity of 10 million refugees by 2022". Team leader Bill Chan has recently returned from the San Francisco Regional Finals and has shared some of his experiences throughout the entire journey with us.

The team behind Footbridge Standards: William Zhang - B.Commerce (Liberal Studies),  Bill Chan - B.Commerce/Law, Tom Luo - B.Commerce/Science, Harrison Jin - B.Commerce/Law [left to right]

Why did you get involved in the Hult Prize?

Social enterprises are interestingly different because they take the old entrepreneurship concept of profit mindedness and combine it with the modern perspective of creating social good. When directed correctly, this new way of thinking has the potential to alleviate the largest issues plaguing our global community.

What is your social enterprise about?

Footbridge Standards awards a 'seal of approval' to incentivise businesses to implement impactful initiatives to assist refugees on their journey. We are to refugees what fair trade is to exploited workers.

For businesses, the benefits of a seal of approval is that it recognises their values to their customers, stakeholders and the broader society. Using an assessment criteria developed with the Refugee Council of Australia, we award businesses a seal when they meet our criteria.

We believe that the collective goodwill of businesses has the ability to drive change and that they have the capability to catalyse positive dialogue for refugees.

Briefly tell us how your enterprise idea restores the rights and dignity of 10 million refugees by 2022?

A crisis of global magnitude calls on a solution of collective action. Right now there is a huge funding gap between government organisations and refugees. By encouraging and combining the collective goodwill of the private sector, we will be able to bridge the wide funding gap that currently exists.

Additionally, the public sector is inefficient in developing solutions that are sustainable in the long term. We believe that the varied expertise of the private sector means we can find empowering and efficient ways to support every different part of the refugee cycle. For example, Starbucks is pledging to hire 10,000 refugees and Ikea has built award winning housing units for refugees on the border. At Footbridge Standards we envision that aligned initiatives to assist the global community like these will become the norm.

Tell us about your Hult Prize journey and the experience of being able to present your idea abroad?

We are a B2B business and the success of it required us being able to accommodate the needs and wants of those businesses. That is why we spent a majority of time contacting and working with marketing and CSR executives to develop our business model. As a first year team, the professionalism and business acumen required made it an incredibly nerve racking experience at first. However, by putting ourselves out there and talking with businesses, we improved dramatically on an exponential learning. Now we are in discussions with Commonwealth Bank about potentially co-creating the idea.

All this was in preparation to present in San Francisco with flights and accommodation all covered for. Going to a foreign country, representing your university and presenting in front of judges who were all experts in their field was an unimaginable experience. However, what takes the cake is being able to hear all the powerful ideas out there and having the opportunity to meet the good willed and passionate people driving those ideas.

In the end despite months of hard work, late nights and long discussions, we did not win regionals. Even though the result was disappointing, we had many judges and students express praise for our idea. This support reaffirms that we have a working concept and we need to continue working harder to refine our social enterprise. We are now working with Sydney Genesis to build our idea over the next 12 months and we are very much excited about the road ahead.

What would you say to those interested in competing in the Hult Prize in the future?

If you win, you are given the resources to see your idea come to fruition and will have the experience of a lifetime. If you don't win, you hear revolutionary ideas that will change the world, become friends with the minds driving them and pick up essential business skills every step of the way. There is every reason to seize this opportunity.

On a more personal point, doing competitions like the Hult Prize allows you to create lifelong friendships. What I most respected about my team is that despite all of this we were also each other’s closest support network. What I realise now is that friends who have the humility and respect to work with each other at their worst are friends worth keeping for life.

How do you think that opportunities like the Hult Prize add to your experience studying at the Business School?

You are literally starting up a new business from scratch so you will know what it's like to work in all areas of a business. You will apply all the different skills that you have learned from within the classroom such as determining the breakeven point, developing a new product and projecting growth. The idea of having to apply all of this knowledge in real life may be daunting but you are not alone as a strong support network of mentors will ensure that your skills are applied correctly.

For me, I have wanted to work in a front office role of a business. The experience to go out, talk to clients from variegated business and work closely with them to create solutions aligned with their business goals really affirmed what I wanted in a career. On the other hand, you may find that your preconceptions of your career path is misguided but either way it will be one step closer to where your true passion lies.

Bill Chan
Current Bachelor of Commerce/Laws student at the University of Sydney.

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