The winning team, led by Daithí de Buitléir and comprising fellow undergraduates Rónán Ó Dáláigh, Sallyann Downes, Evelyn Boyle, Hannah Dobson and Paul Gillick, will now represent Ireland for the first time at the 2012 SIFE World Cup in Washington DC, which takes place from 30 September to 2 October. The Irish students will be joined by other finalists from around the world at the event hosted by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
SIFE, an international, not-for-profit organisation founded in the US in 1975, is the world’s largest university-based partnership between business and higher education for social change. Its objective is to encourage university students to make a positive difference to their communities, while developing the skills to become socially responsible business leaders of the future. Ireland became the 39th country to join SIFE earlier this year.
As part of the competition, four student teams – representing Dublin City University, NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin – were tasked with identifying and developing outreach projects designed to improve the quality of life and standard of living for people with a particular social need in a practical way.
The teams presented their projects in Dublin on 29 May to a panel of judges comprising senior business leaders. Among the judges was Leinster Rugby captain, Leo Cullen, who joined SIFE Ireland earlier this year as a non-executive director. The winning team impressed the judges with how effectively they had applied business and economic concepts and an entrepreneurial approach to develop their projects, Raising and Giving Ireland (RAG), Bus Banter and Operation Paint Ballymun.
With Raising and Giving Ireland (RAG), the team piloted a new model for student engagement designed to bring about the mass-mobilisation and development of the student body in a way that allows students to probe and solve social issues.
The team’s Bus Banter initiative took an innovative approach to making public transport a happier place by sending out teams of volunteers to bus stops with the aim of instigating conversations between commuters. The aim of the project is to make it normal for fellow travellers to engage with each other on public transport. This has the social benefit of alleviating loneliness on public transport, while creating a more attractive environment in which to travel and promoting the increased use of public transport from an environmental perspective.
Operation Paint Ballymun saw DCU volunteers work with the Aisling Project in Ballymun as positive, third-level education role models. The objective of the programme is to inspire and empower at-risk children to stay in education through the medium of the creative arts. The volunteers created educational murals and participated in innovative children’s workshops and activities to develop children’s confidence, while helping to bridge the societal divide between Ballymun and DCU.
Details of all the team projects can be found online at www.sifeireland.org.
Presenting the winning team from Dublin City University, Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn, TD, said: “I congratulate the team from Dublin City University on winning SIFE Ireland’s inaugural national competition and becoming the first Irish university students to represent Ireland at the SIFE World Cup. The students have demonstrated the importance and value of education as a powerful tool with which to address and engineer social change to empower communities in need. Today’s presentations are the culmination of months of hard work and dedication, of which the students, their mentors and all involved in SIFE can justifiably be proud, and I commend KPMG and the SIFE board for introducing the SIFE programme to Ireland this year.”
Daithí de Buitléir, SIFE team leader from Dublin City University, said: “We’re thrilled with our win and really looking forward to representing Ireland, SIFE and our university at the World Cup in Washington DC. Preparing for the SIFE Ireland National Competition has been a fantastic experience. It’s given us valuable team building, fundraising, research and presentation skills, and we hope that, through our project, we’ve been able to make a real contribution and improvement to the lives of people in our communities.”
Terence O’Rourke, Managing Partner, KPMG and Chairperson of SIFE Ireland, said: “KPMG around the world has been involved with SIFE since 1990 and it’s very rewarding to see the initiative up and running in Ireland for the very first time. All the student teams involved this year have shown tremendous understanding of how their skills and talents can be used to bring about real change in the lives of other communities, both at home and abroad. That’s what SIFE is all about – a head for business and a heart for the world. I wish the winning team every success in the final. I’m certain they will do their university – and everyone who so generously pledged their support to establish SIFE Ireland – proud in Washington.”