A team of six students from Dublin City University (DCU) has won the Irish finals of the SIFE social entrepreneurship competition. The students’ outreach project tackled student engagement in society, loneliness on public transport and how to nurture at-risk children to stay in education.
The team will now be representing Ireland for the first time at the 2012 SIFE World Cup in Washington, DC, in late September. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will host the global finals.
The not-for-profit SIFE was founded in the US in 1975. Since then it has morphed to become 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, as well as equipping them with skills to become socially responsible business leaders of the future. Ireland became the 39th country to join SIFE earlier this year.
For the Irish finals, four student teams representing Dublin City University, NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin had been tasked with identifying and developing outreach projects. They presented their awards in Dublin last night.
Winning team from DCU
The winning Irish team was led by DCU student Daithí de Buitléir as well as fellow undergraduates Rónán Ó Dáláigh, Sallyann Downes, Evelyn Boyle, Hannah Dobson and Paul Gillick.
The Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn, TD, presented the students with their award last night.
Their projects were Raising and Giving Ireland (RAG), Bus Banter and Operation Paint Ballymun.
With RAG, the team set about piloting a new model for student engagement to allow students to probe and solve social issues.
The aim of the team’s Bus Banter initiative was to make it normal for fellow travellers to engage with each other on public transport. The team sent out teams of volunteers to bus stops to initiate conversations with commuters.
Helping at-risk students
Finally, with Operation Ballymun, DCU volunteers worked with the Aisling Project in Ballymun as third-level education role models.
The objective of the programme was 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 children’s workshops and activities to develop children’s confidence.
De Buitléir said the competition has helped the team build fundraising, research and presentation skills.
"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," he said.