At global conference, students use ReliefWeb data to pitch to donors

Yuan-Kwan Chan
Winners of the ReliefWeb “Convince a Donor in 90 Seconds” interactive challenge with Birat Lekhak of ReliefWeb / OCHA (back row, second from left), and judges Yuan-Kwan Chan of ReliefWeb / OCHA (back row, fourth from left), Vidya Rana of ADPC (back row, fifth from right) and Yomi Sonubi of the NEEDeed Foundation (back row, fourth from right).  The event took place at the 9th Annual University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Bangkok. © Jonathan St. Onge / ReliefWeb / OCHA

110 participants.

20 minutes to prepare.

3 judges.

1.5 minutes to convince a donor on how to aid polio vaccination efforts in Syria.

That was the challenge posed to student delegates representing 27 nationalities and 56 higher education institutions recently in Bangkok, Thailand. The participants, selected to attend the 2018 University Scholars Leadership Symposium (USLS), learned about ReliefWeb and technological developments in the humanitarian sector, then divided themselves into groups to tackle our Syria polio challenge.

Birat Lekhak of ReliefWeb / OCHA talks about the use of drone and satellite imagery in the humanitarian sector.

Birat Lekhak of ReliefWeb / OCHA talks about the use of drone and satellite imagery in the humanitarian sector. © Yuan-Kwan Chan / ReliefWeb / OCHA

Birat Lekhak, a marketing and editorial consultant for the ReliefWeb Bangkok office, talked about the work that we have accomplished since 1996 as a specialized digital service of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The USLS delegates then learned about how data is being used in the humanitarian space. Datasets on OCHA’s Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) platform, 3-D printing, drones and using Amazon Alexa to find key information on ReliefWeb were just a few of the projects presented.

WATCH: ReliefWeb "Convince a Donor in 90 Seconds" interactive challenge animation

Finally, attendees split into 10 groups to create a fictional pitch as NGO directors looking for donors to aid the polio vaccination effort in Syria. Following 20 minutes of research on ReliefWeb, each group was given 90 seconds to convince the donor to contribute to their project. Their presentations were judged by Yuan-Kwan Chan, ReliefWeb Bangkok editor; Vidya Rana, Communications Manager at the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre; and Yomi Sonubi, Project and Operations Director for the NEEDeed Foundation.

“I was very impressed by the quality and creativity of the pitches,” Sonubi said. “The energy from the participants was inspiring.”

“The format of the workshop…encouraged students to use the available data sources quickly and efficiently to make a case for a humanitarian initiative,” Rana said. “I think the workshop provided an opportunity for the students to learn the art of negotiation, team spirit and presentation skills simultaneously.”

“In 28 minutes of your life, you could have vaccinated all the five million children that need it in Syria,” stated Charlotte Usher – a member of the winning team, the Impatient Optimists, and a student at Australia’s La Trobe University – in her presentation. “That's why we're turning to you," added Tenzin Fox, her co-presenter and classmate.

“The biggest challenge was trying to include all of the information we deemed necessary in such a short time frame,” said Fox, who is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations at La Trobe. “We overcame this challenge by summarising and dot-pointing crucial ideas without relying on a set script, so that the pitch sounded as natural as possible.”

“The winning team covered almost all the judging criteria,” Rana said. “The team also stood out for presenting a brief methodology of how they are planning to spend the funding for polio eradication.”

In addition, students learned how serves as a gateway to learn more about the humanitarian sector. Sarah Luma, a Cameroonian Master’s degree student in International Legal Studies at Handong Global University in the Republic of Korea, said the presentation and workshop gave her more insight into how to use ReliefWeb.

“I am currently writing my thesis on humanitarian issues, and have used ReliefWeb several times for human rights and humanitarian research,” Luma said. “I did not know one could find upcoming training announcements, and other documentation from non-UN organizations about disasters and emergency situations. Most especially, I learned about the Jobs section which has [helped me to] limit my job search to specific areas [where] I [expect] to build my career.”

WATCH: ReliefWeb at United Nations USLS 2018 - 'Convince a Donor in 90 Seconds' Challenge