Apply now for the Social Impact Award 2020!
Are you making a difference in the social sector? Are you engaged in helping other people? Then you could be the winner of the Social Impact Award 2020. The TUM Management Alumni e.V. is supporting students, graduates, and, this year, alumni who are tackling or have already tackled social problems in their thesis. Apply now for the chance to win 2,000 euros – and to make a social impact.
Usually, only projects that address a social problem and provide an innovative solution are accepted. This year, however, is different from previous years: because of the disruptive changes we are facing due to the spread of the Coronavirus, initiatives that have evolved out of this crisis, that address a social problem, and that offer an innovative solution to the crisis are also taken into consideration for the award.
Last year’s winner, Altus Viljoen, is a perfect example of what we are looking for. He has impressed us with his master’s thesis about the healthcare platform CURAFA™, in Kenya. His thesis is about increasing community engagement and finding digital solutions for healthcare accessibility. We spoke with him regarding the project he is so passionate about and the meaning of the Social Impact Award for his work.
What was the project in your master’s thesis about?
I joined the healthcare services project CURAFA™ to design or develop a digital solution to increase patient engagement for diabetic and hypertensive patients – which is quite broad in scope. As I did interviews with patients and community healthcare volunteers in Kenya, it became clear that while patients are comfortable with using mobile technology, in-person contact is still highly valued when it comes to discussing health-related issues. Thus, I started working on combining in-person support group sessions with digital channels – where patients can have a safe space to discuss their condition with peers and medical professionals on digital channels and in-person.
What was the biggest challenge in your project?
Price-sensitivity of patients. I worked in very low-resource communities where the majority of the patients are employed in the informal sector, have no health insurance, and have limited or no disposable income. And while the healthcare offered is extremely affordable, many patients still struggle to make ends meet.
Thus, from a human-centered design perspective, you must ensure that the products and services that you design and develop are absolutely needed and desired by patients, so that they are willing to trust them. The upside of this is, of course, that you really drill down to the core desire and needs of your user and simplify the user experience as much as possible.
When did you first know that you wanted to do a social project?
I grew up in South Africa where there are, of course, many social challenges. So, social impact initiatives have always been of personal interest to me. Any graduate student will tell you that you spend a lot of time on a master’s thesis, and I really wanted to do something meaningful with my thesis. When I realized the opportunity to combine my passion for social work, accelerate access to healthcare in Africa, work with a large and innovative company like Merck, and do all this as part of a master’s thesis at TUM – it really was a no-brainer to pursue this!
I like that you are using your skills in management and technology to make a social impact in the world. Is this the purpose that is driving you?
Yes. There is no technology project that can be successful without proper management of it, and vice versa. And to be honest, it is difficult to find a field of study where you can be educated properly in both areas – which is why the Master in Management & Technology truly is such a unique degree. I did not know about the degree until I did an Erasmus exchange to TUM in 2016 – and I was so impressed by it that my initial six months at TUM eventually became another two-year degree at TUM, and I ended up staying in Germany permanently!
You won the Social Impact Award last year – how did it help you with your project? And what did it mean to you?
Firstly, to have won the Social Impact Award in 2019 was a great honor. The prize money definitely helped cover the expenses of the project. As CURAFA™ is a social entrepreneurship initiative – thus having the goal to make improvements in society rather than to pursue pure profit – the aim was always to limit expenses as much as possible, despite the project kindly being backed by a large company like Merck.
Furthermore, after the award was given at the graduation ceremony, I was surprised at how many people contacted me to express interest in doing a social impact project for a thesis – something that I hope many students will do!
What qualities do you think an applicant for the Social Impact Award should have?
The most important thing is to have a passion for the work that you are doing, and I think this will automatically show in your work and application. Especially when you work on challenging socio economic problems it’s important not to become discouraged, and having a genuine interest in and passion for the work and the people affected helps a lot.
You are a member of the TUM Management Alumni e.V. Why are networks so important?
Yes, I am! Networks are vital: there is an African proverb that goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I believe this is absolutely true. I think the TUM Management Alumni e.V. offers a great platform for TUM alumni and students to connect, and I’m proud to be part of it. Especially for networking and finding professional opportunities, such alumni networks can make a big difference.
What are your next plans and visions? Are you going to continue to work in the social sector?
I always remain passionate about projects with a social impact. After my thesis, I continued working within the project for about a year. For now, I am looking for a new opportunity in any sector in the domain of Digital Transformation, Design Thinking or User Experience Design. If there is anybody in the TUM Management Alumni e.V. who would like to reach out with regards to an opportunity, feel free to do so or have a look at my portfolio.
Some more details on the award: all students and graduates of the TUM School of Management can apply with their project, master’s thesis, or bachelor’s thesis. In terms of project studies/project work, this means that they gain practical experience by working in student teams with companies on a specific task. They structure the project and use methods and theories to develop results that are of practical value for the company. To determine the social impact of their project/thesis, they should define the value that the project/thesis has for their target group and society. The project/thesis does not need to be completed in order to be submitted.
Requirements and deadlines:
- Project/thesis summary (one page, single-spaced)
- Letter of motivation
- Short video clip (max. one minute) illustrating the project and the social problem it addresses
Please send all documents by October 25, 2020 to email@example.com!
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