Regarded as the first of its kind at the University of Toronto Mississauga, last week’s Outside the Box case competition invited students to explore ideas in social entrepreneurship. Outside the Box, a play on words for their partnership with community partner Shelter Box, aims to “connect charitable organizations with the drive and innovative ideas of university students.”
The official event page set the premise for the competition by asking “Are you someone who thinks Outside the Box?” and attempted to invite experiences from diverse student backgrounds. Competition organization was therefore a joint effort by seven student clubs: UTM’s Student Union, Muslim Student Association, Latin American Student Association, Middle Eastern Association, Political Science and Pre-Law association, World University Services of Canada, and the Somali Student Association. Hosted on Saturday, the event also aimed at providing students an opportunity to network with various organizations.
The community partner for this competition, ShelterBox, is a disaster relief charity that hand-delivers emergency shelter and tools to families that need to rebuild their lives, homes and communities after natural disasters or war. It aims to expand in Canada and the event requires groups of students to plan and present a marketing strategy to help build their community of donors. In Haiti alone, after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010, ShelterBox provided shelter for 28,000 families.
The event consisted of two rounds. For the first round, students presented in front of industry professionals, alumni, and special guests in hopes of advancing to the second round. Those that made it to the top three presented in front of a full audience. Throughout the day, students participated in two workshops and were presented speeches from members of the United Nations.
“The idea for this competition came from seeing a very fragmented charity culture on campus—each club has its own cause, and with the limited resources and funding that they have, the opportunity to have a big impact on our communities is diminished,” says Abdulrahman Alsini, a second-year finance student. While he is the sponsorship director for the UTM MSA, the goal of the event was to “bring the UTM community together for a common goal because we have a lot more commonalities than differences,” therefore the purpose of this event, as Alsini describes, was not to represent any one club.
Yousef Rassas, a fourth-year management specialist and the chair of the event, says to The Medium, “The event [was] an opportunity to tackle the root of the problems [people] face in the world. Students should work together to tackle universal issues, raise money for causes, and drive a philosophy of unity.”
When asked how each club contributed, Rassas states that each club was responsible for “contributing to three pillars: charity, creativity and collaboration.” According to Alsini, this included “individually organizing fundraising sales in the weeks before the event, being involved in the planning and execution of the event itself and marketing the event on campus and on social media.”
The organizing team had a main goal for fundraising: to raise $1000 for ShelterBox and the East African Initiative run by UTMSU. To promote collaboration, they aim to set a “precedent for student clubs to unite once a year to host an event that tackles a universal issue,” Rassas says.
This event emphasized creativity and encouraged students to develop unique and innovative strategies to issues surrounding equal access, along with opportunities to network and develop a sense of community and unity.
“Students can save a lot of lives, educate children, and feed families around the world. On the other hand, networking opportunities with NGOs, as well as the financial benefits gained from coming [in] the top three, may also develop students financially,” and these developments, as Rassas explains, contribute “to the two branches of human progress: moral and material betterment.”