Students Think Creatively to Help Communities in UK and Germany

BRENTWOOD, England – University students are helping communities across the globe in need of urgent assistance through a special programme supported by Ford Fund.

From helping rough sleepers and recycling used coffee grounds to fighting hunger in Rwanda and supporting a refugee sewing project, the Ford College Community Challenge will make a real difference in people’s lives around the world.

The challenge, known as Ford C3, is a Ford Motor Company Fund global grant competition that invites university teams to compete for grants to support local community projects.

"The entrepreneurial approach, creativity and business acumen demonstrated in the social enterprise proposals submitted by the student teams is wonderful to see," said Debbie Chennells, Ford Fund manager, Ford of Europe. "I am always inspired by the commitment of these young people to make a meaningful difference in their communities."

In the UK, Ford Fund offered student teams the chance to apply for three £5,000 ($US 6,500) grants, while in Germany students competed for three €5,000 ($US 5,643) grants from Ford Fund.

Ford College Community Challenge winners receive their grants and trophies – The University of Cologne team’s Socialbnb project.

With registered charity partners Enactus UK and Enactus Germany, the winners were announced at events in Germany and Britain in March and April, where the winners received trophies and their grants.

A University of Glasgow team received a £5,000 grant to back its project – empowering the homeless to get off the streets by leveraging technology to help them learn new skills and gain better access to services that aid social mobility.

A University of Exeter team won its £5,000 grant for an innovative project to recycle used coffee grounds to grow gourmet oyster mushrooms for sale to local restaurants, shops and farmers markets.

And a Loughborough University team will receive £5,000 for its project to assist people with upper limb mobility issues by providing a living aid for the kitchen – a chopping board with multiple functions to help people peel, grate and chop, while gaining more independence.

The UK and German projects were judged by employees of Ford UK and Ford Germany respectively, along with the Ford Fund European Manager and the Ford Fund Global Education Manager.

Both the UK and German entries had to show an innovative approach to building sustainable communities, address pressing community issues in a tangible way, involve students in significant leadership roles, include a community-based partner and demonstrate measurable outcomes and impacts of their projects.

Ford C3 differs from many traditional university grant programmes by requiring significant student input, involvement and leadership from beginning to end.

The University of Cologne’s team will use its grant to launch Socialbnb, an online platform that connects travellers with NGOs to offer unused rooms as temporary homestays.

A team from Ruhr-University Bochum will work in partnership with students from the University of Rwanda to fight malnourishment and scarcity of harvest in the African country by providing smallholder farmers with a holistic business model consisting of bio-fertilizer, a storage system to prevent mould infestation and high-quality seeds.

And the University of Passau team’s Inn.mybag project focuses on upcycling and providing employment opportunities, working with female refugee sewers to turn outdated roll-up banners into eco-friendly bags.