Class Project: Ending Child Hunger

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Students of the Paul Merage School of Business are raising money to end child hunger as part of the school’s “EDGE” course, taught by Professor David Obstfeld.

The course allows students to study the changing world through a technological lens, examine overarching themes of how things are being reshaped by technology and how action can be mobilized to move with this reshaping.

EDGE was implemented three years ago and was started in response to the radical technological changes taking place, especially within the business world.

“There was a sense that the world was being transformed by technology in profound ways, and that we weren’t sufficiently capturing those changes and reflecting it in what we were offering in classes,” Obstfeld said.

With this in mind, EDGE was born. In its first year, speakers such as Cory Ondrejka, creator of the online “Second Life,” were featured lecturers that spoke on technological advances in the business world.

In the second year, however, the focus shifted from examining changes in technology to actually participating in these changes.

EDGE partnered up with Amazon.com to create a number of Web stores. These Web sites, hosted by Amazon, allow students to resell items that are already for sale on the Web site or are featured in the Amazon catalogue.

In small groups, the students have come up with Web stores that offer a range of items, from books to eco-friendly products. The proceeds are given to charities of the group’s choice, usually coinciding with the items being sold on the site.

Manisha Dhawan, a business administration graduate student, has used her group’s Web store as an opportunity to not only donate to a number of viable charities, but also connect with people who share the same interests.

The group’s store, called “Cooking Things Up!” offers a number of culinary implements, and all funds are donated to Friends of the World Food Program, a non-profit organization fighting world hunger.

“We came up with the idea by meeting and brainstorming,” Dhawan said. “First we looked at what we were all interested in, then who we knew that could help us within our network and who could help us get the word out. We came back to cooking because a lot of us just really enjoy it. It also tied in very well with the charity of our choice.”

The group did not stop there. In an effort to spread the word, Dhawan and her teammates created Twitter accounts, made Facebook groups and even formed a blog to organize a network of followers.

With this artillery of technological weaponry, the group began experimenting with the potential of the social media available to them.

Through Twitter, a Web site that allows people to interact through personal status updates, the group was able to start directly communicating with their respective charities.

By way of their Facebook group and online blog, both also named Cooking Things Up!, group members have been able to connect with friends of friends who can help them spread the word.

“Their friends tell their friends, and then their friends tell their friends … and it just spreads like wildfire,” Dhawan muses. “There isn’t a heavy amount of traffic on the Web site, as of now, because we only just started it up during third week, but just the fact alone that we’ve been able to connect directly with the charity, to me, is a success in itself.”

Dhawan also states that, despite the fact that she and many others are graduating at the end of this quarter, moving on will not mean leaving the Web store.

“It’s kind of become a part of me,” Dhawan said. “I wouldn’t just abandon it and let it sit. I’ve made relationships with people that make me want to continue to build it.”

Dhawan emphasized the reach of the project.

“It’s not just generating sales and marketing,” Dhawan concluded. “It’s about connecting with people who have the same interests and passions as we do. We’ve learned so much, and there are so many sites available to allow us to bring about awareness.”

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