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India hotel plan wins 2008 BYU Social Venture Competition

A group of Brigham Young University students is one step closer to building self-sustainable schools in India after winning the 2008 Social Venture Competition, which includes a $10,000 award to fund their goal.

Established in 2004 by the BYU Center for Economic Self-Reliance, the Social Venture Competition is designed for students who, through a business venture, are combating social issues in areas such as healthcare, poverty and education.

This year’s winner, Students for Self-Sustainable Schools, plans to build a hotel in the Kancheepuram district of India as a way to create a stable source of funding for a school in that area.

“Developing countries are very dependent on foreign aid for social development,” says Harsh Dhawan Grover, a recent MBA graduate from Himachal Pradesh, India, and member of Students for Self-Sustainable Schools. “However, due to the irregularity of funds, the development efforts are not sustainable in the long run. The model we created is focused on providing educational and social services for the youth in the area. They have lived in poverty all of their lives, and we want them to have the opportunity of a better future.”

The hotel will not only provide the necessary funds to maintain the local school but also give older students the opportunity to develop skills while working in the hotel.

The students involved with Students for Self-Sustainable Schools include Grover; Sylvia Finlayson, an educational leadership Ph.D. candidate from Valencia, Calif.; Ben Garrison, an economics major from Ogden, Utah; Brian Hill, an economics major from Citrus Heights, Calif., and Steve Kofford, an economics major from Colorado Springs, Colo.

SchoolTipline, another finalist team that focused their efforts on educational issues, was awarded second place and $4,000. SchoolTipline created an online safely tool that allows anonymous communication between school administrators and students.

“A couple of years ago, my sister was bullied and harassed for informing her school administration about a particular situation,” says SchoolTipline member Justin Bergener. “After that experience, I knew I wanted to help students do the right thing without fearing others.”

Taking third place and winning $1,000 was Next Deseret, an organization designed to help finance nonprofit surgical centers in developing countries.

In an effort to encourage other students to get involved in social ventures, this year’s competition included an audience choice award decided during the final event. With iClickers in hand, more than 140 people voted Students for Self-Sustainable Schools the winner of the bonus $3,000 prize.

In addition to the funds awarded in this year’s competition, each finalist team has the opportunity to earn additional support funds from the BYU Center for Economic Self-Reliance. To receive more funding, the three finalist teams have until March 2009 to meet plan-specific objectives approved by the center.

“We want each of the teams to continue moving forward in their efforts to improve social issues,” says Candice Copple, director of the Social Venture Competition. “We believe their venture plans have the potential to significantly improve the lives of hundreds of people.”

The Marriott School is the largest privately owned, church-sponsored university in the United States. The school has nationally recognized programs in accounting, business management, public management, information systems and entrepreneurship. The school’s mission is to prepare men and women of faith, character and professional ability for positions of leadership throughout the world. Approximately 3,000 students are enrolled in the Marriott School’s graduate and undergraduate programs.

Writer: Irasema Romero

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