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Business students search for global solutions

By Meaghan Whelan

Two Memorial students, Emily Bonnell and Meighan Meaney, were among 200 students selected from all around the world to participate in the Athgo Global Forum: Miracles of Development: Good Governance and Capacity Building at the World Bank in Washington, DC from July 8-11.

Ms. Bonnell and Ms. Meaney, both students in the international bachelor of business administration program, were chosen to attend the conference after a highly competitive international selection process.
In a whirlwind three days, Ms. Meaney and Ms. Bonnell met other students from around the world, listened to ambassadors and representatives from the World Bank on topics like corruption in developing countries and worked with other students on developing real solutions to global issues.

After listening to the speakers, the students broke into small groups to develop a business model and policy proposal to address a current development issue. Ms Meaney worked as lead author of her group’s policy proposal that addressed the issue of UN workers exploiting those they were meant to help.

“It was a good lesson in group dynamics,” Ms. Meaney explained. “At the beginning of the conference, I didn’t feel comfortable speaking up in group settings, but after listening to the speakers and hearing from others in the group I gained a lot of confidence.

“It was empowering. When you saw that students could propose real solutions to major issues, you felt good about your own ideas and what you had to offer.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Bonnell worked as team leader in her group to develop a policy and business model on the use of compressed earth blocks, a building technology that compresses dirt and clay into environmentally friendly bricks that build safe buildings at minimal cost. Since the bricks are made out of local materials, they are much cheaper than conventional building supplies and are ideal for developing countries.

Later in the fall Athgo will review the business models and policy proposals generated by the conference and look into implementing the top ideas, with the help of the students who worked on them. Scholarships will also be awarded on the basis of an individual proposal the students submitted after the conference.
Both students commented on the impact of the conference.

“Athgo programs are directed towards young people from diverse backgrounds who share the common belief that we’re all part of the global community and we can make a difference,” said Ms. Bonnell. “There were so many people there from all over the world and I felt surrounded by people who could be future leaders.”

Ms. Meaney had a similar experience. “It was really cool to see so many young intelligent people in one place, working on big ideas that could be implemented one day. The conference was very in touch with the real world, real issues and real people.”