The prestigious Birmingham Project is an exciting opportunity for first year undergraduates to tackle a ‘real world’ problem, creating innovative solutions and online resources to attempt to solve it. It offers students the chance to add valuable skills and experience to their repertoire which sets them apart when applying for jobs or internships.
The Project sets challenges based around themes, and students work in small groups supported by a challenge lead - usually a University of Birmingham academic.
This year saw the introduction of a ‘responsible business’ topic, an area of growing prominence in the business and academic world. Responsible business has the community and environment at its heart and aims to transform business practices to create a world where profit doesn’t come at a cost to society and the environment.
Lloyds Banking Group, winner of 2018’s Responsible Business of the Year award from Business in the Community, sponsored the topic, with the challenge leads coming from the Centre for Responsible Business’ long list of academic experts.
The University was honoured to welcome Dene Jones, Regional Director and Mark Turton, Relationship Manager at Lloyds Banking Group, who helped officiate and judge the project. The grand prize for the winning team for this topic was a Lloyds Banking Group graduate experience day.
The challenges were:
1) How can consumers take account of a product’s carbon footprint in their purchase decisions? (challenge lead Radman Selmic)
2) How can social media be used to expose unsustainable business practices? (challenge lead Professor Ian Thomson)
3) How can we reduce food waste in Birmingham? (challenge lead Nana O’Bonsu)
The students were given a two week period to consider the problem and create a possible solution. They then presented their projects to a panel of judges and an audience on the final day.
The winning group in the Responsible Business category were tackling the difficult carbon footprint challenge. They conducted intelligent surveys with consumers in Birmingham New Street station to assess the levels of awareness around the carbon footprints of certain products, and proposed an app which would allow customers to scan products to check their carbon footprint.
The proposed app would include a ‘points’ system in which the customer could earn points based on how low a product’s carbon footprint is, and use those points to shop in the future. The team developed a website to accompany the app and a short video to show how much carbon dioxide an ordinary person emits during a single day.
The group were awarded their prize by Dene Jones in a ceremony on the afternoon of the final day.
The group’s challenge lead, Radman Selmic, said their work “clearly demonstrates the level of this group's enthusiasm, thoroughness and sophistication and confirms that their award is well deserved”.
Ian Thomson, Director for the Centre of Responsible Business, observed “the overall performance of the students was exceptional, producing innovative, thoughtful and creative solutions to highly complex problems. The teams’ energy and commitment throughout the two weeks was inspirational”.
“I got a sense that many of the students surprised themselves in what they were able to accomplish and were wonderful examples of the passion, power and intellect of young people. Giving students a space to flourish and make a difference underpins the educational philosophy of Lloyds Banking Group Centre for Responsible Business and the strategic direction of Birmingham Business School”.