CSG announces Innovate, a public service pitch competition

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 - 8:28pm

In an attempt to make public service more accessible to students from diverse academic backgrounds, Central Student Government plans to launch Innovate, a public service pitch competition, this winter.

According to Sujay Shetty, Chief of Staff to the President and an Information junior, students with certain majors, usually political science or public policy, pursue public service. This competition, however, aims to expand public service interest across all majors.

“We’re operating with the framework that encourages collaboration between students from a broad range of disciplines,” he said. “There’s particular emphasis on unconventional disciplines in the realm of public service, and we hope that this can catalyze real-world, positive change.”

CSG Innovate was the brainchild of CSG President Anushka Sarkar, an LSA senior, and Vice President Nadine Jawad, a Public Policy senior, who included it in their eMerge platform last semester.

Many details have yet to be finalized, Shetty said, but the competition is expected to span a couple months and feature three stages. Any undergraduate or graduate student at the University of Michigan is invited to participate. Multiple winners will be awarded a hierarchy of prizes, including grant money to pursue the proposed public service project.

Innovate was the primary focus of CSG’s Giving Blueday fundraising campaign. Though the amount of prize money remains undecided as CSG continues to raise funds for the project, they plan to use the money obtained from Giving Blueday and money in their Executive Discretionary account for winter 2018 to fund the competition.

Chief Programming Officer Isabelle Blanchard, an LSA sophomore, said CSG also aims to supplement partnerships with the Center for Entrepreneurship and Library Student Mini Grants.

The first stage of the competition, a mingling event intended to introduce individual projects and find partners who share similar passions, will take place on Jan. 19. The next two phases, pitches in front of a panel of judges, and perhaps, the student body, are unscheduled, Blanchard said.

“I hope students will be able to realize the actual impact they can make on a college campus, whether it’s their first year or their last year,” she said. “I think that competitions really open a lot of doors for groups, and I think it’s really rare for students to be able to receive so much funding and work on a project continuously.”

CSG representative Zoha Qureshi, a Public Policy junior, believes it’s valuable for CSG to fund projects like Innovate.

“It is important for CSG to fund these kinds of competitions, because they elevate student voices, allow collaboration between students, and foster understanding of various perspectives — all important to making our campus a better place for us,” she said.

Qureshi hopes Innovate will inspire students of all academic backgrounds to consider the role public policy can play in their long-term goals.

“As a Ford student, I hope the competition inspires first- and second-year students to consider how their interests and goals (health, economics, law, etc.) can be manifested through public service work, and how learning more about public policy can help these students reach those goals,” she said.