SIPA Team Competes in Policy Challenge

Blog reposted from the Columbia – SIPA website.

SIPA was one of four newcomers in a field of nine schools that took part in the 2013 National Public Policy Challenge, held in Philadelphia on March 16 and 17.

The invitational competition, hosted by the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania, asks teams of students representing some of the nation’s leading public policy schools to develop and present a policy proposal and civic campaign plan to achieve significant change in their home communities.

Earlier this spring, the Office of Academic Affairs solicited proposals from students interested in competing. Selected to represent SIPA was a proposal for more efficient disaster-relief management, developed by a team comprising Lakshmi Balachandran MPA-DP ’13, Jesper Frant MPA-DP ’14, Eric Smyth MIA ’13, and Seisei Tatebe-Goddu MIA ’13.

The proposed initiative, known as ReliefMap, had been conceived by Frant in Professor Anne Nelson’s class on New Media for Development Communication. It would respond to large inefficiencies in matching donations by volunteers and organizations to the actual needs of citizens in the aftermath of disasters such as Hurricane Sandy.

Advised by faculty members Ester Fuchs and Sarah Holloway, the team prepared an in-depth implementation, marketing, and finance plan for presentation to the competition judges. While the team did not win the competition, members said they received positive feedback and valuable comments on how to take the idea forward.

“The process of developing an idea that was not only technically feasible, but would also ensure interest and large scale adoption by government agencies, disaster relief organizations and common citizens was extremely valuable,” said Tatebe-Goddu.

Meeting team members to solicit feedback, Associate Dean Dan McIntyre of Academic Affairs praised them for their efforts in a tight timeframe and noted that SIPA had received word of the competition relatively late. McIntyre said his office would make sure participating students have more time to prepare for the competition in 2014.

“We’re already looking forward to next year,” he said.

—  Lakshmi Balachandran MPA-DP ’13

Pictured above (L-R): Professor Ester Fuchs, Seisei Tatebe-Goddu, Eric Smyth, Lakshmi Balachandran, Jesper Frant. Not pictured: Professor Sarah Holloway.

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