The Oxford Map the System semi-final
On 25 April, eight teams from the University of Oxford presented research on social issues for the Skoll Centre's Map the System semi-final.
Map the System is a global competition for students and recent graduates, of participating educational institutions, to learn more about the issues they care about. Rather than jumping in to find a solution to these issues, teams are scored on their understanding of the problem; to research the problem and existing solutions landscapes to identify the gaps and the possible levers of change.
For Oxford’s semi-final, eight teams were selected out of 20 submitted applications from across the University, with only four going through to present their learnings to a panel of judges and a live audience at the Saïd Business School.
The four teams that presented in the final round were:
Food Delivery in China: Reduce Waste and Plastic Pollution
DeliverGreen was a team of three Oxford MBA students, Shiqi Jia, Shuyang Zeng, and Zheng Zhou, who looked into a plastic waste issue in the Chinese food delivery market. The takeaway market in China is booming, but with this influx, comes waste; over 65 million plastic containers in China are thrown away each year. Why plastic? Chinese food typically contains a lot of liquid, and plastic is a cheap and available material that is both oil and water resistant. But with only 0.5% being recycled, around 70% is going directly to landfill and the government is inactive in regulating the problem.
Looking at the solutions landscape, DeliverGreen, identified three solutions which have had effect; one of which was a tax on plastic bags leading to a 66% drop in plastic bag consumption, and a successful pilot was carried out in Shanghai to test the usability of sustainable packaging. They also identified that media could play a key role, by putting pressure on restaurants to provide more options and social media influencers promoting better solutions to their followers.
DeliverGreen’s presentation ended with their gaps and levers of change to be a dynamic approach to hit all aspects of this complex issue: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Replace, Regulation.
Automation and Job Loss in Australia
Automation and Job Loss in Australia was another team of Oxford MBA students, Victoria Pelletier, Meredith Caldwell, Brodie Middleton, and Eleanor Brown looking into the responses to job loss in Australia due to automation where 44% of jobs are currently at risk.
Automation is taking the jobs of manual workers, sale clerks, admin assistants, and of course older workers; there is a broad group of workers at risk, but regional and rural workers are likely to be affected the most. The team pointed out that this is not only a risk to income, but also mental health with many laid off workers at risk of depression.
Currently, only 0.01% of government spending goes toward training, with the majority of loans going to youths or those with learning difficulties, and often training outcomes aren’t measured and apprenticeships aren’t a core part of career training.
Looking at the gaps and the levers of change, they identified the need for broadening skill recognition; 'micro-credentialing' for task based jobs. Another factor proposed was for more support during these transition periods. Currently the welfare system is not fit for purpose and people don’t know what opportunities are available, or what jobs could match their skills.
The team finished with a final message to their presentation, 'this is coming, and we need to act across all sectors'.
Tech Startups in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Tech start-ups are a crucial way of fostering new standards of productivity, skills, and economic growth. Yet, African countries like Tanzania are seeing a worryingly small output of successful tech start-ups compared to other countries currently experiencing a tech revolution.
Team DarTech is a cross-disciplinary team made up of Oxford alumnus, Arun Shanmuganathan, University of Cambridge alumna, Amy Bendel, and University of Dar es Salaam alumnus, Gerald Kalwizira.
They kicked off their presentation with a startling statistic, there are 54 countries in Africa, yet 80% of start-up funding and investment goes to just three countries, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. DarTech investigated why tech start-ups in Tanzania do not see a fair share of this funding.
So what’s holding this problem in place? DarTech found that access to capital from banks and other lenders is scarce. Interest rates are usually high, and with no access to family or equity lending either, start-ups find it difficult to borrow money to get their ideas off the ground. They also found that 'foreign investors are discouraged by complex bureaucratic processes'. DarTech looked into the cultural aspects of this issue, surmising that negative attitudes to risk could be hindering founders to seek advice for fear of their ideas being stolen, or due to low, risk averse, consumers not buying in to new products and services.
Current solutions within this system were entrepreneurship grants and competitions that can come with a small amount of finance and mentorship. However, most of the time these initiatives are untracked, and therefore founders left unaccountable. Some accelerators, incubators, and e-learning offerings can offer business training, but a lot of the time is not appropriate in the Tanzanian context.
DarTech found multiple gaps within this issue area, and offered various solutions within their levers of change. Some of which were: More accountability from entrepreneurs by providing micro-finance loans, bridging the gap in founder business experience by encouraging corporate partnerships with non-disclosure agreements in place, and lastly by providing contextualised learning materials fit for the Tanzanian setting.
Gender Inequality in the U.S State of Utah
Passionate about their home state of Utah and as women of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints (Mormon), team Daughters investigated and drew on personal stories of those tackling gender disparity in Utah, U.S.A. Lyn Johnson and Crystal Trejo Green, both Oxford MBA students, were joined by Alisha Gale, a stay-at-home mum, to make up team Daughters.
Daughters laid out the 'troubling statistics' about the gender inequality of Utah, ranking number 50 in the U.S. national states. They also outlined that Utah fairs poorly in areas such as: political and business representation, and equal pay. However, what Daughters openly pointed out was that this is an issue in disguise. Utah often ranks highly in polls for 'happiest states' and 'best states for women', as with general state prosperity; women are often left content in the status quo. But although any audience could argue, 'is this an issue if women are happy?', Daughters highlighted that whilst the rest of the U.S. is embracing equality and better representation in its institutions, Utah is at risk of being left behind, not to mention half of its population left without a voice.
The problem is a lot more complex than meets the eye, as Daughters presented that the correlation between wage gap and political representation to domestic violence and rape, is strong. But tackling social issues with normalised, ingrained behaviours is difficult, with an emphasis on stay at home motherhood - which is socially rewarded - and to live up to unattainable beauty standards to keep a husband.
So what has been done to bring about gender parity in Utah? Daughters found that there had been community action to get women into priesthood, and also corporate-led initiatives to enhance women in the workforce such as the Utah Women & Leadership Project and Women’s Leadership Institute and advocate for equal rights and training.
Daughters finished their presentation with their identified gaps and proposed levers of change. They expressed further need for: religious encouragement, better messaging that speaks to the women who embrace traditional roles, inclusion in leadership, and for male advocacy. Their 'surprising takeaways' outlined a complex cultural issue; women affected are the strongest enforcers of genders norms in Utah and advocacy groups can fall into the trap of alienating themselves from the women they seek to help.
Daughters ended with the three reasons that gender equality matters: Utah risks social obsolescence, it’s a human rights issue, and that it matters to them personally – they want both the people, and the place to thrive.
After much deliberation, the Oxford semi-final judging panel chose the team that would go through the Map the System Global Final in the Saïd Business School on 1st – 3rd June.
Team Daughters were chosen as the 1st place winners receiving £1,500 in prize money, and a place at the Global Final in June. 2nd place was awarded to Automation and Job Loss in Australia who took £1,000 in prize funds, 3rd place awarded to DeliverGreen who took £500 in prize money, with DarTech receiving an honourable mention.