Archive for February, 2009

Update from Oxford!

February 17, 2009 - 1:18 pm No Comments

It’s been a while since I last updated – so much has happened in the interim period! I’m really enjoying Hillary term; it’s unbelievable that five weeks have passed. Instead of covering general economic theory, we get to take different development modules, taught by leading experts in the field. From a module on health and human development to capital flows to developing countries, I’ve been reading and learning so many interesting concepts. In particular, I’m really excited about the Institutions and Development module taught by Paul Collier and Pedro Vicente for this upcoming half of term. Unlike last term, I’m much more settled in – so many speakers come, the college atmosphere is unparalleled, and the student community is very vibrant.

My volunteer work is going very well – I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to apply the theory of program evaluation to actual microfinance projects in Africa. From analyzing data to designing survey instruments and sampling methodologies, I have a chance to put what I learn in my courses into practice.

Ice hockey is also going well – even though we lose consistently and practices run very late into the night, I’m having tons of fun. We have a game against Peterborough this upcoming weekend – perhaps our first chance of victory this entire season! Regardless, as I’ve learned, no game really matters other than Varsity, the final match against Cambridge. Unfortunately, debate isn’t going as well as I envisioned. I had very high expectations for this semester, but logistically, the committee isn’t pulling together. I admit my own failings in not fully being on top of things, but I’ve been so preoccupied with Givology and YouthBank. As for my portfolio trading team, we’re now fully invested across sectors – let’s see whether we can beat the FTSE (the payoff of 1,000 GBP for every 1% over the index is highly attractive). With markets as crazy as they are, who knows how we’ll fare by the end of next year – there are so many unprecedented, cheap valuations of great companies, but a one-year time horizon is still too short and we don’t have the capacity to short. But since we only have to beat the benchmark, the task is much easier.

As for project updates, YouthBank is going well. Most notably, YouthBank was selected to be a finalist (top 6) in the Idea Idol competition (http://www.oxfordentrepreneurs.co.uk/events/idea-idol/), the flagship business ideas competition run by Oxford Entrepreneurs. All finalists get to pitch their idea to potential investors, receive substantial media coverage, benefit from training and mentorship, and most excitingly, the winner gets £10,000. From what I understand, over 350+ people will be attending the final competition at Said Business School on March 5th, where the business idea will be presented to a panel of distinguished judges.

Likewise, Givology (www.givology.org) has had a tremendous week. When Nicholas Kristof came to Penn last Monday, we had a chance to share with him our idea. During his keynote speech, he mentioned Givology, and then later, posted a blog post about us! (http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/do-it-yourself-foreign-aid/?scp=1&sq=%22University%20of%20Pennsylvania%22&st=cse). As nearly the entire Givology team are avid readers of his column, we are continually inspired by his work and humbled by his experiences and insights in combating injustice in the world through journalism – we feel really grateful for his support. His blog post has helped us generate a substantial amount of press and attention! As a result, we have raised approximately $700 this week, leading us to a total of $3,280. Also, our grant application for Light for Learning, a project sponsored by AHEAD Energy and the Peace Nursery and Primary School, was nominated as a finalist for the Projects for Peace competition, making us eligible for $10,000. Likewise, Givology has been featured at conferences throughout the world. Jenn Q represented Givology at the NYC Young Women’s Social Entrepreneurs and Columbia University’s Multicultural Business Association panel on the topic of “Different Faces of Socially Responsible Investing”. In addition, I had a chance to present Givology and our model of Internet microphilanthropy at the Oxford Forum for International Development, where I had a chance to connect and engage with many students who are eager to help. For the Education Without Borders call for papers, I wrote an analysis of online giving marketplaces and microphilanthropy – if you are interested, please let me know and I can send this paper to you; it really does encapsulate our vision and our business strategy.

Since we’re at a critical growth phase, any comments and suggestions on our site would be absolutely wonderful! We’re very much looking to improve our functionality, as well as engage donors by building out our community and emphasizing donor-student relations. I’m working on getting an Oxford Givology Chapter started (along with an ASAP chapter), but we definitely need more students throughout the world to take initiative and do the same in their own schools and local communities. For more information about starting a chapter, please visit: https://www.givology.org/startachapter/.