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Scripps Innovation Challenge team visits Natural Resources Defense Council

Julia Brown | Dec 11, 2017

(L-R) Linsey Edmunds and Rachel Martin stand in front of the NRDC sign at their New York office on Fri., Nov. 17, 2017.  / Photo provided   

Scripps Innovation Challenge team visits Natural Resources Defense Council

By Julia Brown

ATHENS, Ohio (Dec. 11, 2017)—Prize money is nice, but sometimes face-to-face networking is more valuable.

Just ask members of the Green Mappers team that won a hefty cash prize as one of the winners of this past year’s 5th annual Scripps Innovation Challenge. The nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council, a giant environmental advocacy group, selected the three-student team as having the best solution to its “challenge” to find an innovative and effective way for NRDC to increase donations.

The Green Mappers’ entry envisioned an interactive map where interested citizens could find – and donate to – NRDC projects near where they live.

The team won a $2,500 cash prize. But they also won an “incentive prize” of an all-expenses-paid trip to NRDC’s New York offices and the opportunity to pitch their idea to the organization’s top officials.

Rachel Martin, a sophomore environmental studies major in the Honors Tutorial College, described their recent trip to New York as “amazing.”

“Our presentation went great, and they were all very interested in our idea,” she said. “In fact, they said they just had a meeting the day before discussing some of the same things we had researched, such as using a new innovative platform, reaching a target population and how to make a more meaningful impact to increase donations.”

“I think Rachel and I were surprised by how we kept hearing how applicable our idea was to what the NRDC is looking for and identified a need to address,” said teammate Linsey Edmunds, a second-year master of science in environmental studies candidate in the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs remarked. “They were honestly the nicest people, and they made us feel very comfortable and excited about our idea.”

Their third teammate, Hashim Pashtun, was unable to attend.

The Green Mappers’ idea has the potential to influence how NRDC interacts with the public. “There is nothing more important to NRDC’s mission than finding new and effective ways to engage the next generation of environmental stewards,” said Bob Deans, the organization’s Washington-based director of strategic engagement, who traveled from the nation’s capital to hear the pitch in New York. “The Scripps Innovation Challenge is a terrific way to tap into the emerging expertise and innovative spirit of that generation, so we can do a better job of lending voice to their passion for change.”
    
The Scripps Innovation Challenge, open to all Ohio University students, is designed for teams to work collaboratively across academic programs to develop and pitch innovative solutions to real-world “challenges” posed by media and communication organizations, with the winners selected by a panel of industry professionals.

The 6th annual Scripps Innovation Challenge Kickoff will be held on Wed., Jan. 31, at 5 p.m. in Schoonover Center auditorium (145), home to the Scripps College of Communication. The featured speaker will be alumnus Michael Clay Carey, MS ’12 and PHD ’14, author of “The News Untold: Community Journalism and the Failure to Confront Poverty in Appalachia.” Winners will be chosen when finalists present their ideas at a “Pitch Day” competition on April 9 at Ohio University’s Baker Center.

Last year’s top prize of $7,000 went to Team Players, three students studying playwriting, who came up with an innovative way to use social media for a live-TV “pledge drive” in which participants would vote for cute animal videos, culminating in a five-animal showdown where celebrities would represent each animal and urge watchers to make donations to NRDC.

Green Mappers placed second, collecting a $2,500 cash prize. But officials at NRDC – in a separate judging competition – selected the Green Mappers entry as the best for the Natural Resources Defense Council challenge. That carried with it NRDC’s “incentive prize” of the all-expenses-paid trip to New York.

“The Scripps Innovation Challenge offers cash prizes to winners. But while the money is nice, we’ve found that students are just as interested in ‘incentive prizes’ in which they can present their innovative ideas to the top leaders in a sponsoring company or organization,” said Andy Alexander, director of the Scripps Innovation Challenge. “The Challenge’s extra value is that in presenting their ideas to sponsors, the students also get to network with top industry leaders.”

The possibility for real-world application of the Green Mappers’ idea was an exciting prospect for its team members.

“I hope our idea will help the NRDC raise more money, because they do amazing work as is with litigation and their various projects,” said Martin. “Ultimately, I hope the increase in donations allows them to complete and implement projects.”

Martin and Edmunds were also able to network with a range of NRDC officials. The trip wasn’t all business, however. During their four days in New York, the students were able to visit Times Square, take in an Off-Broadway show and walk along the High Line, a 1.45-mile-long elevated park and greenway the snakes through the heart of Manhattan.

Edmunds will graduate this spring and plans to look for jobs in the environmental field, including at NRDC’s Bozeman, Montana, office because she is a self-described “mountain gal.” Martin plans to attend graduate school and eventually work for an international nonprofit on conservation biology.

“Meeting with the NRDC solidified that this would be a great path for me,” Martin said. “I could picture myself working for the NRDC one day, and I am glad this challenge has allowed me to make connections and be inspired to potentially do that.”

For more information about the Scripps Innovation Challenge visit https://www.ohio.edu/scrippscollege/innovationchallenge/.