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Be the Difference challenge: Winning ideas from tertiary students focus on those with disability, eating disorders, mental health

Tertiary students tapped into social media tools and apps in delivering innovative solutions to solve problems facing young people including those with mental health issues, eating disorders and disabilities.

Five winning entries were chosen from a list of 27 entries, in the challenge launched by Sovereign to celebrate the company’s 25 years of being the difference in life’s moments of truth. The winners  will each receive a scholarship of $5,000.

The challenge tasked tertiary level students around New Zealand to come up with innovative ways to help people take charge of their health and wellbeing.

The winners are:

Good Friends Project

Imogen Holmstead-Scott (Auckland University)

Emerald Wafer (Learning Connexion)

The Good Friends Project is a Facebook and Tumblr connected forum that delivers tips and information to support friends of those suffering from anorexia and other eating disorders.

The project aims to educate and empower support networks through the provision of relevant educational material in an approachable and accessible format. Imogen came up with the idea for the project when Emerald was hospitalised with anorexia in 2014.

“When a close friend is in recovery from an eating disorder, friends can often feel helpless and unsure about what to do and how to act. Through the power of social media, Good Friends Project delivers information in an accessible yet safe community based forum,” says Imogen Holmstead-Scott.

Improving the lives of people with physical disability

Liam Malone (Victoria University of Wellington)

Frustrated with a lack of information online for people with physical disabilities in New Zealand, Liam proposed the development of an online platform for people with physical disabilities to access information, share ideas, stories, photos, tips, creating a centralised community based on the sharing of this knowledge. Targeting companies who produce products and services for people with physical disabilities, banner advertising and product reviews will be sold to support ongoing site maintenance.

“There are more than 100,000 New Zealanders that have physical disabilities and having tirelessly searched the internet to find prosthetic products, reading through pages of forum threads to understand how other amputees combated things like water proofing their limbs, I realised it would be easier for myself and everyone if there was one central online community that acted as an information resource,” says Liam Malone.

Treasure Hunt Map

Katrina Jefferies (Massey University)

Treasure Hunt Map is an app encouraging children to engage in outdoor activities through the use of technology and tangible incentives. The concept for the non-profit app would see relevant businesses provide prizes which would be used as motivation for children to get active and successfully complete all activities as part of the Treasure Hunt Map – in turn these businesses will receive free advertising through the app.

“The app aims to encourage children to get active and participate in outdoor activities, with rewards for both businesses and children. Why not use technology such as smartphones and tablets to encourage health, not defer to it?” says Katrina Jefferies.


Harriet Sims (Auckland University of Technology University)

SpeakOut was created to provide hope and accessible options for young people to seek help in the area of mental health. By driving a student-led programme from within the school environment, Harriet’s project aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health for young people in New Zealand, promote help seeking behaviour and make high school a more inclusive environment.

Working on groups of 8-10 students in a secondary school environment, the student group, with the support of SpeakOut, will run initiatives each term for their peers to promote positive mental wellbeing and create awareness of the many ways to seek help.  Currently in pilot phase, SpeakOut is set to launch across schools nationwide through Like Minds, Like Mine Foundation with an aim to be in 60 high schools within three years.

“The transition phase of adolescents is such an important intervention point to equip young people with the ability to maintain their mental wellbeing. I hope this initiative will create a safe school environment where young people feel empowered to access help for their mental health,” says Harriet Sims.

Life Take Charge

Katherine Pearse (University of Canterbury)

Following a personal experience with a serious health issues within her family, Harriet was inspired by a holistic approach to health, fitness and wellbeing which is the basis for her concept of the Life Take Charge app. Based on the Te Hauroa – the Maori philosophy of health and wellbeing – the app enables users to set and reach personalised goals in all areas of their lives. Targeted goals can be set for small or large change, enabling all members of society to use the app.

“The Life Take Charge app will empower individuals to become responsible for their personal health and wellbeing. Self-motivation brings about change,” says Katherine Pearse.

Sovereign CEO and panel judge Symon Brewis-Weston said the quality of entries was impressive. “Be the Difference was created to identify smart ideas that will inspire New Zealanders to take charge of their health. The five chosen winners demonstrate not only a real understanding of issues relevant to New Zealand communities but have also identified a solution to educate, support and make a real difference to the wellbeing of Kiwis.”

The judging panel comprised of Sovereign CEO Symon Brewis-Weston, Sovereign Head of Innovation Charlie Drummond and Director of Idealog Vincent Heeringa.

The winners were selected based on the positive impact their idea could have for communities, how practical it would be to implement and the level of originality.

Finalists list

One of the talented Idealog Team Content Producers made this post happen.

Review overview