On October 20-21, 2022, Team Brescia University: Canel Kahriman, Deimante Krivickaite, Juan Tavera, Rhiannon Wilson, and Teagen Windham participated in the College of William and Mary and NATO’s Countering Disinformation Challenge 2022. Team Brescia University competed against students from the University of Kent (UK), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (Netherlands), Istanbul Bilgi University (Turkey), University of Alberta (Canada), University of Surrey (UK), University of Toronto Mississauga (Canada), and Spartanburg Community College (US) in the Charlie Stream: Sexism and Gender-Based Violence. The project entitled The Ourglass Initiative focused on education targeting various levels of information across schools in the NATO-member countries with the purpose of combating disinformation regarding gender-based violence.
Brescia students’ proposal was judged by a panel of experts ranging from NATO Headquarters Public Diplomacy Division and Cyber and Hybrid Policy Office, US Army Training and Doctrine Command, Bulgarian Ministry of Defense, US Defense Attaché Office for Angola and Sao Tome and Principe, US Department of State and Commerce, NATO Field School, along with faculty from The College of William and Mary, James Madison University, University of Houston, and University of SS. Cyril and Methodius in Slovakia, among others. The academics and experts who served as judges also stepped in as mentors to the student teams, giving the students ample opportunities to learn from them and begin establishing connections for the future.
Brescia University Team’s solution to countering technology-facilitated gender-based violence is THE OURGLASS campaign, a multi-pronged education-based approach. The proposed solution uses formal education through mandated courses in partnership with NATO-aligned educational institutions. An informal approach through socially responsible ads, commercials, and campaigns serves as the grass-roots support to the mandatory educational element. Such content educates the public through easily digestible ads that spark interest through evoking emotion and an individual desire for change. Moreover, a bi-annual event featuring prominent feminists and activists as keynote speakers provides accessibility to the public and furthers a grassroots initiative promoting involvement and the sustainability of the program. This solution emphasizes the importance of intersectionality for all genders but notes the disproportionate effects gender-based violence and misinformation have on women and individuals who do not conform to conventional expressions of masculinity or femininity with gender-nonconforming identities. The Ourglass Initiative provides a comprehensive and proactive solution to combatting sexism and gender-based disinformation in NATO-member and NATO-aligned countries.
This was not the first time Brescia University students participated in a global innovation competition organized by The College of William and Mary. In April 2022, Brescia students Deimante Krivickaite, Daniel Paez, and Danila Pyzh won the Sixth Global Innovation Challenge, an intercollegiate competition organized by The College of William and Mary (Virginia). Brescia University Team won in the category of Social Entrepreneurship with their solution to the problems caused by the rising sea levels in Lagos, Nigeria.
Started in 2017, the College of William and Mary’s Global Innovation Challenge (WMGIC) is the hackathon-style international and sustainable development case competition aimed at encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration to create innovative solutions for current global issues. Along with the team from Brescia, 24 teams from 21 universities worldwide participated in finding a solution to Lagos’ problems related to the rising see levels. The competing teams came from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America representing universities such as Tsinghua University, China (ranked 13th best university in the world in 2021), University of Michigan (3rd in the US public universities), American University, College of William and Mary (10th in the US publics), Virginia Tech University, University of Mauritius, King’s College London, UK (33rd best university in the world), University of Calgary (Canada), Swarthmore College (3rd in the US liberal arts institutions), Berea College, Beloit College, George Mason University, and Norther Marianas College. The judges for this competition hailed from the United States, France, and Guatemala and represented notable organizations such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank. Brescia Team was mentored by Ms. Beth Perry, Open Innovation Advisor at USAID.
Deimante, Daniel, and Danila proposed to capitalize on the untapped seaweed resource abundant in the region of Lagos and connect it to the community empowerment. Their proposal called for a creation of an NGO made of representatives from global seaweed business, local community leaders, and local business community ready to be trained in the dynamics of the world seaweed market and management of the local resources. The NGO would apply for the initial grant from the International Development Association (IDA), part of the World Bank Group, to start the seaweed component of the plan. The revenue from the export of seaweed to North American, European and Asian markets would then fund community training, job creation (targeting unemployment), implementing water filtering facilities, and supporting university research in the area of effective sewerage improvement and expansion, thereby ensuring the project’s sustainability into the future. The long-term benefits of this social entrepreneurship also included working with the State of Lagos government to improve the existing sewerage system, with funding based on community oversight, yearly reports, economic growth (targeting poverty) and transparency, thereby ameliorating the issues of corruption and lacking governmental accountability.
Brescia University’s winning record at this world-renown challenge is currently 50%. The next competition will take place in April 2023. Brescia plans on sponsoring at least two student teams. Let’s keep this record of 50% wins or better against best universities in the world, shall we?