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Source: Ara Institute of Canterbury

ChristchurchNZ’s Emerging Future’s Two Week Innovation Healthcare Challenge has just finished, with Team Aritma emerging as the ‘Judges Choice’ and Team Glimpse as the ‘People’s Choice’ winners after a live-stream final pitch to a panel of expert commentators.

In this challenge, led by ChristchurchNZ and funded by Education New Zealand, over 200 international students wanting to continue or start their study were offered a unique engagement and learning opportunity while they remained unable to begin their studies in the South Island due to COVID-19. Students destined for Ara Institute of Canterbury Ltd, Lincoln University, UC, Otago University and Otago Polytech were invited to come together into teams to tackle some of the international healthcare sector’s most pressing issues in a post-COVID world. Three themes were proposed: population health, remote health and wellbeing and elder-care.

Described as a “a ten-day innovation experience for global teams of three (and) inspired by New Zealand innovators”, the challenge was ultimately taken up by five teams who progressed to a final stage, where a panel of judges listened to their pitches and then determined who received the top prize of NZ$1000.

Teams met on a daily basis to craft their solution, and during the period, every team received ‘speed-mentoring’ sessions with panel experts who offered participants constructive feedback and technical advice on their ideas, as well as insights into the art of storytelling, with a view to helping the teams create captivating online presentations.  

Ara Institute of Canterbury was singled out during this unique New Zealand-focused learning experience as the organization asked to facilitate the Mihimihi that welcomed the virtual, global community of 42 learners from Ghana, Nigeria, Mexico, China, India and Russia to the task and to each other. Led by Ara Kaiārahi Te Marino Lenihan, the Mihimihi was an inspirational way to offer all participants the opportunity to express their heritage, speak of their spiritual home and of their sense of purpose.

During the Mihimihi learners shared information about what health and wellbeing signifies to them and their culture, what was special about their corner of the world, and the things they liked and loathed about lockdown.  

‘People’s Choice’ winner Team Glimpse – which attempted to solve the problem of problematic teenage drinking – included Ara Civil Engineering student Siyuan Yang.

In addition to the Ara students who participated in the final pitch sequence, Ara academic experts Amit Sakar from EDI, and Jo Borren from HPR both facilitated speed mentoring sessions with the teams over the two weeks. Mr. Sakar commented that “The ‘Emerging Futures’ Challenge is a brilliant, timely initiative to engage international students with intellectually stimulating problem-solving. Ara Institute actively participated and helped to shape this digital challenge, and the international students from Ara made an incredible contribution to their respective teams. As a mentor, it was an absolute delight to be involved and great to see how the teams identified their problem statements and came with real, implementable solutions.”

Tracey McGill, Innovation Manager at Ara was pleased with the outcome, saying “Well done to all the Ara learners who participated and we’re looking forward to offering more innovation challenges of this type in the future.”

Beth Knowles, International Director at Ara also appreciated the value of the challenge, saying “The two week challenge was a great way for Ara to stay connected with international students unable to travel back to NZ at this time.  Students were encouraged to think of innovative and practical solutions for current health issues, and it was great to see how much they enjoyed working with other students from diverse backgrounds and countries. This digital learning experience will equip them well for the future.”