8 Inspiring Student Ideas to Jumpstart Action on Your Campus

Credit: Barbara Kinney / Clinton Global Initiative University

by Emilie Openchowski

College students around the world are making a bigger impact than ever on their campuses, in their communities, and across the globe. Students aren’t waiting until graduation to take action on the world’s most pressing issues — an impressive trend we’ve seen firsthand at Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U).

Today is an exciting day for the CGI U team. We are happy to announce that the 10th annual CGI U meeting — hosted by President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton — will take place at Northeastern University in Boston from October 13–15, 2017, and that this year’s meeting will mark 10 years of bringing together college and university students to address global challenges with new, specific, and measurable plans, or what we call “Commitments to Action.” Applications to attend CGI U 2017 are now open, and we can’t wait to see the innovative, impactful commitments this year’s students bring to the meeting. Read more about CGI U and submit your application on our website here.

To jumpstart your commitment development brainstorming, below are some inspiring CGI U student commitments already making an impact in Education, Environment and Climate Change, Poverty Alleviation, Peace and Human Rights, and Public Health.


Empower the Next Generation of Women Leaders

Women SPEAK is a yearlong mentoring program, webinar series, and discussion based leadership conference for more than 100 high school girls to cultivate positive body image, deconstruct gender media stereotypes, establish healthy relationships, and grow leaders in Los Angeles, California. Harvard graduate and founder Bernadette Lim has been named as one of the recipients of the Benjamin Franklin Legacy Prize in Creativity and Service. Bernadette was also chosen as one of Glamour Magazine’s Top 10 College Women in 2016 for her work with Women SPEAK. Read more about Bernadette’s experience at CGI U on LinkedIn Pulse.

Rachel Anderson and Kshipra Hemal, two students from Duke University, wanted to show fellow female students the empowerment that comes from weightlifting and strength training. Their commitment, Uplift, now offers workshops to teach female students how to perform the key powerlifting exercises — squat, bench press, and deadlift — and has created a community of female lifters while fostering campus dialogue on female empowerment and body image. Through posters, speakers, and health-related events, Uplift is working to change the conversation around weightlifting culture. Read more on Duke University’s school newspaper, The Chronicle.

As a student at Wesleyan University, Kennedy Odede launched Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), a girls’ education initiative and community development program founded in the Kibera slum outside of Nairobi, Kenya. Since launching this commitment at CGI U, Kennedy has turned his initiative into a unique model that provides education, health care, and water and sanitation services to thousands of Kibera residents. This holistic approach reached nearly 100,000 people last year and provided more than 300 girls with an elementary school education. Read more about SHOFCO from the Kenya Star.


Advance Opportunity by Improving Water Supply

Anurag Sridharan, a student from UC Berkeley, wanted to find a solution for the many urban residents in India who had to wait by their taps for hours at a time, unsure of when water would be available. NextDrop is a mobile text messaging service that provides accurate water delivery information to urban communities in India. As a result of Sridharan’s commitment, NextDrop is now providing water monitoring and leakage tracking services to all of Bangalore, and to date, more than 50,000 customers have signed up for NextDrop’s services. Sridharan and her team of 30 are beginning to use sensor technology and a corresponding app to address community-wide water security by assessing water supply, distribution, consumption, treatment, and recycling.


Protect Human Rights and Reduce Gender-based Violence

Violence Against Women Centers is an initiative to build clinics to protect and support victims of gender-based violence in Pakistan. Open 24 hours a day, these full-service facilities are run entirely by women, and are the first in the country to provide a comprehensive suite of services including first-response medical exams, lodging, crime reporting, forensic recovery, and legal aid. Hafsah Lak, a student from the University of Chicago, conceptualized the centers in partnership with the Punjab Chief Minister’s Special Monitoring Unit while co-authoring the Protection of Women Against Violence Act — a unique piece of legislation, recently passed in the Punjab province, which protects women against all forms of wrongful treatment — from sexual assault to cybercrimes to psychological and economic abuse.


Increase Energy Efficiency With Creative Solutions

Created by Donnel Baird as a graduate student at Duke University, BlocPower is a social enterprise and online marketplace that connects investors to energy efficiency projects in small businesses, houses of worship, and nonprofits located in underserved communities in New York. BlocPower uses a model that quickly determines the appropriate energy efficiency renovation for a given building, and has now provided analysis for 400 buildings in New York, along with financing for 50. Donnel is currently partnering with Con Edison and the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition to target neighborhoods with high rates of asthma to renovate buildings in these districts with safer, greener energy alternatives. BlocPower employs a full-time staff of 18 people along with an additional 20 summer fellows. Read more about BlocPower from PBS.

As a student at Harvard, Jessica Matthews created SOCCKET, a soccer ball that doubles as an eco-friendly, portable generator that provides clean energy to resource-poor areas. SOCCKET captures the energy of motion to power three hours of light, run small appliances, or charge batteries with 30 minutes of play. Since making her commitment, Matthews has cofounded Unchartered Play, an organization dedicated to creating several other “FUNctional” products. Jessica Matthews has been profiled as a Change Agent by USA Today and as one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women, and her work has been featured by CNN, New York Magazine, Essence Magazine, and The Atlantic.


Improve Health Around the World

Founded by Gavin Armstrong as a student at the University of Guelph, The Lucky Iron Fish is a safe and effective solution for reducing iron deficiency around the world. This reusable small iron ingot releases 75 percent of one’s daily recommended iron intake into meals when used in the cooking process. After nine months of using the Lucky Iron Fish every day, families in Cambodia have experienced a 50 percent reduction in the incidence of clinical iron deficiency anemia. Since the initial launch in Cambodia, Gavin and the Lucky Iron Fish team have gone on to work with NGO partners in Myanmar, India, Kenya, and Rwanda, and have distributed about 70,000 units to date. For every Lucky Iron Fish purchased online, one is donated to communities with high rates of iron deficiency. Gavin was featured on Forbes’ 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurs list in 2016.


We hope these students have inspired you to take action and make a positive impact in our global community. Keep checking our blog to see more inspiring student projects, and we hope to see your ideas turn to action this fall in Boston! To see highlights from CGI U 2016, check out our blog post here.