The Institute for Business Ethics and Sustainability (IBES) continues to be at the forefront of business for good initiatives with a new interdisciplinary competition for LMU students called the Promotion of Justice Challenge.
The challenge, born from this statement of solidarity and conversations between IBES Director Jeff Thies and Entrepreneurship Professor Jason D’Mello, provides a creative opportunity for students from all majors that uses the power of storytelling – both written and visual – to profile organizations that are making a positive impact on the world.
“The goal of this challenge was to bring our campus community together during the lockdown to search for positive inspiration from companies using business as a force for good and share their stories,” said D’Mello, who oversaw the competition.
Student teams were tasked with interviewing and profiling a business that advances social justice and promotes one or more of the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: Gender Equality, Reduced Inequalities, and Sustainable Cities and Communities.
The top four teams advanced to the finals and received a $750 grant to produce a video on their social impact story. Student teams premiered their inspiring videos to the public at the Promotion of Justice Showcase, a glitzy red-carpet event held Oct. 29 at Cinemark Playa Vista.
First place and $2,500 went to “Food is Power: Eradicating Food Insecurity One Yard at a Time” featuring an interdisciplinary team of business and film students: Steve Howell, Faith Nishimura, Ryan Walker and Tyler Walker. The team profiled Asante, a microfarm operated by Crop Swap LA, a social enterprise that is changing the urban landscape by tackling urban food deserts and reinvigorating local economies in an innovative and sustainable way.
The Promotion of Justice Challenge proved to be the perfect opportunity for this motivated team, and Crop Swap LA an ideal subject.
Senior entrepreneurship major Steve Howell came across Crop Swap LA while browsing Instagram and immediately reached out to founder Jamiah Hargins.
“After speaking with Jamiah, we both knew something special was about to happen,” said Steve. “We visited Asante and quickly realized these microfarms were going to change the world.”
When junior Faith Nishimura first heard about the Promotion of Justice Challenge, she was eager to get involved because it aligned with CBA’s mission to develop business leaders to be a force for good.
“As a marketing major, I want to work at the intersection of storytelling and activism,” said Faith. “This challenge reaffirmed my desire to be a marketer for good. Telling important stories like Crop Swap LA’s with authenticity is what gives me purpose.”
For Faith, it was especially important to highlight Crop Swap LA’s work in addressing the racial inequality that comes with food deserts, which disproportionately impact communities of color. Food has historically and continues to be used as a tool to control oppressed people. Thus, securing food independence and building sustainable local economies is key to closing that racial disparity.
“It was clear to the entire team that this story was worth telling,” said Faith. “It’s more than a social enterprise. It’s a movement that can be amplified through this challenge.”
The challenge also provided a unique opportunity for senior entrepreneurship major Ryan Walker to collaborate with his younger brother, Tyler, a sophomore with plans to major in production/media studies. Ryan had just gotten over some health issues that he conquered thanks to food, so Asante felt like the perfect fit.
“We filmed the video several times and I really pressed Tyler to do his best work,” said Ryan. “I knew that if we worked hard as a team, we would win the competition. And thankfully, we did.”
Tyler added, “My hope was for people to walk away from the film feeling optimistic and that through action, the world can heal to become a better place.”
Jeff Thies was particularly inspired by the student’s creativity, enthusiasm for the project and the incredible stories of business impact they profiled.
“For a first-time competition, we couldn’t be more pleased with the results,” said Thies. “The students worked really hard and they should be proud of what they accomplished. They set the bar high for next year.”
Click here to learn more about the Promotion of Justice Challenge, including feedback from judges and links to all four student videos.