Global finals for Map the System awards see students finish in the top 10

The Global Finals for the University of Oxford’s international competition ‘Map the System’ ran this month from 16th to 19th June.

Business School students Dan Gordon, Matt Scates, and Tom Spencer competed against 56 other student teams from universities across the globe with their systems mapping project, ‘The UK Food System and its Climate Change Implications’, which sought to explore the impact of the UK’s food systems on greenhouse emissions and to apply a systems-thinking approach in exploration of potential solutions to the problem.

The International Function at the Business School supported the University’s initial involvement at the end of 2021. In April, an internal panel chose the finalists from a pool of other student project proposals. Dan, Matt, and Tom’s ambitious project was selected to be the very first to represent the University of Leeds at the event in Oxford.

The students received mentorship from Professor Iain Clacher (Pro-Dean for International) and Cathy Myles (Pro-Dean for Student Education) throughout various stages of the competition. Ellen Wang (Faculty International Manager) provided public speaking support through several rehearsal sessions. Cathy and Ellen accompanied the students on the day for support.

From Friday to Sunday, students attended workshops, rehearsals and networked with international peers. On Saturday, Dan, Matt, and Tom gave a 10-minute presentation to a panel of judges and submitted a 3,000 word document and detailed research bibliography for the Finals. They ultimately finished in the top 10 and received the “Highly Commended Excellence Award” from the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship.

This unique opportunity not only provided the students with tangible public speaking, team working and research skills, but also gave them a new sense of confidence in presenting research.

“The Global Final was the biggest presentation I have done,” Matt said about his experience in Oxford, “In this sense, this experience has developed my ability and confidence in public speaking.”

He noted the greatest benefit was “learning how to use system thinking” and he “certainly” will apply this skill in the future. His teammates Tom and Dan agreed, adding that the competition’s international aspect also enhanced the experience, allowing them to expand their personal networks globally. 

“Being able to meet so many interesting people from around the world was so insightful,” Dan said. “Everyone there was friendly and open.”

Tom added:

Given that participants were from across the globe, the experience has allowed me to drastically improve my networking skills and, subsequently, my network.

The aim of the Business School is to continue this project into future years and to strongly encourage students on using a systems-thinking approach for any real-world problems. The team recommended future students participate and reflected on the benefits of becoming aware of other students’ projects and the systemic issues they examined from across the world. They offered a few words of advice for those who may be interested in taking part next year.

Matt commented: “Explore a topic you are truly passionate about. The key is understanding the structures and assumptions that are preventing meaningful change from happening. While this may sound daunting, becoming an expert in your chosen field is extremely satisfying and rewarding.”

It is with great pride and sincerity that all those involved with supporting the students in the competition congratulate them on their success.