Seed Effect and Elon University have partnered to host a data analytics consulting competition.

This is the third consecutive year the Microfinance Challenge has been co-hosted by the Department of Economics and the Elon Microfinance Initiative (EMI), a student-led organization, since its inception in 2020.

For the first time, this year’s challenge brought together teams from varied universities including: Boston University, Elon University, Brigham Young University, University of Texas at Austin, UMass Dartmouth, Wake Forest University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, College of William and Mary, and Georgetown University.

Student teams were provided raw data from Seed Effect group members and a control population to determine if Seed Effect’s work is making a measurable impact and what insights they could uncover.

The Microfinance Competition was the brainchild of Seed Effect Chief of Staff, Grace O’Hara who saw the opportunity to utilize the groundbreaking data that Seed Effect was gathering from our Savings and Loan groups in the refugee settlements in Uganda.

Chief of Staff, Grace O’Hara, in Uganda 2018

Through the Microfinance Challenge, students would have the ability to see theory in real-world case study examples where they get to firsthand analyze the data then create meaning from it, deliver an executive summary of their findings and the impact made, then finally, suggest improvements.

In three weeks, teams analyzed the data and submitted a multimedia presentation of their assessment. Seed Effect evaluated submissions based on teams’ demonstrated understanding of the client; professionalism; clarity, accuracy and validity of statistical analyses; ability to communicate the meaning of statistical analyses; and communication of insightful implications for the microfinance program.

“EMI wanted to host this challenge to expose the student body to a real-world data analysis scenario,” said Lily Friel ’22, president of EMI. “We believe it is important for students of all majors to be able to analyze complex data and draw informative conclusions. This is becoming a crucial skill that many employers are seeking and we, as an organization, wanted to provide students an opportunity to showcase this skill in a fun, academically rewarding way.”

Five teams advanced to the final round, which included a live question-and-answer session with Seed Effect.

“I really enjoyed getting to apply many of the statistical analysis programs I learned about in my economics and finance classes, including the use of R, Stata and Tableau, to real-world problems and finding some really significant connections,”

Maxwell Zucker ’21, an economics major, said from his experience last year.

Joel Cox, US Director of Operations said of this year’s contestants,

“The students did incredibly impressive analytical work and created professional presentations to demonstrate their findings. THANK YOU so much to all the universities involved and the great work all the students put in! Well done!”

Seed Effect’s goal is not to be the biggest organization of our type, but rather the “special forces,” pioneering dignifying poverty alleviating in places devoid of this type of empowerment.

“It has been such a joy to get to participate in the Microfinance Challenge hosted by Elon University over the past three years, and especially exciting to see how its reach has grown to not only encompass more schools, but also up the level of competition,” said Grace O’Hara. “Their findings, research, and recommendations from an arm’s length perspective is truly meaningful, especially given Seed Effect’s lean size stateside.”

Seed Effect is Committed to Doing More with Less

The way we invest our resources matters. We use the time, talents and finances entrusted to us where we can achieve the most impact while promoting sustainability in our operations.

Milestone surveys and data tracking are built into our model to continually evaluate program effectiveness. This measurement and evaluation also provides credibility for our organization to help shift the world’s response to the refugee crisis to include long-term, sustainable, and dignifying solutions for refugee families.

“This was a very valuable experience for us in that it provided a real problem and real data for us to work with,”

Adam Behrman ’20, said.

“Our biggest takeaway from the challenge is the impact we can all have. With even just small contributions, we can help charities such as Seed Effect provide critical support for those who need it most.”

It’s working, it’s data proven, and it’s time to extend our reach.

Together we can bring hope and opportunity to the hard places.

Donate today.

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