The Ideas for Action initiative was founded in 2015 following the creation of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the vision of financing the future of international development.
Wharton School lecturer and Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research senior fellow Djordjija Petkoski is the adviser for Ideas for Action. Petkoski leads a team that includes co-presidents Pallavi Menon, a fifth-year senior at Wharton, Rikki Kong, a sophomore at Wharton, and Tyler Kliem, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The Ideas for Action club operates through three branches: the Executive Committee, the Accelerator Committee, and the Special Initiatives Committee. The Executive Committee takes responsibility for the review proposals for global initiatives that the club launches. The Accelerator Committee provides consulting advice and support for the winners of these global challenges, enabling social entrepreneurs to form partnerships to expand their ideas. The Special Initiatives Committee adopts a broader role, establishing partnerships and hosting ideation workshops and speaker series for University-specific events.
While the COVID-19 pandemic challenged the implementation of the annual goals of the club, the students adapted quickly to launch the Africa COVID-19 Ideas for Action challenge in 2020. They supported entrepreneurs who lost jobs or internships and brainstormed solutions for an effective private and public sector response to the COVID-19 pandemic in countries throughout Africa. The initiative featured more than 250 proposals submitted from over 20 countries and were reviewed by Wharton students and faculty, as well as health care and policy experts. It was launched with the purpose of encouraging ideas and innovations from young people, and supported by senior decision makers and experts in international development, academia, and the private sector to develop ideas and responses related to COVID-19 challenges.
“When Djordjija proposed that we sponsor an initiative on COVID-19, I
suggested a focus on Africa,” says William Laufer, director of the Zicklin Center. “I feared that countries in Africa would be ignored, once again, by those power- and resource-rich economies at the top of the economic pyramid. It was obvious even then that the gap between the availability of any possible treatment or vaccine would cut a clear line between high- and low-income countries. Glaring inequities in public health infrastructure would further define this gap.”
In addition to this work, more than three years ago, Ideas for Action developed their second international program, this time with an emphasis on women’s leadership. SDGs&Her provides a platform in which women entrepreneurs present their established businesses, with the chance to receive development assistance from Wharton, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, and United Nations Women.
Since its inception, the club has grown from 10 students to an organization of more than 50, and features prominent partnerships with Penn clubs and external companies.
Petkoski, Menon, Kliem, and Kong talked with Penn Today about the initiative, its impact, and future of the club.