Beeta Ansari

Beeta is Ashoka U’s Exchange Director, the world’s largest global convening for social entrepreneurship education.

Changemaker of the Week: Daniel Yu

Daniel Yu, a student at University of Chicago, describes his work founding Project SAM, an innovative feature-phone application targeted at health clinics in developing countries.

Daniel is being featured as part of Ashoka U’s series, “Changemaker of the Week” which highlights extraordinary student changemakers in college and graduate programs around the world. Check the Ashoka U Blog each week for a story of a new Changemaker of the Week!

What is your project or organization?

Project SAM (SMS Accounting Management) is an innovative feature-phone application targeted at health clinics in developing countries. Project SAM allows workers in these health clinics to keep track of their records simply via text, since smartphones are not widely available but feature phones are. Most importantly, this process digitizes the inventory records and allows them to be integrated into an online database. A central medical distributor would then be able to use this database to easily and effectively monitor supplies across multiple health clinics, estimating when they would need new shipments to avoid stock outs of medication, which is a problem that affects millions across the developing world.

How did you get involved with this project / organization (or how did you decide to found it)?

The idea for Project SAM grew out of my personal experience living in rural Egypt last summer. While I was there, I observed inefficient business practices stemming from the lack of effective inventory management technology, though I also saw that almost everybody had a basic mobile phone. The idea to create a mobile accounting system specifically for health clinics came when I was back at school and met a future team member who personally witnessed health clinics experiencing stock outs in Peru.

How has being a college student changed the way you act as a changemaker?

Being a student is extremely helpful in the accessing resources that may be helpful to the growth of your cause. I’ve done as much as possible to take advantage of my school’s student and alumni communities to grow my team and make vital connections with partner organizations. Generally speaking, just saying you’re a student looking for help and guidance can go a long way in encouraging influential people to contribute to your cause.

What’s the best part of working on your venture?

Meeting other dedicated young entrepreneurs. Over the past few months we’ve been privileged to participate in a variety of student entrepreneurship competitions, including the Microsoft Imagine Cup and the Clinton Global Initiative University, and through those events we’ve had the opportunity to make connections and build friendships with similar-minded people who want to use innovation to make a positive impact.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to any college student thinking of becoming a changemaker?

Just do it, and don’t be afraid to fail. When I was making the decision on whether to dedicate myself to Project SAM full-time I looked at it through both the best-case and worst-case scenarios: in the best-case I would successfully implement Project SAM and make a real impact in improving people’s lives, but even in the worst-case, if what I was trying to do ended up a complete failure, I would still learn so much in the process and come out of it with a better chance of succeeding at doing something in the future.

How has your school or school’s social entrepreneurship initiative helped your progress as a student social innovator and in this venture?

The Project SAM team actually initially came together as a team for the UChicago College New Venture Challenge, an entrepreneurship competition specifically for UChicago undergraduates sponsored by the University. Through this initial competition we received feedback from judges as well as assigned mentors who helped us formulate our ideas and make concrete plans for how we could carry them out.

More information about Daniel will be featured on social media this week, so make sure to like Ashoka U on Twitter and Facebook! Check out Ashoka U’s blog each week to see new stories of phenomenal student changemakers making a difference in the world.