University of Rhode Island students enrolled in Hee Yoon Kwon’s Operations & Supply Chain Management (BUS 355) class are using multiple forms of media to develop Public Service Announcements (PSA) that will be entered into a national competition. The competition is run by the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI), a government organization tasked with educating the public on how to effectively donate to those in need after a disaster.

The contest, known as PSAID, or Public Service Announcements for International Disasters, is held annually. Each year, students at schools across the country submit carefully-developed advertisements in the hopes of winning the grand prize: “national distribution [of the PSA]…through CIDI’s websites and online channels, reaching millions of viewers,” according to the official contest website. PSAs entered in the contest need to reflect CIDI’s core tenet, that “monetary donations are less expensive for donors and more beneficial to recipients than material donations.”

Kwon, a Supply Chain Management Ph.D. student at URI, teaches the section of students developing URI’s entries to this year’s contest.

 

“Professionals on the ground have seen many instances where a tropical country is hit by a natural disaster, and many shipments come in with boxes of winter coats, gloves and evening gowns,” he explains. While the intention of those who donated was good-hearted, the donations were ineffective. Furthermore, Kwon adds that things like donations of “canned bacon in a predominantly Muslim area that was hit by a disaster could even translate into a negative message: that people [donating] really don’t even care about those people.”

This is not something that URI is just beginning to participate in. “At URI, we have a history of making this humanitarian logistics project part of the Operations [and Supply Chain Management] course,” said Koray Özpola, the area coordinator of the Supply Chain Management doctoral program. In 2012, “out of six projects that were recognized nationally, URI students got one second place and one third place,” Özpolat said.

This year, Kwon’s students are hopeful to place in the competition and represent the university in the process. While his students are all trying to spread the same message with their PSAs, they can submit entries to the contest in either a short video that would be aired on the internet, or a print PSA that would be included in a magazine.

“We’re trying to notify the public that cash is the best way to contribute to people in need after a natural disaster,” said one of Kwon’s students. One of their ideas uses the example of donating bananas to help those in need. The bananas “are almost ripe when you donate them, while they are in transit they are at their prime ripeness, and when they get there they are rotten, and no good for eating,” she added. “What you’ve intended as a good deed has now become something unusable for them.”

The contest’s deadline is April 5, when students around the nation must have their PSAs submitted to CIDI’s official PSAID website. Even though Kwon is overseeing URI’s entries this year, Özpolat used to teach the course in which the students design the PSAs.

“When I used to participate, I remember over 130 submissions from around the U.S.,” Özpolat said. There is no doubt that while the competition is steep, it is about raising awareness on how to effectively donate. Özpolat echoed a wise sentiment that encapsulates all that the PSAid contest is about. “Compassion is good, but if it is not smart, it does more harm than good.”