After speaking to plenty of students currently having to tackle the arduous task of fulfilling their Creativity Activity Service (CAS) requirements, it became apparent that many see it as a chore. Maybe it’s because CAS requires students to step outside the classroom, maybe it’s because it requires a dose of creativity, or maybe it’s just that you have to roll up your sleeves a bit and get a little messy to truly find success within this part of the IB curriculum. That’s what a group of students at the Canadian International School of Beijing (CISB) learned, running CISB Invest, which raises money for local charities and gives out microloans to other entrepreneurs over the internet.
We sat down with them to learn more about what makes CISB Invest stand out from other clubs and what sort of real world experiences they were getting out of this sometimes demanding supplement to an already challenging high school work load.
How did this program start?
Ryan Walsh: Originally it began as a business club. I was trying to get away from it being labeled business because as soon as it’s labeled this, you lose a lot of students that might be interested. So we changed the name about two years ago to CISB Invest to get more kids involved because it’s not just about the money but also about giving your time and energy towards a goal.
So it has been around how many years?
Martyna: This is the third year, and me, along with my friend Anita, and Esther, are actually the original members of CISB Invest. Initially, a lot of people from grade 11 and grade 12 were doing this activity for their CAS hours, but I feel like the more experience we had with this club and organizing these fundraisers people tend to be more interested in helping out rather than this kind of selfish approach of getting CAS hours. I think it’s the passion that comes from the people that have been here from the very beginning that works like a magnet and attracts people from the outside to help out, and not just doing it for their own benefit.
What are some of the projects you guys have been doing together?
Martyna: The most recent one, we did this really big barbecue event, and they tend to be like the biggest fundraisers we throw every year. It was a tradition in CISB before CISB Invest started and one particular teacher was in charge of it, but he’s gone now, so we kind of took over that event and made it a CISB Invest event. It’s not only for middle and high school students, but it’s also for elementary students. We have people pre-order hot dogs and kebabs so that they can come during the lunch hour and pick it up. This year all of the profits went to Roundabout. Usually, these end of the year fundraisers don’t go to our overall revenue but a separate cause, since it tends to be a bigger event.
Jana: Other than that we do a lot of small fundraisers, for example on Valentine’s Day we did this thing where we made small boxes of candy, that you could anonymously send to someone with a card. We also help out at school events like the Christmas Bazaar, where we were giving henna tattoos.
Martyna: This is our classic fundraiser because people love getting henna and it’s very easy to set up. We have members of CISB Invest practice the different patterns, and the more you do it, the easier it gets, so we are pretty much experts now, haha. It’s fun for everyone. We did that for the Christmas Bazaar but we were also selling Christmas cards which we made in collaboration with our French teacher, so it was basically Christmas wishes in French. We like to collaborate with other communities in our school whether it’s a teacher or other clubs. Even though we are our own separate group, we really like to be involved with the whole school community.
Do all of your profits go to charity or back into CISB Invest?
Martyna: We like to have our profits going partially to charity but also to Kiva, which basically allows people to get some startup money or a microloan and the nice thing about it is that you usually get the money back. So that money circles there in Kiva and eventually gets donated to charities.
Are students involved in each phase of project development and managing the money raised through these fundraisers?
Martyna: We were the original members, and we’re passionate about this group, so we like to take the initiative. All of the members are really involved, but we are the ones that are often coming up with ideas or leading the group so that we have a clear direction. It usually starts with brainstorming, especially in the beginning of the year when we’re planning out the schedule of what kind of new fundraisers we can incorporate. It’s very valuable to have this brainstorming time, and we meet up every week and try to have one fundraiser per month. This became an efficient way of planning.
What usually makes for a successful fundraiser, any examples?
Jana: Mostly the response from the students. Like if we do a fundraiser, how many people come. Not even how much money we make but how is it received by the other students which we feel shows us if we did a good job. This also brings out any mistakes that we may have made so that we can fix them next time.
Martyna: We organize international food fairs, which tend to be successful because people enjoy sharing their culture. So having people bring over their traditional dishes or drinks, is very touching and students who are essentially our clients see that, which makes them more interested in showing their support.
What are some valuable insights into the world of entrepreneurship that you have gained from your involvement with CISB Invest?
Martyna: The most important lesson I’ve received from CISB Invest is the importance of marketing because when an event is not promoted enough people won’t know about it even if it’s interesting. Sometimes putting up posters is not enough, you need to make sure it actually reaches people. Social media and mouth to mouth are essential. Having your friend come up to you and say “come to this event,” is probably the most effective way to market an event.
Photos: Courtesy of CISB
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