Student tosses out diamonds for social change

February 17, 2011
Amy Dove

Curtis Dorosh has an unusual proposal.

In a world where diamonds mean forever and engagements don't often happen without one, the Royal Roads student is asking people to make their proposals a little bigger in scope. That means going with a less expensive ring and donating the money you would have otherwise spent to charity, Dorosh says.

He's calling it Empathy Engagement Rings and with a little help from voters the Regina native is hoping to win big in the Dell Social Innovation Contest. Every year, university students are invited to submit their ideas on solving a social or environmental problem anywhere in the world. They do so in the hopes of winning a top prize of $50,000 or business mentorship opportunities.

Dorosh plans to make the idea a reality regardless of the competition, but the support would be a huge help, he says. He plans to create a website that connects couples to ring designers and worthy charities, allowing them to get the ring they want while supporting the charity of their choice through financial or volunteer donations. It would be a space for people to share their stories, not only about the rings and engagements, but about the charitable experiences connected to it. The only rule is they have to forgo the diamond, he says.

For Dorosh, the initiative is not about making money - he has a day job as an environmental engineer with the Saskatchewan government - but rather it is about effecting social change. If even a fraction of the billions of dollars spent on diamonds annually was put toward volunteering and charity, people could really make a difference, he says.

"I hope that people want to donate money, but I really hope that people want to donate their time and create these memories," he says.

The idea came to him last year, long before he learned about the competition. It was the culmination of a lot of influences, including his parents who never bought into the "ring thing," he says.

Knowledge gained about the true costs of diamonds - both financial and cultural - through a Royal Roads course and personal volunteering experiences really solidified his vision, he adds.

He learned about the competition after logging on to the university website to check his course work for the Master's in Environment and Management program. He saw an ad for the competition and it was a great fit for his idea, he says. Feedback has been pretty positive, he says, although there are people who are vocal about wanting a diamond. "It's probably not for everyone," he acknowledges.

For those that support the idea, however, comments have ranged from the humourous quip "guys are going to love this but girls are going to hate this" to commitments to take part. One couple, already married, told him they were going to sell the diamond ring and give the money to charity.

"I really do think there are a lot of people that care and who think diamonds are an outdated social norm," he says. "We have really been (conditioned) into believing you have to do that."

As for Dorosh, he has yet to give a ring away but says with a laugh "my girlfriend Emily is not opposed to the idea."