Creating More Sustainable Cities – The Urban Innovation BootCamp

Business Schools looking for opportunities to engage with a range of stakeholders and organisations should look no further than their backyard. The community that the school is part of provides the perfect laboratory to not only test out new ideas but in the process contribute to creating more sustainable cities in line with Sustainable Development Goal 11.

Teams of interdisciplinary students at Universita Ca’Foscari Venezia in Italy are working together to develop new, innovative business ideas to make the region of Treviso more sustainable. I spoke with Alessandra Scroccaro, Program Manager of the Action Learning Lab at the University about this programme.

What is the Urban Innovation BootCamp and how did it come about?

The Urban Innovation BootCamp is a 6-week action-learning programme where 5 local companies and 40 university students and graduates under 30 accelerate 5 innovative ideas. The Social Issues that the students worked on included Urban Mobility, Smart Services, Urban Regeneration, Social Inclusion and Sustainable Tourism within Treviso in Venice. The objectives of the programme were three-fold:

  • Innovate the way of teaching/learning in academia
  • Build the 21st century skills for innovation of students and young graduates across the region;
  • Support the creation of a new ecosystem for urban innovation linking civil society (NGOs), academia, companies and local institutions towards making Treviso a smarter city
  • Integrate asylum seekers and refugees.

The first edition which ran in 2015 resulted in a final demo day at the Palazzo dei Trecento, the seat of Treviso Provincial Council.

What impact has this had on the city?

Treviso City Council approved the initiative right from the beginning and promoted and communicated it in two editions. The Mayor was involved in searching for partners, as a sponsor and in promoting a stakeholder network. They have also been supporting some of the final projects.

What were some of the ideas accelerated through the BootCamp?

There have been 10 ideas accelerated so far through the different editions of the BootCamp. A new bamboo park is being implemented to regenerate an empty green space near the city and give families a place to meet up. The sale of the bamboo canes and sprouts will also represent a new source of income for the Treviso Municipality. Another idea is StarTempo, a new social network that matches organisations that implement projects for positive impact in the city with students and professionals who are looking for meaningful volunteer opportunities within the Municipality of Treviso. Smart Home Treviso reinvents the concept of social housing to address the challenges of modern urban living in Treviso combining technology, smart design solutions and the principles of the sharing economy to offer affordable accommodations and a sense of community to its dwellers.

What have been some of the challenges?

One of the goals of the programme was to integrate asylum seekers and refugees. We collaborated with Treviso Prefecture and different refugee associations who selected five university students and graduates asylum seeker and refugees to be part of the programme. Out of the 5, 3 have decided to continue to study at the university. One of the asylum seeker won a scholarship in Ca’ Foscari University.

Successes?

As a result of the BootCamp, all 10 innovators have moved forward with the development of their ideas. Five of them have reached pilot stage. Eighty-six students have completed the programme and among them more than 2000 interviews have been conducted in the community. We also surveyed the students after each BootCamp and 95% said that the experience helped them build their creative confidence and that they learned new skills and how to work better in teams.

What advice do you have for other schools thinking of organising something similar?

We encourage other schools and universities to organise similar initiatives, putting students at the centre of the learning process, creating and reinforcing network of local and international stakeholders and acting as an impact actor in Global change.

What’s next?

We will be organising the next 6 week learning programme on urban innovation in the summer of 2017 (19th June – 28th July), focused on welfare and social inclusion. The programme will also include asylum seekers and refugees among the 40 young students and graduates from a range of different disciplines. In the next editions we also hope to engage other national and international universities.

 

For the month of May Primetime will be featuring examples around the Special Focus area Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11). Click here to see the rest of the articles in that feature.

International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development

The United Nations proclaimed 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development in recognition of the tremendous potential of the tourism industry, which accounts for some 10% of the world’s economic activity. This is a unique opportunity to raise awareness of the contribution of sustainable tourism towards development among public and private sector decision-makers and the public while mobilizing all stakeholders to work together in making tourism a catalyst for positive change. The year aims to promote tourism’s role in the areas of

  • Inclusive and sustainable economic growth
  • Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction
  • Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change
  • Cultural values, diversity and heritage, and
  • Mutual understanding, peace and security

Many business schools around the world have programmes focused on the topic of sustainable tourism.

Ted Rogers School of Management in Canada has a course on sustainable tourism called ‘The Golden Goose’. The course examines social responsibility and sustainability issues at both the micro and macro levels of the industry and examines the impact and solutions to both local and global issues. Case study analysis is an integral component of the course and the major focus will be to discuss and debate solutions and strategies for ethically optimizing business while minimizing adverse effects. They also have an Institute for Hospitality and Tourism Research that further explores these topics.

Griffith University’s Institute for Tourism in Australia is actively contributing to the International Year through its research projects including its Tourism and Economics programme, Tourism Business in the Asia Pacific programme, Sustainable Tourism and Climate Change programme, Visitor Experience programme and Sustainable Tourism for Regional Growth Training programmes. The Institute has also designed a Global Sustainable Tourism Dashboard that tracks global progress towards sustainable tourism development.

Corvinus University of Budapest  and the Municipality of Budapest established a joint agreement with the Department of Tourism to promote research and development goals in regarding the complex cultural development of the Ferencváros district. The first project aimed at re-designing a special dining and cultural street of the district with an aim to increase sustainable tourism. The student research project involved over 60 students, working with four professors. 700 Hungarian and 300 international visitors were surveyed over the three months of the project.

Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK is working with Positive Impact, a not-for-profit organisation that provides education for the sustainable events industry, to produce an industry report that outlines a number of key sustainable areas and points of action for the event industry. This includes an estimate of the global carbon footprint and global food waste of the events industry as well as an investigatory piece about the power of behaviour change that events have including social impacts. The report is being presented as part of the ‘Year of Sustainable Tourism Development’.

The International Centre of Studies on Tourism Economics (CISET) at CA’Foscari University of Venice in Italy supports and promotes tourism as an engine of economic growth and social development, capable of producing material and cultural wealth for local, national and international businesses and destinations. The approach of the centre is a blend of academic expertise and business know-how, based on a strong synergy between research studies and consultancy services. CISET provide the tourist industry, local administrations and future tourism operators with the tools to approach the market in innovative ways.

JAMK’s Tourism and Hospitality department in Finland organised the 12th International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations last June. They also played a major role in establishing, and is now coordinating, the International Centre for Responsible Tourism Finland. In the summer of 2016 they organised an international summer school called ‘For Seasons in Responsible Tourism’ and are launching a new course in 2017 on Responsible Tourism.

A faculty member at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand has developed a course called Managing Visitor Impact designed to deepen students’ understanding of sustainable tourism development by exposing students to the complexities, realities and tensions commonly observed in developing countries. A key part of the course is a group role-play scenario where students take a virtual field trip based on a real Fijian island.

The Teaching Agrotourism course at University of Applied Sciences HTW Chur in Switzerland focuses on the interface of agriculture and tourism by combining aspects of sustainable agriculture and ecological tourism. The focus is on the interaction between tourism and a sustainable family-farming project. As compared to any kind of mass tourism, this specific form of tourism is directly supporting this regional livelihood. Chur faculty also do research focused on entrepreneurial tourism development in Georgia.

EADA in Spain is doing research on sustainability in the tourism and hospitality industry focused on how the industry can use sustainability not just as a way of absorbing societal costs and changes in the business environment, but to create value and transform those costs into higher revenue.

The Degree in Tourism Management at the Universidad de Occidente in Mexico aims to train experts in the management of tourism organisations and projects with the ability to make ethical, social and environmental decisions. It looks at innovation within this industry and how it impacts society. One of the three focus areas of the programme is centred on Tourism and Sustainable Development

The official website for the year provides a range of resources and links to events happening all over the world around this topic. It also has links to publications that cover the topic of sustainability from a business perspective that can be used in the classroom. The Global Compact also has some resources on the Tourism industry including a webinar on Good Practices to Address Human Trafficking in Travel and Tourism.

 

For the month of May Primetime will be featuring examples around the Special Focus area Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11). Click here to see the rest of the articles in that feature.

 

2016 Good Practices in Responsible Management Education (Part 1)

It is once again it’s time for PRiMEtime’s year-end review. 2016 was another exciting year with a lot of innovative new initiatives and approaches at business schools around the world embedding responsible leadership and sustainability into their programmes. PRiMEtime provides an extensive and growing database of examples from schools around the world on how to embed sustainability, ethics and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into management education as well as tips on how to move forward.

This year, 60 new articles were posted featuring over 143 examples from more than 65 schools in 38 countries. In this 2-part year-end post we review the examples featured this year, organized roughly around the SDGs, and what we have to look forward to next year. (Click on the links to read the full article).

SDG1SDG2SDG3The Hong Kong Polytechnic University has developed an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Business School and the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, call the Wellness Clinic. It provides preventive care programmes designed, promoted, administered and implemented by students. IEDC-Bled School of Management partnered with members of the UN Global Compact Local Slovenia to organize workshops around the theme of “Health promotion in the workplace as part of the corporate social responsibility and sustainable business development’.

For one week in March, EADA Business School’s campus transforms into a model refugee course where students taking the Managing Humanitarian Emergencies elective learn about the main components required to respond to humanitarian emergencies and extreme situations in general.

 

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La Trobe Business School (Australia), ISAE (Brazil), Audencia Nantes School of Management (France) and Hanken School of Economics (Finland) founded CR3+ Network, a new program that provides a supportive platform to build international collaboration and enables the four schools to work together to build capacity in responsible management education. In the USA, Western Michigan University (USA) partnered with Christ University in Bagalore in India to create an experiential experience to engage students in sustainability discussions in India. Reutlingen University in Germany shared their experiences with the Ethikum Certificate awarded to students who complete a number of special experiences and courses during their time at university. Hult International Business School shared their experiences integrating the SDGs into the core Business and Global Society course. Hult International Business School and Ashridge Business School also shared their experiences integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into their PRME Sharing Information on Progress Report. The University of St. Gallen and oikos work together to offer the PhD Fellowship Programme, a unique opportunity to support international PhD students writing their thesis on sustainability in economics or management.

PRiMEtime also explored a range of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available on sustainability topics. These courses are free online and open to anyone with an interest in the topic. A series of posts provided an overview of the MOOCs available in the Spring (Part 1 and Part 2) and summer (Part 1 and Part 2).

 

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The American University of Beirut’s University for Senior Programme aims to redefine the role of older people in society by providing them opportunities to remain intellectually challenged and socially connected through a range of lectures, study groups, educational travel programmes, campus life and intergenerational activities. The American University of Beirut also paired up with Citi to provide crucial support and mentoring for female entrepreneurs in Lebanon and the MENA region with the goal of increasing their numbers significantly. Altis Postgraduate School of Business and Society in Italy introduced us to E4Impact, a special programme aimed at training a new class of African leaders who will be able to create jobs in the sustainability sector in their country.

 

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Ryerson University (Canada) designed a unique interdisciplinary programme that brings together faculty from all of the university’s six department called the Environmental Applied Science and Management (EnSciMan) with a focus on environmental management. In Italy, the University of Bologna’s Launch Pad aims to leverage the know-how of the hundreds of PhDs and post-docs studying at the university to facilitate its transformation into valuable products and services, many focused on social and environmental topics. PRiMEtime also looked at a range of global student networks engaged in sustainability that are active within and across business schools.

 

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Antwerp Management School’s ID@Work research programme aims to support organisations in attracting, developing and retaining employees with an intellectual disability. The Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience at the University of Wollongong is an educational programme that supports Indigenous students through high school and into university, employment or further education. Also in Australia, Deakin University has been exploring how to encourage and train more Indigenous Australians to become accountants (currently of the more than 180,000 Australian professional accounting body members, only 30 identify as Indigenous). The Northwest Aboriginal Canadians Entrepreneurs Programme at the University of Victoria Gustavson School of Business is a partnership between several organisations including regional and provision government to offer first class entrepreneurial learning to the Indigenous people of Northwest British Columbia with the aim to enhance the self sufficiency and full economic participation of Indigenous people

Engaging Students in Impact Investing – SDA Bocconi School of Management

screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-12-05-23Interest in impact investing is rising, particularly among the future generation of entrepreneurs, professionals and investors. The number of MBA students that are interested in pursuing a career within impact investing is higher than what business schools imagine. Schools are starting to explore this interest, developing a range of innovative initiatives and opportunities for students to further engage in this topic.

One such initiative is the Impact Investing Lab at SDA Bocconi School of Management in Italy. I spoke with Veronica Vecchi, the Head of the Impact Investing Lab, Manuela Brusoni, professor at SDA Bocconi, responsible for coordinating all the sustainability initiatives of SDA Bocconi and PRME liaison, and Francesca Casalini, in charge of managing the MIINT competition.

Introduce the Impact Investing Lab and how it came about

The Impact Investing Lab was launched in 2013 by SDA Bocconi School of Management together with Oltre Venture, the first impact investing fund manager in Italy and also one of the first at European level, with the aim to become a reference point at national and international level to support the development of impact investing as a new investment approach, able to attract public and private capital.

Impact investing, according to SDA Bocconi, means new entrepreneurial solutions, with scalable business models, that can create economic and social value through innovation in products, services and processes. In mature economies like Italy and Europe, these enterprises mainly operate in segments traditionally or potentially served by the welfare state system, i.e. healthcare, education housing and employment, serving the society at large and not necessarily its most deprived and poor segments, which remain a core focus of governments, supranational organisations, foundations, charities and social enterprises.

What are the key features of the programme?

The Impact Investing Lab is a platform whose mission is to generate knowledge, share experiences and bridge students, investors, entrepreneurs and policy makers, in order to create a vibrant community active in the impact investing field.

Engaging Students in Impact Investing – SDA Bocconi School of Management

The Lab leverages SDA Bocconi’s strengths and cross-cutting expertise in finance, entrepreneurship and public management and policy to offer:

  1. Seminar series and events aimed at building awareness and spreading best practice among professionals
  2. Action research aimed at supporting private clients as well as the public sector to implement impactful strategies. For example we have position papers on public private collaborations for social impact creation and impact investing more generally.I
  3. Elective courses and online training (MOOC) to bring social innovation and impact investing closer to undergraduate, graduate, MBA and masters’ students

What have been some of the challenges?  

But despite the increasing interest, it is still the field of a few. This is particularly true in Italy, where impact investing is a small niche and the boundaries between it and the traditional social sector are blurred. For this reason, it has been quite challenging to launch dedicated executive education programmes as well as to attract sponsorships to scale up the activities of the Lab.

Successes?  

Last year, SDA Bocconi joined the international competition MIINT – MBA Impact Investing and Network Training, organised by the impact investing firm Bridges Ventures. This initiative was a great opportunity not only to bring impact investing closer to MBA students but also to create an vibrant network of like-minded business schools and future professionals active in the impact investing field. At local level, the MIINT was also a pivotal opportunity to promote impact investing by creating meaningful links among our students, the business associations, entrepreneurs and investors.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

As schools of management, we want to train tomorrow’s leaders that strive to generate a positive impact on society and impact investing can actually usher a new approach and mindset towards promoting innovation for the social good. However, to promote impact investing requires a strong institutional commitment, a mid-term time horizon and a coordination among different initiatives at the business school level (training, research, extracurricular, startup competition, …).

What’s next for the initiative?

We are looking to increase the number of international partnerships, leveraging also our link with the European Venture Philanthropy Association, the Academy of Business in Society and the Global impact Investing Network. We’d like to streghthen the link among all our initiatives dedicated to social entrepreneurship and sustainable finance and convey an increasing number of social impact startups to our startup incubator speedMIup. We are also planning to reinforce the weight of impact investing into our curricula, starting from our MBA programmes portfolio

Sustainable Business Examples from Around the World – Hong Kong, Kenya, and Canada

img_4721As businesses become more and more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of examples of active companies. However, when I speak with students and faculty, they say that they often hear about the same examples from the same international companies over and over again.

In an attempt to share some new best practice examples, I asked a handful of faculty members from around the world about their favourite classroom examples of local companies that are actively involved in sustainability. Here are some examples from Kenya, Hong Kong, and Canada.

Jessica Vaghi, E4Impact Foundation, ALTIS Postgraduate School of Business and Society, Italy (examples from Kenya)

Continental Renewable Energy (Corec) is a Kenyan based company that recycles waste plastic into eco-friendly building material and sell the hardware to developers whose problem is high material cost by providing affordable and durable construction products. It prevented 700 tons of waste from landfills, made 26,000 posts and signed orders over 10.000 roofing tiles by customers across Kenya in 2 years of operations.

Stamp Investment is a Kenyan enterprise that distributes briquettes and multitasking fuel efficient stoves, which enables schools and households to have access to safe drinking water with a reduction of 75 % in water borne diseases. The business won the Grand Challenges Africa “pitching your innovation” competition in 2016 and has been national winner of the most innovative business idea during Enablis Chase bank, ILO business launch pad competition in 2011.

NUCAFE – National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farm Enterprises is a sustainable market-driven system of coffee farmer organisations empowered to increase their household incomes through enhanced entrepreneurship and innovation in 19 districts of Uganda. NUCAFE Contributed in influencing the development of a National Coffee Policy and to improve gender relations among coffee farming households and was nominated by AGRA best Africa farmer organisation of 2013 in income diversity category.

Click here for more information about E4Impact Foundation and their work in Kenya.

Pamsy Hui, Hong Kong Polytechnic University Faculty of Business, Hong Kong

It is often a misconception that interesting work in the field of sustainability can only be done by companies with a lot of resources.  In Hong Kong, many small and medium enterprises are doing very interesting things with limited resources.  For instance, Diving Adventure Ltd., a company providing training services and products related to scuba diving, has always put the environment in the forefront of its business decisions.  They regularly collaborate with NGOs, the government, and other organisations on environment protection initiatives (e.g., underwater cleansing activities, reef check).  What is impressive is that for such a small operation, they go far beyond just caring about environmental sustainability.  They are also committed to create employment opportunities to minority groups, released prisoners, and reformed drug users, to help integrate them into the society.  On the service side, they regularly provide training to underprivileged children and individuals with disabilities, providing a sense of inclusiveness for people who are often overlooked, if not discriminated, by the society.

Another example is Baby-Kingdom.com, a parental online forum for parents to share information and experiences related to bringing up children.  In addition to donating to NGOs, they help NGOs advertise on their forum, bringing awareness among their large number of users. They set up the Baby Kingdom Environmental Protection Education Fund in 2008 to support programmes in primary schools to educate school children on concepts such as greenhouse gas reduction and green diet.  Consistent with its family-friendly image, Baby-Kingdom.com started family-friendly practices well before they became a trend in large corporations.  The well-being of children is central to its human resource practices, and the company is often recognised for being a socially responsible employer.

A third example of a company doing interesting things related to sustainability is 4M Industrial Development Limited, a toy design company specialising in educational toys.  In designing their products, 4M consciously favors sustainable materials and supply chains with lower carbon footprints.  In addition, 4M partners with NGOs in multiple ways.  With the Spastics Association of Hong Kong, they adapt part of their manufacturing process to support the disabled.  It also works with different NGOs to promote their causes.  Many of 4M’s products have a green message behind them (e.g., Paper Recycling Kit, Trash Robot Kit).  For each box of the Clean Water Science Kit, for example, 4M donates a portion of its profits to NGOs to fund water-purifying projects in the third world.  Meanwhile, children buying the kit would get a message about the project in the box.

Click here to read about the Interdisciplinary Wellness Clinic at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Deborah De Lange, Ryerson University, Canada

Our Horizon is a national not-for-profit organization led by Robert Shirkey that works with governments to require climate change labels on gas pumps. The idea is a low-cost, globally scalable intervention to communicate the hidden costs of fossil fuels to end users and drive change upstream.

ZooShare is a biogas plant led by Daniel Bida that turns animal waste from the Toronto Zoo and food waste from grocery stores into fertilizer and renwable power for the Ontario grid. The process aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10,000 tonnes of C02 each year. The biogas plant is starting construction now and will be operational in the summer of 2017.

Purpose Capital is an impact advisory firm that mobilises all forms of capital – financial, physical, human and social – to accelerate social progress. Alex Kjorven is the Director of Corporate Development and is a graduate student in the EnSciMan programme at Ryerson.

Click here to learn more about the interdisciplinary EnSciMan programme at Ryerson University.

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Training a New Generation of African Entrepreneurs – ALTIS and E4Impact

2-GraduationCeremony 2Sub-Saharan Africa is a region with enormous growth potential, but there are significant challenges to assure this growth is inclusive. In Africa, SMEs generate only 17% of the GDP and 30% of employment, while in OECD countries figures ram up to 50% and 60%, respectively. The «migration phenomenon» from the African continent is, in part, a consequence of the lack of local businesses able to generate sustainable employment opportunities and wealth for communities.

In response to this, ALTIS Postgraduate School of Business and Society launched E4Impact, a special MBA programme aimed at training a new class of African leaders who will be able to create jobs in the sustainable private sector in their countries. This perfectly fits ALTIS’ mission to foster impact entrepreneurship and management for sustainable development. I recently spoke with Jessica Vaghi, Communications Manager at E4Impact Foundation, about the impacts of this initiative.

What is the E4Impact MBA

E4Impact, launched in 2010, became a Foundation spin-off of Università Cattolica (ALTIS) in 2015 with the contribution of Securfin, Mapei, Salini-Impregilo, Always Africa Association, ENI and Bracco. The Foundation offers the Global MBA in Impact Entrepreneurship in collaboration with Università Cattolica and a local university from the host country. The first MBA was offered in Kenya in 2010; now it’s also offered in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Ethiopia.

The MBA is a unique 12-16 month executive program that guides active and aspiring entrepreneurs in starting or scaling their businesses, providing them simultaneously with an academic and business acceleration experience. It is comprised of a flexible blend of class lessons, distance learning, mentoring and networking events. Furthermore, participants are supported by a Business Coach: a dedicated business consultant that assists them in developing their business plan and establishing an industry network. There are also several occasions for participants to pitch their project to investors and the financial community in order to foster relationships of trust with these actors.

How did it come about?

Would-be entrepreneurs, owners of existing SMEs and successful impact entrepreneurs are hindered in various ways in Sub-Saharan Africa. They lack the business acumen necessary to have dialogue with financial institutions and struggle to find the structure and guidance to systematically test their ideas in the marketplace. Most MBA programs for African people are not aimed at entreprenuers and focus more on theory than on practice. African universities need to enhance their ability to offer educational programs for entrepreneurs, thus becoming a long-term driver of change.

The E4Impact MBA helps attenuate these problems and weakens the probability of collapse of new enterprises. It supports local universities in offering action-oriented entrepreneurial education and in becoming part of a pan-African system. The MBA is not an academic exercise, but applied learning, where entrepreneurs are guided in verifying the feasibility of their business project and in drafting an investor-ready business plan. The program is built around entrepreneurs’ business ideas and each academic module works on a particular aspect of running a business (Strategy, Marketing, Accounting & Finance, Operations, HR).

The first iteration of this course was set in Italy. In 2005, ALTIS launched an MBA program for African entrepreneurs. However, many students remained in Europe after the course instead of going back to their countries. Therefore, the program was moved to Sub-Saharan African countries and E4Impact was born with the goal of becoming the leading Pan-African university alliance for training and coaching a new generation of impact entrepreneurs capable of combining economic success with positive social impact.

What have been some of the challenges of E4Impact MBA? 

The biggest challenge has been finding an academic formula that suits not only to country’s context, but also to the entrepreneurs’ needs. The first two MBA editions in Kenya had a full-time formula. Although entrepreneurs liked the programme, it was soon clear that this wasn’t the right formula because they had no time to work on their businesses.

Moreover, the old editions followed a continental approach in the sense that people from all over Africa moved to Kenya to attend the MBA. However, creating a network around the entrepreneur and his/her business was not easy if he/she was out of the country.

In its third edition, E4Impact implemented its current academic formula: always aiming to assure students have an African CV that meets International standards.

The current formula is part-time (39 working days in class and distance learning modules) and has a country approach (participants are residents in the country where they attend the MBA). It enables entrepreneurs to keep on with their daily jobs while working on their business projects and helps establish a solid network of partners that are useful for business development, model testing and validation.

What about some of the successes? 

E4Impact counts 196 impact entrepreneurs under training and 185 already trained, 35% of which are women. We calculated that the 73% of alumni have a business in place and they provide 497 jobs.

There are seven local university partners: Tangaza University College (Nairobi), Catholic Institute of Business and Technology (Accra), University of Makeni, Uganda Martyrs University (Kampala), Centre de Recherche et d’Action pour la Paix (Abidjan), Saint Augustine University of Tanzania (Mwanza) and Institute Supérieur the Management (Dakar). E4Impact has trained 35 people among local university staff and professors; in 2017 this figure will rise to at least 63.

In 2012, E4Impact was the first non-American program awarded with the Ashoka Innovation University Award.

E4Impact’s greatest success, though, is represented by its entrepreneurs and their impact businesses. For example, Jacqueline Kiage, entrepreneur from the 2nd edition of the MBA in Kenya is the co-Founder of Innovation Eye Centre, a health social enterprise that offers high quality, affordable and accessible eye care services to the community in the South Western Region of Kenya and beyond. Osei Bobie, entrepreneur from the 2nd edition of the MBA in Ghana,is Chief Operation Officer & Founder of Farmers’ Hope, a Ghanaian enterprise that produces a potent and affordable organic fertilizer with local raw materials that improves the soil structure over long period of time. Similarly, Jody Ogana, entrepreneur from the 4th edition of the MBA in Kenya, is General Manager of The GoDown Arts Centre, a non-profit enterprise that provides the first Kenyan multi-disciplinary platform for arts, and there are many more.

How are these shared in Italy with students as well?

In 2012, E4Impact launched an internship program for students of the Università Cattolica in Milan to take part in the E4Impact programme. Twenty-four Italian students have already been sent to different African partner universities during the MBA academic year. They have assisted business coaches in his/her job and helped the African entrepreneurs transform their business ideas into bankable business plans. Some of the students also worked on their theses, developing case studies based on successful businesses of E4Impact impact entrepreneurs.

Given the relevance of the experience, E4Impact aims at extending the internship programme to students of other universities focused on sustainability and sustainable development.

What’s next for the initiative?

E4Impact aims to offer the MBA in at least 15 African countries by 2020. The final objective is to become the leading Pan-African alliance of universities focused on sustainability, able to support a growing basin of African impact entrepreneurs. In 2017, E4Impact MBA will be offered also in Ethiopia, Rwanda and South Africa; by 2020,in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Congo DR and Angola.

Thanks to its MBA, E4Impact facilitates the expansion of African and International SMEs oriented to sustainability in the sub-Saharan area. By matching them with reliable local entrepreneurs, E4Impact offers small businesses a low cost, low risk opportunity to enter African markets in countries where the MBA is offered.

E4Impact launched the first pilot project, “First-Step Africa,” in the 2014/2015 academic year with the Italian enterprise, SIPA, which is interested in exploring Ghana’s market of plastic containers. They are currently working with 5 companies and there are already 20 interested companies for the upcoming academic year.

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Translating Research into New Business – University of Bologna Launch Pad

With a student body that includes 550 PhDs and scores (literally) of post-docs and research fellows working in all fields across three campuses, the University of Bologna in Italy has significant potential for new and meaningful ventures in the field of sustainability. But this research base, despite its potential, often goes unrecognized because of the lack of a venturing spirit among these students.

In response to this, Simone Ferriani, a professor in the department of Business Sciences, started the UNIBO Launch Pad to leverage this know-how and facilitate its transformation into valuable products and services, while also fostering an entrepreneurial mindset at the university. I recently spoke to Simone about the initiative.

What is UNIBO Launch Pad and how did it come about?

UNIBO Launch Pad is an entrepreneurial acceleration program conceived by the University of Bologna together with the Italian Institute for Entrepreneurship. The goal of UNIBO Launch Pad is to support the creation of new innovative ventures by doctoral students, post-docs and young researchers from the University of Bologna. This is the first and only acceleration programme in Italy (and one of very few in Europe) entirely devoted to young researchers with entrepreneurial inclinations.

What are the key features of Launch Pad and how does it work?

The program has three distinctive features. 1) It targets exclusively Ph.D. students, post-docs and/or young researchers willing to market the outcomes of their research projects and scientific innovations. 2) During the program, which lasts 11 weeks, participants benefit from the guidance of successful entrepreneurs who act as mentors throughout the acceleration period. 3) The most promising teams, as judged by a panel of experts (investors, academicians, entrepreneurs) during a final pitch-day, continue their training in Silicon Valley for another month.

What is the connection between Launch Pad and sustainability? 



In general, the best candidates want their ideas to have a real impact on society. Therefore, it is not a surprise that the vast majority of the projects are linked to sustainability topics. As an extra push, we connect the candidates with students from our Green Energy and Sustainability MBA Programme. As part of their curriculum, students in the MBA programme support companies coming out of the Launch Pad that focus on sustainability.

What have been some of the challenges?

The greatest challenge of Launch Pad has been to lower the cognitive barrier that separates scientists from market. In most instances, PhD are getting their PhD for a reason: they want to do research. However, from time to time we come across PhD students who feel a strong need to explore alternative paths and have worked on research projects with great market potential. They are the target of UNIBO Launch Pad. Of course, it is not easy to find them. We need to go inside the departments and break the barriers that sometimes separate research from the market. This is also challenging.

Successes?

This year will be the 2nd edition, so it is too early to say. The feedback from first edition participants was enthusiastic and next week they will leave for Silicon Valley. The top team also gained a lot of visibility in the media and was approached by some important industry players. It will be interesting to discover whether they will be able to bring their idea into fruition.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

Bet on champions. Schools need to find the right mix of professors (to facilitate access to the department and laboratories) and entrepreneurs (who are generous and passionate about the idea of cultivating potential that is sometimes hidden). I recommend putting together a top team of mentors who are willing to give time and energy to nurture the local ecosystem

The initial mentor selection is also of paramount importance. Having a jury composed of entrepreneurs and investors can help to identify the best potential entrepreneurial spirits among the candidates.  I would also recommend planning something like Launch Pad over a few years because the success of it can be judged only after a few cycled have been observed.

What’s next for the Launch Pad?

We will soon start a road-show across departments to present the programme and scout for highly motivated young researchers. The application deadline is in July and selections will run throughout August and early September. May will be devoted to the Silicon Valley adventure for last years’s winners. We are also planning to grow the network of mentors, which is currently fifteen,and extend this opportunity to other public research centers.

Can you share 1 or 2 other initiatives happening at UNIDO in this space?

We have two specialized MBA programmes that focus on the topic of sustainability. The first, mentioned earlier, is the MBA in Green Energy and Sustainable Business ,which tackles those “hot topics” that leading companies can no longer afford to ignore.

We also have an Executive MBA of Cooperative enterprises (Emba Coop), which is intended for managers and executives who wish to acquire advanced business management tools for the world of cooperatives. EMBA Coop is a result of close collaboration between scholars, institutions of the cooperative system and managers and combines rigorous content, context and strong applicability.

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