Carl H. Lindner College of BusinessCarl H. Lindner College of BusinessUniversity of Cincinnati

Carl H. Lindner College of Business

UC Students Solve Global Problems in New Social Entrepreneurship Class

Submitted: 3/14/2011 15:07:16
  • UC business students partner with the University of Quebec to create viable products that solve real-world problems around the globe.

The University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Business is offering a new class titled global challenges and social entrepreneurship. Constantine Polychroniou, PhD, associate professor of marketing, designed the course to encourage students to use business thinking to solve real-world global problems.

"The course's focus is currently being honed to teach students to develop a product concept that will help alleviate global societal challenges," says Polychroniou. "By creating this course, we aim to impart knowledge to students about managing global challenges in a socio-culturally responsible manner using entrepreneurship, while understanding how cultural differences impact decision-making."

Research has shown that international business and corporations, with their efficiency- focused approach to Return on Investment (ROI), have only been minimally successful, at best, in solving global societal problems like poverty. Consequently, the benefits of a free market have not been adequately dispersed to people from every level of society. "With a course like social entrepreneurship, the College of business encourages students to think about the social ROI (SROI) while making international business decisions that impact the larger society as a whole," says Polychroniou.

Throughout the course, students receive a hands-on experience in product development by addressing the challenges of need-identification and need-satisfaction. In addition, students undergo a critical learning experience, where they are exposed to the challenges that international business people face, i.e., working in a multicultural environment.

While developing innovative product solutions, students benefit from a multi-disciplinary environment, where they interact with students studying design, engineering, arts and sciences. This fall, UC students collaborated with the University of Quebec in Canada. During the second week of the course, UC students traveled to Montreal for 4 days to meet their Canadian counterparts, compare notes and exchange ideas on project interests. Before leaving Montreal, students formed teams and set the main parameters for their proposed projects. During the ninth week, the Canadian students came to UC for 4 days, during which time they worked with their teams to finalize their project and present their work.

Students enjoyed the experiential component of working with peers from other universities and disciplines and benefited from the opportunity to discuss social entrepreneurship, a subject matter that is not often taught.

During the first offering of the new course, students came up with innovative ideas dealing with complex world problems:
  • A body lotion that hydrates the skin and repels mosquitoes for up to eight hours, providing protection against malaria, especially during the day. This product is intended to protect the health of Ivory Coast inhabitants and provide them, especially women, the opportunity to become economically productive.
  • A bike dynamo generator that charges a portable battery pack, which can then be used to charge appliances, primarily cell phones.
  • A lighting solution for women who live in poor and rural areas of Ethiopia. The product is a solar-powered LED light in the shape of a pendant that can be attached to a necklace. This necklace flashlight, which charges fully after a few hours of exposure to sunlight during the day, provides reliable and effective lighting for up to eight hours.
  • A Water-belt system that changes how water is carried in southern Madagascar, placing detachable water jugs on a belt that is easily carried around the waist.
  • A cargo bike (C-Bike) that allows inexpensive group travel, reducing the stress placed on women and children carrying a heavy load over long distances.