The seminar will present social challenges that students have to solve through a social business. Students will be evaluated by a panel of judges on the basis of their pitch and business plan, assessing product viability, market potential, social impact and willingness to invest. The top-rated social business idea will receive seed funding to start the business.
Goal of the project
The goal of the project is to successfully run two editions of the challenge over the course of 2 years. The expectation is to create a track record of projects that have received seed capital to address the social challenges presented, to motivate external funders to keep financing the challenge, and to motivate students to increasingly choose social entrepreneurship as a potential career path. Ultimately, the projects aim is for such student-initiated social businesses to make a positive difference towards the lives of households from disadvantaged backgrounds in Switzerland and all over the world.
Target groups are Master students and advanced Bachelor students from the Economics and Business departments at UZH. The seminar provides those students with a unique opportunity for a hands-on experience working with peers from different backgrounds on an intensive 2-month program to come up with a pitch and a business plan evaluated by real social impact investors.
Advancement of teaching
The seminar is structured around social challenges, and is based on the idea that social businesses can effectively contribute towards addressing those challenges. Even though there are similar competitions elsewhere - in particular, ETH has an
entrepreneurship competition -, it is unique in the context of UZH, especially given its focus on social impact. I am particularly well positioned to lead this seminar, as I am a social entrepreneur myself. I am the board president at MGov, a social impact startup that currently serves over 180'000 citizens in Brazil with communication and engagement products delivered through mobile phones. Given my connections to the social impact sector, for which Zurich is a global hub, I have been able to engage relevant investors for both mentoring and evaluation. The idea for this challenge is inspired by similar ones elsewhere. Harvard University has its President's challenge, through which the president of the university poses 5 challenges, after which students can form groups, work on it, and pitch to a panel of judges. The best voted project receives seed funding. For students, the seminar offers a unique hands-on opportunity to work on a social challenge, across the boundaries of departments (the seminar is cross-registered at the Business department), and being mentored and evaluated by some of the most relevant investors in the world of social impact. In terms of teaching, the methods - peer-learning and mentoring - and the format of a competitive challenge, judged by a panel of investors - are very different from the usual courses and seminars offered at the Economics Department.