Two Fall ’18 Courses Examine the Base of the Pyramid and Poverty Alleviation

Ted London, PhD, a Michigan Ross professor and expert on enterprise strategies for low income markets, will teach an MBA and BBA course on his Base of the Pyramid Promise this Fall ’18 semester.

The MBA course, Business Strategies for the Base of the Pyramid (BA612) explores how business can lead to growth, innovation and profits in developing communities.

The BBA course, Base of the Pyramid: Business Innovation and Social Impact (BA/STRAT 445) examines how business can be aligned with the developing communities’ efforts for a more inclusive world.

The Bottom-Up Media Revolution: How Social Entrepreneurs are Building Trust Between Communities and the Media

Laxmi Parthasarathy and Michael Gordon
April 12, 2018

Ashoka has partnered with Business+Impact to understand the new media landscape being forged by social entrepreneurs. These individuals work closely with their communities to address problems ranging from malicious actors sowing disinformation or hijacking media for nefarious purposes, to a lack of well-trained local journalists, and local citizenry having limited opportunities for public engagement. Based on a deep analysis of fifty Ashoka Fellows whose primary aim is addressing problems associated with media, the report shows the five overarching goals that unite their work and the various approaches they have adopted to achieve them.

The five overarching goals include:

  1. Improving the infrastructure and environment within which the media operates
  2. Improving standards of reporting to strengthen the quality of journalism
  3. Ensuring the media is a vehicle for civic engagement
  4. Making the media a self-sustaining business
  5. Increasing media literacy by providing the public with diverse and representative content.

This work points the way toward stronger trust between communities and the media.

Download the full report: The Bottom-Up Media Revolution (.pdf)
 Read the article “Rebuilding Trust in the Media from the Bottom Up,” in The Conversation, based on this study

 


Michael Gordon interviewed Laxmi Parthasarathy about the highlights of this study in the video above (Youtube)

Center for Social Impact brings opportunities for community engagement, social entrepreneurship & more

April 5, 2018 – ANN ARBOR – Nitya Gupta of Michigan News posted an article on the Engaged Michigan newsfeed that discusses corporate social responsibility, social challenges, and the place of Business+Impact in developing leaders that will make a positive change in society. This article includes discussions about our Board Fellows Program, last year’s Change Agents Program, and our Social Impact Challenge experience.

READ THE ARTICLE

Reflections from Spring Break: Service Corps Houston Service Trip

The Houston Spring Break Ross Crew: (back left) Monika Johnson, Sina Dorner-Müller, Andrew Davis, Ivy Wei, Kashay Sanders, Nadia Putri (holding the Ross bag), April Shen, Erik Wolfe, (first row left) Ada Shelegova, Thuy Nguyen

This spring break, ten Ross MBA students trekked to Houston, Texas to participate in hurricane relief efforts with All Hands and Hearts, an international disaster response organization. Although much of the city of Houston has emerged from Hurricane Harvey since August—in which 40,000 people were displaced, 83 were killed, and 185,000 homes were damaged– many communities are still rebuilding and lack the resources to fully recover. All Hands and Hearts is providing critical support to families who continue to reconstruct their homes after the historic hurricane.

The team, organized by Monika Johnson (MBA 1/ERB 2) and Kashay Sanders (MBA 1), brought diverse backgrounds and motivations to the experience, representing six countries and a variety of professional paths. For four days, they lived at the All Hands base with 50 other volunteers from around the world, honed their construction skills at sites across Northeast Houston, gutted (the first step of the rebuilding process) an elementary school, and became acquainted with beneficiaries of their work.

Below, see a few of their reflections from this moving week of impact.


Nadia Putri, MBA 1

Rossers Andrew Davis and Nadia Putri gather tools for the day

When I was an undergrad, I’d always wanted to do a service trip during spring break. But, the right opportunity never came. When I heard about the Service Corp Houston trip, and since I am planning to go back to Indonesia after Ross, I thought this might be my final chance to do something I’ve always wanted for so long. I’m glad I finally did it.

People from all walks of life, ranging from young professionals to retirees, decided to pause their regular lives, share a room with 10+ people, and spend 6+ hours a day rebuilding strangers’ homes. The motivations behind joining this project may vary, but the impact they bring always makes Harvey survivors tear up when talking about it. As one lady told me while I was putting floors in her house: “After Harvey happened, I was sad, I cried for days. But I decided to move on and I am blessed to have found All Hands. My house would not have come this far if not because of you guys.” I’d only met her that day, but I’m so thankful to have been a tiny part in bringing her one day closer to moving back to a house where she grew up in.

Sure, the work was physically challenging sometimes. But looking back, the highlight was not the work itself. The people that I met and conversations that I had left the strongest impression in me. This experience reminds me to keep my eyes, ears, and heart open to life outside Ross, and to always find a ‘place’ where I can bring positive impact to those around me.


Ivy Wei, Erb 1

Ivy Wei using a power tool

Oftentimes we hear about the impacts of natural disasters on communities through the lens of the media and news outlets. I wanted to have an opportunity to not only connect directly with individuals and families impacted by Hurricane Harvey, but also spend time with like-minded MBA students who also believe in giving back to society through volunteer work.

My main takeaway was that people are willing to take days, weeks, and even months away from their lives to help others. Nonprofits like All Hand All Hearts provide volunteers like myself, and other community members from all over the world, an avenue to give back to others. Collectively, our individual contributions have the ability to have a tremendous impact on society; through the efforts of volunteer-led organizations, we have a powerful channel to give back to others.


Erik Wolfe, MBA 2/ERB 2

April Shen , Monika Johnson, Kashay Sanders, Erik Wolfe, Sina Dorner-Müller, Thuy Nguyen after a day working on the Rhodes School

I chose to go on this trip for a few reasons.  First, I wanted to join a service trip because I knew it would be a great way to bond with other classmates, and that often giving of yourself is a fantastic way to recharge your batteries.  Adam Grant speaks of that in his book, Give and Take. I’m also a big weather nerd, as many in the Ross community know, so I was keenly aware of Harvey and its aftermath. I’ve been personally exploring climate resiliency efforts made by cities and businesses.  This trip was a nice combination of those two interests.

There were two key takeaways from this trip.  First, redevelopment is a function of privilege. The privileged areas of Houston have seen great recovery, yet the under-resourced areas are still struggling. Second, there is a secret sauce in selfless service.  I noticed this in the farewell speeches and in the high performing leadership of the staff, many of whom were much younger than us. Whenever volunteers would leave camp, they’d give a farewell speech. Volunteers consistently spoke of how their lives and perspectives had been changed through their time serving alongside others. The more they gave, the more they received. Now I’m returning with the hope of bringing that same attitude to Ross and to my internship. Additionally, the staff seemed supercharged with energy and purpose, and I mostly attribute that to their connection with selfless service.


Moved by the experience and the level of operational excellence at All Hands and Hearts, the Ross team kicked off a fundraising page for the organization, currently having raised over $2000. To contribute to All Hands and Hearts’ Texas recovery efforts, visit this page. The newly formed Ross group Wolverine Disaster Response plans to organize more opportunities to lend a hand in the 2018-2019 school year, so stay tuned!

A few more photos of what our work looked like:

 

2017-18 Board Fellows Gain Insight, Experience

Overview

The 2018 Board Fellowship Program was one of our biggest and most competitive programs all year. Students from Ross, Ford, School of Social Work, Public Health, and other programs developed project management and executive skills as board members of nonprofit organizations in Southeast Michigan.

In addition to attending all board meetings and serving on a board committee, they worked on a board-level project tackling a complex organizational challenge.

You can see the complete list of 2017-18 Board Fellows, but we interviewed a few of our board fellows here and learned a bit more about their personal experiences with the program:


Ryan DeCook, MSW ’18

  • Organization: National Network of Depression Centers
  • Location: Ann Arbor, MI

Describe the project you have worked on with National Network of Depression Centers: I have worked on restructuring the board of directors at the National Network of Depression Centers. We are also trying to look at how we equitably distribute funding to the member centers.

How did you help deliver social impact through this experience/board fellowship? Hopefully this work will help lead to the organization being more effective and fulfill its potential to help others with depression/bipolar disorder.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned? I’ve learned about the relational dynamics of a board and how to try and navigate seeing change come about.

What impact will this experience have on future plans, if any? Yes, I hope to continue staying involved with the NNDC. Since I’m going into the mental health field I hope to stay connected with the organization long term.

Do you have advice for future board fellows? If possible, try and get matched to an organization/mission that you care about. That has made all the difference for me and given me a great experience.


Stephanie Roman, MPP ’18 and Hannah Smalley, MBA/MPH ’20

  • Organization: Alternatives for Girls
  • Location: Detroit, MI

Stephanie Roman:

Describe the project you have worked on with Alternatives for Girls: The project has focused on surveying and documenting all previous advocacy work by the organization in order to create a strategic advocacy plan moving forward. We have interviewed board members and staff, and continue to conduct these interviews to ensure our policy advocacy recommendations are in line with the strategic goals of the organization and fit within the operational limitations of AFG.

How did you help deliver social impact through this experience/board fellowship? This experience has given us the opportunity to share our knowledge of policy and advocacy with AFG to strengthen the impact of their advocacy work among stakeholders and Detroit residents. The board fellowship has also provided us with real-world insights into how nonprofit boards function as well as the staff and financial constraints that nonprofits have to navigate.

Hannah Smalley:

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned? The board’s job is essentially a series of balancing acts. There is a very fine line between micromanaging day to day aspects of the organization and being too hands off, as well as ensuring that short term and long term goals fit together as effectively and efficiently as possible.

What impact will this experience have on future plans, if any? I have always wanted to sit on a board. However, I never fully understood what it meant to be part of that type of governing body, so it was really more of an abstract goal. This unique experience of being able to view the inner workings of a board as an outsider–while also contributing to its progress–has absolutely helped show me what type of board I want to sit on when the time comes, and the type of board member I want to be.

Do you have advice for future board fellows? Sitting on a non-profit board is unpaid, voluntary, time consuming, and is done in addition to a day job because they believe in the organizations mission. Non-profit staff are very passionate, but they are typically stretched very thin and their time is valuable. This means that although the staff and board are as engaged as possible with the board fellows and their projects, communication can be challenging. To get the most out of this experience it is incredibly important to be proactive with emails and calls, and if you don’t hear back from someone you need to speak to, follow up, follow up, and then follow up again.


Sean Welsh, MBA ’19

  • Organization: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washtenaw County
  • Location: Ypsilanti, MI

Describe the project you have worked on with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washtenaw County: We worked on the strategic planning process for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washtenaw County.

How did you help deliver social impact through this experience/board fellowship? By conducting SWOT analysis sessions with board members, employees, and the volunteers (bigs), we ensured that the strategic planning process incorporated viewpoints from multiple stakeholders. This allowed the executive director and board to get a more complete view of problem areas and opportunities so that the organization could better serve its beneficiaries (littles) in future years.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned? Employee development and mobility needs a lot more attention in the nonprofit sector. This is something that comes up time and time again; however, the funding just never gets allocated to those that are the backbone of organizations.

What impact will this experience have on future plans, if any? This experience solidified my desire to serve on nonprofit boards in the future and made me feel more equipped to add value to a board.

Do you have advice for future board fellows? For those that are MBAs specifically, take action and conduct research early. If you start strong, it’s easier to keep up with the project while your recruiting is happening.

 


For a complete listing of the 2017-18 Board Fellows, click here.

For information on applying to the Board Fellows program, click here.

Michigan Business Challenge Seigle Impact Track Winner Announced

Ann Arbor, February 16, 2018 – The winner of the 2018 Michigan Business Challenge – Impact Track is PedalCell, a developer of bicycle power for cell phones, and in the future other devices. The Impact Track competition, co-sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute, the Center for Social Impact, and the Erb Institute, began in November with over 30 teams.  Ten semi-finalists competed on January 19 for the four finalist spots in this day’s competition.

Team Adelie presents during Round Two. Adelie ended the competition with awards for Best Showcase presentation and the Small Giants award.

Finalists included:

Adelie Stefanie Rubinstein (MBA ’19), Vanessa Lynskey (MBA ’19), Tracy Wolfbiss (MBA ’19)
Adelie is a digital platform that seamlessly manages parental leave for expectant mothers and fathers.

Canopy – Brandon Keelean (MDes ’18), Ann Duong (MHI ’18), Elisabeth Michel (MPH ’17)
Canopy is a web application that helps people talk about and make end-of-life healthcare decisions, and then share those decisions through a legal document.

FoodFinder – Jack Griffin (BBA ’19)
FoodFinder uses a web and mobile app to make it as easy as it should be for families in need to locate and learn about their nearest free food assistance programs.

PedalCell – Adam Hokin (BBA ’19), Anna Moreira Bianchi (MBA ’19)
PedalCell is a novel bicycle energy capture technology that rapidly charges smartphones for the bike share industry.

(Click on the links above to see interviews with each of the teams.)

PedalCell won first prize ($15,000) in the MBC Seigle Impact Track for its phone-charging bicycles.

PedalCell received $15,000 for first place, Canopy received $7,500 for second place, FoodFinder received $2,500 for third place, and Adelie received $1,000 for fourth place.

In addition, PedalCell won the Outstanding Presentation award, Canopy won second prize in the Elevator Pitch, and FoodFinder won first prize for their Elevator Pitch. Adelie was the winner of both the Showcase competition and the Center for Positive Organization’s Small Giants award.

The expert judging panel for the finals was comprised of:

  • Dick BeedonMacBeedon Group
  • Lauren Bigelow Optimal Impact
  • Angela KujavaDesai Accelerator

The Michigan Business Challenge is a campus-wide, multi-round business plan competition, of which the Seigle Impact Track is a subset focused on entrepreneurial student ventures focused on social  and/or environmental impact.  The competition is open to all students of the University of Michigan, and multidisciplinary teams are encouraged. The at-large Michigan Business Challenge is sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute, and the Impact Track is additionally co-sponsored by Zell Lurie, Business+Impact, and the Erb Institute.

Canopy: Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track Finalist Team

Who are the team members?

Brandon Keelean (MDes, ’18)
Ann Duong (MHI, ’18)
Elisabeth Michel (MPH, ’17)

How did you decide your team name?

The process was much like any ideation session, we wrote down a bunch of names (many of them bad) and then selected our favorite. Canopy stuck out to us because of its alignment to the idea of coverage and protection and it passed the receptionist test. (If we picked up the phone and said, “Hello, this is Canopy, so-and-so speaking…” would it sound good?)

Tell us briefly about your business idea.

At Canopy, we’re building digital tools to help families talk about and make end-of-life healthcare decisions in order to better prepare for the challenges that may come their way. We started working on it in response to real-world events—Brandon watched a friend struggle to make medical decisions on behalf of her uncle one night in the emergency room. As a team, we saw the potential to help people like her navigate the complexity of modern medicine better.

How has the MBC experience helped transform your approach to business strategy?

The competition provided a wonderful springboard and testing ground to change our business model and structure our thinking about how to bring Canopy to market. We’ve been able to learn from some of the wonderful mentors here at University of Michigan about best practices in business to move Canopy from an idea to reality.

What do you think will be the long-term impact of the implementation of this idea?

We hope Canopy can help reduce the barriers to talking about healthcare planning to help empower individuals and families from all walks of life to advocate for their loved ones with more information and less anxiety as they journey through healthcare.

What been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

We’ve learned a lot about ourselves as innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders. We’ve stumbled and pivoted along the way, but being part of the entrepreneurship community here at the University of Michigan, we’ve been amazed at the support and collaboration we’ve received.

If you win, what will you do immediately following the competition?

Celebrate the win with the people who have helped make it possible and then keep moving. We’re building our minimum viable product right now and continue to talk to people about how to bring Canopy to life. We’re excited for what’s ahead.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

You can learn more about Canopy by visiting our website canopy.tools, following us on Twitter @canopytools or emailing us hello@canopy.tools. We’d love to hear your stories about navigating modern medicine and talking to family and friends about your healthcare wishes.


Join us on Feb. 16 to watch this team compete for the $15K grand prize in the Impact Track Finals!

Read more about all of the finalist teams: Adelie| Canopy | Foodfinder | PedalCell

PedalCell: Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track Finalist Team

Who are the team members?

Adam Hokin (COO)
Anna Moreira Bianchi (Business Strategist)
Vishaal Mali (CEO)
Gar Waterman (Prototype Designer)
Alexis Baudron (Hardware Lead)
Tori Wu (Brand Manager)

How did you decide your team name?

The story behind the company’s name is quite simple. We wanted the name to resonate with the cycling community but also within tech as well. We eventually fell upon “PedalCell” as it was reasonably friendly, easy to pronounce, didn’t tie us to a specific market, and, most importantly, wasn’t taken!

Tell us briefly about your business idea.

The idea stemmed from a calling to fight global warming. But as teenagers, we realized that inventing technology to single-handily save the planet was infeasible. Instead, we built bike-powered phone chargers that inspire sustainable behaviors. Moreover, there are countless other applications for cyclist power we’re excited to explore!

How has the MBC experience helped transform your approach to business strategy?

We’ve made a ton of progress over these past few months, and the challenge helped us prioritize certain milestones. MBC especially pushed us to verify all of our assumptions and research to ensure that our business model created discrete value for our market.

What do you think will be the long-term impact of the implementation of this idea?

PedalCell’s bread and butter is its bicycle energy capture technology that awards riders consistent, high-power electricity never-before-seen on a bike. These innovations will allow power-demanding technologies, such as embedded sensors, IoT hardware, and smart city communication standards, to ultimately materialize on the bicycle.

What been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

MBC has opened our eyes to the entrepreneurial community U-M and Ann Arbor has to offer. We’re excited to continue to tap into these invaluable resources in the future!

If you win, what will you do immediately following the competition?

We’re currently deploying stationary bicycles with embedded phone chargers around campus! You’ll see them popping-up in Ross and University gyms. Check out our social media and website to see how you can charge-up, stay healthy, go green, and be one of the firsts to try PedalCell technology!

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

MBC has been a remarkable experience for our team, and we are excited to continue the momentum! We appreciate the support we’ve gotten from the U-M community and encourage those who are interested to stay updated on our progress via @PedalCell social media handles and the new pedalcell.com!


Join us on Feb. 16 to watch this team compete for the $15K grand prize in the Impact Track Finals!

Read more about all of the finalist teams: Adelie| Canopy | Foodfinder | PedalCell

FoodFinder: Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track Finalist Team

Who are the team members?

Jack Griffin

How did you decide your team name?

Despite there being tens of thousands of places across the country that give out free food to those in need, there was no singular, reliable way to find these assistance programs. I wanted the name of my organization to be simple and representative of the problem it solves.

Tell us briefly about your business idea.

I got the idea for FoodFinder as a high-schooler when I couldn’t find somewhere to volunteer at near my home in Georgia. Since I had such trouble finding these assistance providers, I wondered how hard it must be for those actually in need of the assistance offered at these locations.

I want to make it as easy as it should be for someone struggling with hunger to find a helping hand. The heart of FoodFinder’s value comes from our platform’s ability to combine the speed and privacy of an online tool with the care, compassion, and reliability of a human.

How has the MBC experience helped transform your approach to business strategy?

As a nonprofit, I’ve primarily spoken with donors (rather than investors) when it comes to demonstrating the value of FoodFinder. However, thanks to the MBC, I’ve gotten much better at highlighting FoodFinder’s strength as a business in addition to our positive social impact.

What do you think will be the long-term impact of the implementation of this idea?

In the long run, FoodFinder should be an institution of the food assistance space. Countless organizations already contribute so much to feed the less fortunate, but FoodFinder will act as a rising tide that can support all other efforts in the fight against hunger.

What been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

My biggest takeaway from the Michigan Business Challenge has been defining my own style of presenting. I’m really thankful to have had the opportunity to compete and to welcome others into our vision of a hunger-free America.

If you win, what will you do immediately following the competition?

Winning the Impact Track would mean a lot for FoodFinder. Not even a week after the competition, I’ll head home to Atlanta for Spring Break and get to work with our development team on making FoodFinder more capable of helping food insecure families than ever before.


Join us on Feb. 16 to watch this team compete for the $15K grand prize in the Impact Track Finals!

Read more about all of the finalist teams: Adelie| Canopy | Foodfinder | PedalCell

Adelie: Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track Finalist Team

Who are the team members?

Stef Rubinstein
Vanessa Lynskey
Tracy Wolfbiss

How did you decide your team name?

Adelie penguins are a species with strong parental instincts. The parents take turns watching their young and fishing for food. These penguins embody everything we hope to achieve with Adelie – supporting mothers and fathers through the parental leave process and empowering them to move forward in their careers.

Tell us briefly about your business idea.

Stef served on the Women’s Network of the New York Times, where she saw the complexities of the parental leave process firsthand. Adelie stemmed out of the belief that the process can and should be easier for parents, and that technology can achieve that.

We hope to make the process easier on parents, both logistically and emotionally, so they can spend their time on what’s really important. So far, there is no direct-to-consumer solution on the market. Adelie empowers women and men to take control of their parental leave, without having to rely solely on a manager or HR business partner.

How has the MBC experience helped transform your approach to business strategy?

Our MBC experience has been immensely helpful in shaping our business strategy. Our unique business-to-consumer-to-business (B2B2C) approach has been informed by thoughtful conversations with MBC judges each step of the way. The various iterations have helped build Adelie into a powerful resource for expectant parents.

What do you think will be the long-term impact of the implementation of this idea?

We believe Adelie will fundamentally change the experience of taking parental leave. We will clarify, streamline, and demystify the process to ensure that no expectant parents feel isolated or alone. Over time, Adelie will shift norms about parental leave. We’ll create a community of empowered working mothers and a collection of valuable data with which to advocate for universal paid family leave at the federal level.

What been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

It’s incredibly important to listen carefully to the needs of your users, and then be willing to pivot based on what you’re hearing. We’ve uncovered new pain points and problems we never knew existed and have incorporated them into the product, leading to an even more compelling solution for our users.

If you win, what will you do immediately following the competition?

Go for a celebratory drink! And then take a long nap.


Join us on Feb. 16 to watch this team compete for the $15K grand prize in the Impact Track Finals!

Read more about all of the finalist teams: Adelie | Canopy | Foodfinder | PedalCell