MBAs Tackle Global Poverty: 2012 Hult Global Case Challenge

March 5th, 2012 by under Consulting, Reflections, Strategy, Triple Pundit. 2 Comments.

 

Congratulations to my teammates representing the Smith School! Pictured (left to right): Amos Cruz, Pradeep Suthram, Nick Donlan, Stephen Huie.

I’m proud to say that my Smith teammates and I came in 2nd place in the Education Track of the 2012 Hult Global Case Challenge!

The 2012 Hult Challenge

I spent last weekend in Boston, MA with over 400 MBAs and Masters in Public Policy students who were competing in the Boston regional round of the Hult Global Case Challenge.  This year, there were three competition tracks: Education; Energy; and Housing, each of which highlighted a particular non-profit in each field.  Over 4,000 teams worldwide applied to participate in the competition and the selected 200 teams were distributed to competitions on the same day at Hult’s campuses in Boston, Dubai, London, San Francisco, and Shanghai.  The winning teams of the regional rounds will go to New York City in April to meet U.S. President Bill Clinton and present in their solutions.

One Laptop Per Child

Amos Cruz, Nicholas Donlan, Pradeep Suthram, and I spent the past two months preparing for our case, which focused on the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program.  OLPC distributes its XO laptops worldwide to provide creative learning tools and connectivity to the world’s poorest children.  OLPC is looking for innovative ways to improve its strategy as the growth of netbooks and introduction of similar education products by firms like Intel have given OLPC a lot more competition.

Our team’s solution was to develop OLPC’s ability to implement its laptop deployments by developing a consulting and capacity building/training arm we called OLPCi – “i” for implementation.  This would reduce the risk of poor execution and create an ecosystem for the evolution of OLPC’s open source Sugar platform and more consistent feedback channels, training and content, development for teachers and communities.  We developed a rollout plan focused in Latin America, where OLPC has had its two largest deployments that gradually phases into countries with more resources and infrastructure.  The goal of the phased rollout is to allow OLPCi to develop its organizational capital over time so that it can develop the skills required to be successful in deploying XO laptops effectively to the poorest communities.

Good Times…Thankfully It Won’t Be the Last

We heard some really interesting ideas from other MBA teams, including those from the Energy and Housing tracks who developed recommendations for SolarAid and Habitat for Humanity, respectively.  This was a great time to network with like-minded MBAs who are interested in social change and I even made a couple of contacts for my technology commercialization project.    I also got to hang out again with MBAs from other schools who I had met at previous competitions – here’s my shout out to the students of the Jesse H. Jones School of Rice University!

I’ve participated in six case competitions and this one is probably my last one.  It was a great team – I didn’t want to do it at first, but when I saw the team that Amos was bringing together, I knew I had to say yes.  Amos was an educator and IT systems implementer while in the Peace Corps; Pradeep is a creative entrepreneur, budding VC, and systems influence guru; and Nick had deep experience in sales and finance.  I brought experience in education, community organizing, and marketing.  Together, we questioned assumptions, developed frameworks for analyzing the situation, and came up with some concrete solutions and a rollout plan you could begin next Monday.

I realized during the final four hours of preparation before our presentation, that I will miss the adrenaline and excitement of preparing for these competitions.  I also realized that two years ago, before beginning my Smith MBA, I would not have been able to accomplish what we did as well as I can now- structure an approach of inquiry; quickly identify and assign critical tasks; brainstorm business model design; and articulate a concrete solution for change.

Yet, these MBA skills will go with me wherever I go, as will what I have learned from all of the people I have met and worked with over the past two years.

spacer

2 Comments

Rentals  on May 15th, 2012

Such projects like One Laptop Per Child should be created not only for a competition but also for the social benefits of poor people. We must be more humane and do this in order to improve the quality of children’s life or education.

Stephen Huie  on May 16th, 2012

Thanks for your comment. I completely agree.

OLPC has been struggling to realize their theory of change (http://www.ictworks.org/news/2012/03/07/what-do-randomized-control-trial-results-olpc-peru-mean-ict4e). To better translate the OLPC vision into meaningful benefits for children, teachers, parents, and the taxpayers of the countries that purchase OLPC products, we thought the organization needed to reorganize to focus on implementation, follow through, and service, instead of product development.

My teammate Pradeep made this video describing a summary of our ideas: http://promoshq.wildfireapp.com/website/6/contests/173374/voteable_entries/47823781?safari_redirected=1