UW News

February 17, 2005

International business plan competition measures ‘social return’ on investment

Students from around the globe will gather in Seattle next week to present their creative and commercially sustainable solutions for reducing poverty through new business development, in the University of Washington Business School’s inaugural Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition.

The competition’s focus on social entrepreneurship requires that competitors’ business plans demonstrate both the social and financial returns on investments. This can involve setting up nonprofit businesses or businesses that earn profits but whose primary role is to help improve the quality of life within a community.

Teams of undergraduate and graduate students will participate in the competition, which runs from Feb. 22-25. Seven teams competing are: University of Yaounde I (Yaounde, Cameroon); Bharathidasan Institute of Management (Tamil Nadu, India); Indian Institute of Technology (Mumbai, India); Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah) and three from the University of Washington.

Students were asked to submit business plans in one of two thematic areas: health care and information or communication technology. Projects submitted by student teams include selling African products to the world market, providing greater access to safe water, and providing training, certification and employment for Africans as medical laboratory technicians.

Kathy Dewenter, associate professor of finance and faculty director of the UW’s Global Business Center, said the university became involved in the competition after recognizing the strength of its various departments and disciplines.

“First and foremost, the Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition presents an incredible learning opportunity for both the participants and all of the UW students who participate in and attend the event,” Dewenter said. “Second, it presents a great opportunity for three units on campus — the Global Business Center, the Center for Technology Entrepreneurship, and the Evans School — to work together and learn from each other. Finally, the event gives the UW an opportunity to take part, in a unique and meaningful way, in the development of emerging markets.”

Ian Bergman, a master’s of business administration student at the UW, said the idea of thinking about and working on an internationally focused business plan that has the potential to give back to a less-developed community was what most attracted him to this competition. He said that he and his teammates are excited to learn how to launch an international business.

“The social responsibility aspect of the competition was most appealing to us —- if anything, it made the competition more real, and less of a simple exercise in ‘who can top who.’ We really wanted to find a way to make a dramatic impact on a population, in addition to finding a profitable business opportunity.”

Two units within the Business School — the Center for Technology Entrepreneurship and the Global Business Center — will host the event, along with the UW’s Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs. The UW Business School, Delta Airlines and The Initiative for Global Development, a Seattle-based alliance of business and civic leaders, are sponsoring the event.

Teams were awarded more than $20,000 in travel scholarships and will compete for a $5,000 grand prize. The final round of the competition, which is open to the public, will take place Feb. 25 from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. in the Douglas Forum, located in the Bank of America Executive Education Center.


For more information, contact Whitney Lackey, program coordinator, Center for Technology Entrepreneurship, at whitneyw@u.washington.edu or (206) 685-9868 or visit http://bschool.washington.edu/cte/IBPC_overview.shtml