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23.03.2011
09:23

A For-social-benefit-for-profit Business Model

Do such things exist? Have you ever wondered if the knowledge that we have acquired during our intensive business studies could be used to develop innovative business models to address a social need?

While on my foreign semester I took a few courses in the Social Business area and discovered that there are many entrepreneurial people out there, trying to achieve exactly that. They are trying to develop business models that serve and address a social need, such as unemployment, while being profitable. Such a business approach I learnt is termed a social enterprise. Making a profit in social enterprises is crucial for their survival and achievement of their social mission. In simplistic terms one could see a key difference between social enterprises and corporate enterprises as instead of paying out dividends from the profits, the social enterprise reinvests all profits back into the enterprise to pursue its social mission and address the identified social need. In so doing the social enterprise can grow and serve more people and have a larger beneficial social impact.

WorldStove LLC (http://worldstove.com/about-2/#), is a good example of a social enterprise which I came across. Its mission is to create sustainable and self-perpetuating jobs in the developing world. It is doing this through the establishment of Stove programs, whereby clean cooking carbon negative stoves are initially assembled locally in the respective country and later full production of the stoves is done locally. WorldStove is currently active in 12 countries and continues to grow.

The hybrid business model of this enterprise is particularly interesting; Worldstove finances its social enterprise activities with revenue from its small commercial arm which sell stove products primarily in the US market. The approach to setting up stove programs is one where a pilot program in the respective country is followed by the establishment of the WorldStove Five-step Program, which is adapted slightly for each country. The process is extremely stakeholder driven. Whereby a local country partner needs to show the necessary commitment and initially approach WorldStove to help them to establish a stove program. The social arm mass produces precision pre-cut sheets of stainless steel, which are then shipped as raw materials to the respective country stove program partner for assembly. This approach keeps both costs down and quality high during the initial first phase of establishment of the local stove program, later production is shifted to the local partner. The local country partner owns and runs the stove hubs and program and is a registered business, WorldStove takes on an advisory role. All profits remain those of the Stove Hub owner as well as any Carbon Credits earned through the Measurable Offsets Program (http://measurableoffsets.com/).

These stove programs also have environmental benefits alongside the social benefits of employment, health improvement and provision of clean cooking. To find out more visit the above websites or look WorldStove LCC up on Facebook. I really think that for-social-benefit-for-profit business models are the way forward to solve so many of the world’s problems.

07.02.2011
09:51

A few thoughts on searching for a specific Internship

I recall during one of my undergraduate Economic classes the concept of search costs, the costs an individual endures while looking for a product or service to satisfy a need. Of late I have experienced exactly how costly, in terms of time, search costs can amount to. As I have been looking for an internship, but not just any internship, I have been rather particular and hence the search costs.

Since I was introduced to the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) design framework, I have been trying in earnest to find an internship that is either directly in line with implementation of C2C or at the very least related to the framework in some manner. Finding such an internship at a German company is proving challenging. When one considers that the Cradle to Cradle Festival which is currently on in Berlin until the 16th March 2011 is being held under the banner “Blueprint Netherlands” where many companies have adopted the design principles, my challenge becomes apparent. I hope that German companies follow suite and see the true value in C2C, especially since the founder of the concept Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart is German and his institute EPEA is based in Hamburg. I have naturally sent off an application to EPEA and am awaiting a response. In the mean time I continue to search and line up other possibilities, but as time continues to pass I am slowly broadening my internship search area to include the areas of sustainable strategic innovation and environmental management as well.

Remaining positive, self-confident and proactive are in my mind essential to successfully securing the internship that fits one best. Not to mention researching the prospective companies thoroughly. I have decided to only apply for a few internships that I have really researched well. I feel it is important to take your time and look carefully at your prospective employer and develop a picture of how you can add value to the company and that you and the company are a good fit. So I will be exercising a little patience, while still continuing to seek eco-effective career opportunities.

05.01.2011
10:00

My first exposure to: the Cradle to Cradle design concept

I attended a Cradle to Cradle conference at Copenhagen Business School at the end of September 2010, where I was introduced to the concept of Cradle to Cradle design. The keynote speaker was the Director of Cradle to Cradle Denmark (Vugge til Vugge) and Executive Director of EPEA. His speech about designing circular nutrient (material) flows so as to move away from the current cradle to grave nutrient (material) flow in modern day production, really got me thinking about the potential of this design concept. We were told to imagine a circular flow of nutrients some of a biological nature and others of a technical nature. The biological nutrients cycle is that of nature that we all are familiar with. The technical nutrient cycle, involves the initial extraction of the mineral (nutrient) from the earth and then this is managed and its purity conserved by design in an indefinite circular flow (closed-loop) of production, use, up-cycling, and re-fed as a nutrient (mineral) with the same level of purity as before into the same production process. An amazing vision!

In order to realize this vision current production systems require a lot of rethinking and redesigning. One could even argue that a paradigm shift is necessary. One where the concept of waste is eliminated during the design process, and products, packaging and production systems do not produce any waste. As every kilogram of industrial waste is due to an ineffective process somewhere in the production cycle. To remedy this is not an easy or simple undertaking and requires extensive and intensive analysis of the current chemical make-up of the components and production processes in use. Thereafter once the detailed current situation is known, rethinking and redesigning can begin.

I am by no way an expert on the Cradle to Cradle design concept, but find it to be so appealing and in alignment with many of my thoughts of how business and society should function that I have continued in earnest to read up more about it. Michael Braungart and William McDonough, the founders of the concept, have written a number of books on it, and I have found the reading that I have done to be both inspiring and enjoyable.

As the real beauty of the Cradle to Cradle design concept is when it is achieved and functioning in practice, then the users and consumers of these products can do so guilt free, as the material flow remains circular and thus Eco-effectiveness is achieved. In contrast to this vision, we are currently bombarded by messages of restraint, reduction and how inefficient we are in mass media, which paints a depressing picture of life and the future for all of us.

But what if there was a better way, where we could celebrate life and enjoy all things we consumed and used guilt free? I believe that if we use our intelligence and begin thinking and designing in Cradle to Cradle design terms we can find and realize a better way!

03.12.2010
13:37

Alternative Examination Technique

I was introduced during this week to a different exam format; I had my first Oral exam at Copenhagen Business School. Now some of you may be saying, so what! Well, to place the exam in context, the oral exam lasts 20 minutes and represents your mark for an entire semesters course work and in my case 7,5 ECTS. The pressure to perform is immense. Prior to the oral exam the student needs to write a 3 page synopsis, which is intended to set the scene for the discussion in the oral exam, but the synopsis does not count for any marks. The academic level of the synopsis is used to frame the discussion so in that way indirectly has an effect on your mark. In short, all points are given for your performance in those 20 minutes!

The 20 minutes are structured as follows, the student has 2 min to present at the beginning of the exam, without any PowerPoint, so just speaking. Then the examiners will ask the student questions related to the readings that the student referred to in their synopsis for the following 6 to 8 minutes. Thereafter the examiner will ask questions about any reading in the entire semester course for the following 6 to 8 minutes. Then the student leaves the room and the two examiners discuss the student's performance. The student is called in and given their mark in the 20th minute of the exam.

I found it an extremely tough yet efficient way of being examined. The only disadvantages are that some student's competence does not lie in presenting and speaking, and also that the students entire semester mark hinges on performing in a 20 minute time period, which converts it into a high pressure situation.

However, for business students that are going to be constantly faced in their future careers with time pressure and expected high performance in pressure situations, I think this examination style provides them with excellent preparation for the real working world.

18.10.2010
09:41

CBS and my courses

In this week's entry, I will tell you briefly what has been keeping me busy academically whilst here in Copenhagen. The natural starting point is the courses I have been attending at CBS. I have four courses a week, each session is two and a half hours including two short five to ten minute breaks. I fortunately only have one course which starts at 8am the other three courses are all at reasonable times of day. The major differences I find at CBS vs EBS is that we have less face time here with the lecturers, larger classes and more pre-reading for each class. Currently each of my courses have on average 50 pages of reading per session.

In addition, the course that I have chosen each have a practical element to them, which is primarily what attracted me to the courses. However there are purely theory based course available for those students who prefer that. An example of the practical element in one of my courses, “Business Plan Writing for Social Enterprises”, is we have been assigned an external coach to help us develop our business plan and we are also writing a business plan that can be put into action. So real world contacts, budgets, funding options and business models. My group is writing a business plan on Bio-gas production for domestic use in Sub-Saharan Africa. We are striving to strike a balance between the positive social benefits which the social enterprise needs to deliver and the financial sustainability that the social enterprise requires to optimize the scale of its social impact. Motivation, enthusiasm and commitment are all present in our group and the group dynamics are functioning well, so I am looking forward to our final result.

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