Students worldwide to connect virtually to solve entrepreneurial challenges


A new virtual exchange program will allow undergraduate students at the University of Michigan the chance to address social entrepreneurship challenges from opposite sides of the world.

The MENA-Michigan Initiative for Global Action Through Entrepreneurship (M2GATE) is a program launched through the William Davidson Institute, a nonprofit education and research organization at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business that aims to provide solutions to low- and middle-income countries.

Through M2GATE, U-M undergraduate students will have the opportunity to collaborate with students from Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia to compete in a social entrepreneurship challenge.

The students from U-M and the other countries will team up to identify a social problem within one of the international locations. Their projects could range from solving a health or sustainability problem to offering a means where people can get job training to start a business that locals can run. It is hoped that teams will come up with scalable solutions.

From there, the teams will work to create a solution and a pitch video. The teams will be split up in three cohorts over three separate, eight-week periods. The winning team from each cohort will travel to Ann Arbor, where they will meet each other and participate in joint activities such as meeting with professors, investors, and incubators and startups in Detroit.

“The close collaboration and getting a bird’s eye view of challenges in other countries is hugely valuable for U-M students. It’s great as an eye opener, for networking and as an international experience,” said Amy Gillett, vice president of the William Davidson Institute’s Education Initiative.

Gillett noted that the program is structured as a virtual exchange, an approach that is not only useful for learning new skills, but also is relevant in today’s modern world, where many corporations are using virtual teams.

The teams will complete online learning modules that will give them the skills needed to work towards their end goal of creating a scalable product or service as a solution to the problem they have identified.

WDI was one of 13 organizations selected by the Stevens Initiative to be invited to participate in this program. The Stevens Initiative, housed in The Aspen Institute, aims to foster leadership, ideas and action within others.

“We want to bring together a rich collective of students and have them identify issues in a wide range of areas. This could span from health issues to unemployment to dealing with waste to more,” Gillett said.

The deadline for students to apply is Dec. 1.


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