Resources for Businesses

Our educational initiatives use the radically different context of subsistence to challenge conventional thinking and emphasize sustainable business practices. This presents unique opportunities for businesses.

Students in the Sustainable Product and Market Development for Subsistence Marketplaces course work for a year to produce a product prototype and a business plan tailored to the needs of a sponsoring company. Business, engineering, and industrial design students collaborate in this carefully guided program to produce insightful and actionable materials based on the latest scholarship and sound business intelligence.IMG_1276

We have worked successfully with small startups as well as large companies, such as Unilever, Motorola, Microsoft, and Kraft. Our passionate students begin the course by experiencing virtual immersion in subsistence contexts through such means as a poverty simulation and analysis of interviews and videos of subsistence individuals. In the next emersion phase, they grapple with principles elicited from a rich set of case studies and guest speakers including social workers, technologists, and entrepreneurs. In parallel, each project begins with extensive idea generation, filtering to a family of ideas that students evaluate on a one-of-a-kind international immersion experience during which they interview subsistence consumers and entrepreneurs and observe urban and rural subsistence contexts.

Once fully prepared, in the spring semester, students apply their business and technical skills to design a product prototype and a related business plan. Projects to date have dealt with information technology, education, energy, food, and health. From a company’s perspective, projects that fit well with this course are those that involve product design. Additionally, our students sign non-disclosure agreements for company-sponsored projects, signing over ownership of intellectual property and agreeing to confidentiality. To support the cost of prototyping costs and a field trip, sponsoring companies typically contribute grants of $10,000 per project.

To learn more, download our PDF brochure.