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Executive Education

Competing to do good

By Peter Walker for CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Along with teaching executives how to make a lot of money, business schools increasingly lead the way in ethical and socially-focused projects, as detailed before in Executive Education (see here).

Another key element of modern MBAs is the way students from various schools compete against each other in pitching ideas to panels of experts (see here).

This week comes an annual event that fuses both of these -- the eighth Global Social Venture Competition (GSVB).

Taking place at the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business, it sees 11 schools from three continents battle it out for a total of $45,000 in prizes and funds. These finalists came from an initial entry of 157 teams from 80 universities in 20 countries.

The competition, started by UC Berkeley MBA students in 1999, gives entrants the chance to come up with business ideas that benefit more than just consumers, executives and shareholders.

"GSVC has the potential to put the 'heart' back into graduate business education," said John Mullins, Associate Professor of Management Practice at the UK's London Business School, whose team is one of the finalists.

"By encouraging entrepreneurs to consider both social and economic returns, it broadens their perspectives and encourages them to think more clearly about why they are in business."

The London team will be pitching an idea known as Cool to Care before the panel of judges.

This is a venture intended to improve the lives of families caring for disabled children, which can be extremely difficult and stressful. It will match up carers with families, who will be able to hand-pick the carer and their hours of work from Cool to Care's pool of qualified staff.

Initially UK-based, it is intended to be a replicable and sustainable business model that can be used in developing countries.

Varied ideas

Another innovative idea, called d.light, will be presented by students from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

This aims to set up a for-profit company selling cheap, safe and easy to power LED lights to the hundreds of millions worldwide who live without mains electricity, many of whom spend a high proportion of their incomes on kerosene.

Other entries are inspired by the countries in which the schools are based -- for instance, Peking University's Beijing International MBA team hope to market a new technological device called a plasma seed processor to help hundreds of millions of Chinese farmers achieve higher yields from drought-afflicted, infertile land.

Meanwhile, the host team at Haas have devised an idea for a company to provide healthy meals and nutritional education for schools in California, especially those in low-income communities with traditionally poor access to such foods.

The other finalists are the University of Geneva; Columbia Business School; Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, Canada; Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia; Harvard Business School; Babson College in Babson Park, Massachusetts and Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand.


One team aims to help drought-hit Chinese farmers.


FT MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Columbia, U.S.
3. Harvard, U.S.
4. Stanford GSB, U.S.
5. London Business School, UK
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Insead, France/Singapore
8. Stern, NYU, U.S.
9. Tuck, Dartmouth, U.S.
10. Yale, U.S.
Source: Financial Times 2007



The classic MBA is a two-year full-time program. Accelerated and distance learning MBAs are increasingly popular.

A typical MBA student has several years' work experience and is in their late 20s.

Those who take an Executive MBA, or EMBA, tend to be older, more senior managers.

Courses are expensive, but the rewards are high -- some new MBAs now get a $100,000 basic salary, according to a survey.


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