With support from the Tata Centre for Development at UChicago and Booth’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation, the course begins with presentations by MIT engineering graduate students on new technology-based solutions—anything from portable water filters to a low-cost test for tuberculosis. Over 7 days in India, students meet with stakeholders and interview potential users of the MIT technologies. Back in the classroom, students undertake a market assessment to identify product-market fit, and when appropriate, to develop go-to-market strategies.
The ambitious idea for the Global Social Impact Practicum began in 2015 with discussions between the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the Tata Centre for Development at UChicago, and Tata Trusts, one of India’s largest and oldest philanthropic organizations. The idea was simple but had far-reaching potential impact. Chicago Booth students would leverage Tata Trusts’ domain knowledge and network to develop market-based solutions to social issues in India.
The winter-quarter Booth course now begins with presentations by engineering students at MIT on new technology-based solutions—anything from portable water filters to a low-cost test for tuberculosis. Booth students then depart for a 10-day fact-finding trip to India, which includes site visits and meetings with government officials, stakeholders, and social entrepreneurs. Back in the classroom, students work on a scalable enterprise solution leveraging the MIT technologies. During a final presentation to the engineering students and to Social Alpha—a social enterprise incubator supported by Tata Trusts and the government of India—students make recommendations on how to evolve the technology or proceed to market.
“We hope to achieve one of three things,” said Manoj Kumar, Co-founder and CEO of Social Alpha and Head of Entrepreneurship and Innovations at Tata Trusts. “One, understand if there is any product market fit for the technology being developed at MIT. If not, we can avoid spending more philanthropic capital on it. Two, the hope that these students, between MIT and Booth, could co-found a startup and take the idea to scale. Three, the business plan is ready for someone else to implement along with either the MIT or Booth student becoming the co-founder.”