Aspen Institute Competition Prompts MBA Students To Innovate For The Good Of Business And Society

Entrepreneurs / 4th May 2017

Eighteen MBA students – selected from close to 1,000 worldwide – have won a share of nearly $35,000 in scholarship money by tackling a real-life business challenge at the intersection of corporate profitability and positive social and environmental impact.

Through the Aspen Institute’s Business & Society International MBA Case Competition, along with lead partner BNY Mellon, students representing 25 top business schools analyzed a brand new case study, authored by the Yale School of Management, about the IBM Corporate Service Corps (CSC). Founded in 2007, IBM CSC had become the largest pro bono consulting program in the world sending nearly 500 IBM employees each year to consult with organizations in countries all over the globe.

Prizes were awarded at a breakfast event attended by 160 guests on Friday, April 28th at the Yale Club of New York City. Guests heard from the winning team, celebrated the 2017 Case Competition finalists and met a remarkably diverse and accomplished group of MBA students.

Congratulations to this year’s winning teams, representing:

1st Place: Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management
2nd Place: Duquesne University, Donahue Graduate School of Business
3rd Place: New York University, Stern School of Business
4th Place: University of Jyvaskyla, School of Business and Economics (Finland)
5th Place: Boston University, Questrom School of Business

Honorable Mentions were awarded to five additional teams (in alphabetical order):

Millsaps College, Else School of Management
Rutgers Business School
University of Chicago, Booth School of Business
University of Denver, Daniels College of Business
Wilfrid Laurier University, Lazaridis School of Business & Economics (Canada)

The competition judges were wowed by the First Place MBA team from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University for their comprehensive, thoughtful, and doable recommendations. “If I were IBM, I could really imagine myself taking this package [of ideas] to senior management and garnering their support,” said one of the judges.

“The Case Competition celebrates a growing movement—and a growing number of business leaders—who are stepping up, speaking out, and acting in ways that strengthen our capitalist system while also making the world a better place,” said Claire Preisser, Associate Director at the Aspen Institute Business & Society Program. “We are thrilled to recognize these students who are thinking critically about what makes a good business decision and developing practical business solutions to the significant challenges this case presented.”

About the Case

Students had just 72 hours to review and respond to the new case study which challenged them to enhance the social impact of IBM’s renowned Corporate Service Corps (CSC). The CSC promises a triple benefit: leadership training for IBM staff, brand recognition for the company in emerging markets, and community development in the areas served by IBM’s host organizations. In the competition, students were tasked with developing practical strategies for IBM to implement that would systematically improve CSC’s design in order to maximize the social impact of the consulting projects while preserving the program’s other benefits.

On-campus competitions determined first place school winners, whose case analyses were then blindly reviewed by an academic panel assembled by the Aspen Institute to determine the five finalist teams. All finalist teams received prize money, with the first place team receiving $15,000 in scholarship funds. Now in its eighth year, the Aspen Institute’s Business & Society International MBA Case Competition encourages the next generation of business leaders to think innovatively about the role of business in solving the world’s most complex and pressing challenges.

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