Keeping the student spirit up!

We meet with BSL professor Erdal Atukeren, who’s telling us about his journey into continuing education.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, what is your background?

I am Turkish by birth and Swiss by marriage. I studied Economics & Business Administration (B.A.), and Econometrics (M.A.) in Turkey. Then, I went to Canada and completed a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Ottawa. I came to Switzerland in 1995 and worked at the UBS in emerging markets research and credit risk management areas. Afterwards, I joined the ETH in Zurich and worked there for more than 13 years in economic research, mostly focusing on macroeconomic modeling and forecasting and doing third-party projects. Currently, I teach at BSL and other business schools. I am research-oriented and I have published a good number of articles in academic journals. I serve as an Editorial Board member in International Journal of Sustainable Economy, Journal of International Trade and Economic Development, and Investment Management and Financial Innovations. I am also serving as Guest Editor at the Journal of Risk and Financial Management (Special Issue on Macroeconomic Forecasting) and at the Resources journal (Special Issue on Global Economic Development, Resources and Environment).

What do you teach at BSL, and how long have you been part of our faculty?

I started teaching at BSL in Fall 2010 with the MIB Economics for Business course. Afterwards, I taught BBA courses and later on Master’s courses as well. I currently teach Business Mathematics & Calculus, Business Statistics, and Sustainable Business Strategy at the BBA level. At the Master’s level, I teach the Economics for Business, Risk Management, and the Sustainable Economy courses. In the past, I taught the BBA Operations Management and the MSIF Quantitative Methods I courses as well.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I like to see when students start a course with little or no knowledge in some subjects and how it changes overtime. Sometimes, the students think they know a topic; but upon systematic thinking about the concepts, questioning how they are operationalized, and scrutinizing the assumptions they are based on, they see that it is not an easy task. If they are confused about what they think they knew before, I am happy. This is also important for being innovative and developing the thinking-outside-the-box skills. The class environment at BSL is very multicultural. I like to see how students from different cultures and backgrounds tackle an issue and also work together to generate diverse ideas.

How did you get to start up studies again? And what did it bring you?

I live in Zurich. I come to the BSL by train for my classes. Depending on the term, I travel a lot between Zurich and Renens. I read a lot on my trips but I was thinking about using my time more productively and do my readings on a more systematic basis. Four years ago, with these thoughts in mind, I enrolled in a distance education program in Sociology offered by Anadolu University in Turkey. Anadolu University has a Western European Office in Köln – Germany, which coordinates their distance education programs offered in Europe. I’ve now graduated with a B.A in Sociology. Sociology provides a broader perspective into the issues we are facing today. It gives a more holistic perspective – going beyond the narrow lenses of other disciplines.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to a graduating student?

Congratulations! Keep learning, keep the student spirit up. We are always students.

 

 

Is sustainable finance becoming mainstream?

The Swiss newspaper Le Temps published a very interesting article on June 20 by Emmanuel Garessus on the topic of sustainable finance.

Based on a study published by Morgan Stanley the day before, sustainable investments worldwide reached a total amount of 22’800 billion dollars, and can no longer be considered a niche market. This means that a quarter of total investments made by professionals are following ESG (environmental, social and governance) criteria.

The annual growth rate of sustainable investments currently amounts to 11.9 % and continues to grow.

The majority of institutional investors, such as pension funds, foundations, insurance companies and sovereign funds, are now investing in this field, which used to be a niche a few years ago. Hedge funds are an exception to this trend.

Europe (12’000 billion dollars) and the United States (8’800 billion dollars) are major players in this field. Theme wise, climate change occupies the top position, ahead of inclusive growth and gender diversity.

Risk mitigation and potential return on investment are the main reasons why professionals invest in sustainable finance.

When I read the article in Le Temps, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, it is very encouraging to see how quickly sustainable investments are increasing all over the world. On the other, we should remain aware that there are different levels of commitment from investors with regards to sustainable investments. A first level is exclusion (we just choose not to invest in the tobacco industry or in casinos, e.g.). A second level is the so-called “Best in class” approach where we decide to invest in company A instead of company B, because the former one has a better rating according to ESG criteria, even if we invest in non-renewable energy sources. The third level is impact investing where we select companies, which bring a real progress to the world, by addressing environmental or social issues and contributing to reach the UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t give any indication on the way the total amount of sustainable investment is shared between these different levels.

My personal opinion on this topic is that a shift towards more progressive and impactful levels of sustainable investments is as important as the total amount of these investments.

For that reason, the world needs more and more finance professionals with a solid background in sustainability, both at investing companies or institutions and at rating companies.

Philippe Du Pasquier, President of the Board

Life Journeys – Matteo Stifanelli: the “Impact Sabbatical”

Matteo Stifanelli graduated with an MBA at Business School Lausanne in July 2017 while working at Airbnb. He has been the Country Manager of the Italian business for the past 5 years and worked at the company since its very early stages.

Almost a year after his graduation, his bags are packed and he is ready to embark on an intercontinental learning journey he calls the “Impact Sabbatical”. He’ll be in Lausanne, San Francisco, Seoul, Berlin and Cape Town for a purpose-driven trip, with the goal of finding his own mission and purpose in life.

Rules of the game? No expectations and one main question to answer: “How do I apply what I learned at Airbnb and BSL to a problem I care about and make a positive impact on the world?”

We had the pleasure to have him here at BSL, where he told us all about his journey.

D: Ciao Matteo, it is a pleasure to have you! Exciting times ahead of you. How do you feel?

M: Definitely excited. I finished with Airbnb just few days ago. I’ve emptied my apartment in Milan, and sold, gifted and donated everything I have, except a suitcase and a backpack. Everything is moving so quickly, I don’t even realize my trip has started already!

D: Let’s start from the beginning: who is Matteo Stifanelli?

M: I’m a 32 years old lucky Italian guy who loves entrepreneurship, technology and making an impact on the world around me. If I rewind the film of my life, I can clearly spot my initial interests in human interaction and storytelling. This led me into literature, as I wanted to know how people think and communicate. I then went to film school to understand how I could use media to tell my stories and influence the world around me. I later realized entrepreneurship and technology were a better way to achieve that, so I learned to code and launched my own internet startup. And that’s how I eventually discovered Airbnb back in 2009, when it was just a very small startup that nerds knew about.

D: Lausanne, San Francisco, Seoul, Berlin, Cape Town. What is the elevator pitch?

M: After Airbnb being at the center of my life for almost 10 years, I’ve embarked on a journey to find my own mission and purpose. For one year I’ll travel the earth, meeting with passionate people, experts and entrepreneurs who are committed to making a difference. The goal is to understand which issues are most important to me and how I can best apply what I’ve learned at Airbnb and BSL to make an impact. I’ll start my journey in San Francisco, the cradle of technology, then move on to Seoul to discover Asia. Berlin, the capital of Europe, will be my next stop and I’ll finish my travels in Cape Town to find out more about the African continent.

D: That sounds quite exciting. Let’s break it down. Walk us through your destination choices. Lausanne is your first stop. Why?

M: Carrying out my MBA at BSL has been an important trigger in my life. I chose BSL (and Switzerland) because of its very international environment and its tailor-made approach to the needs of each student. For example, it was quite easy to move classes around when my work agenda went rogue. I was always able to accommodate both work and study commitments efficiently. Also, given its small size, the school enables the creation of strong relationships among staff and students, which to me is the most important thing.

BSL did a great job at giving me a solid business education and helped me put in place the foundation for what I was learning in practice at my Airbnb role. In addition, it developed my sensibility for sustainability and made it flourish. At the end of the MBA program, the only business decisions that make sense to me are the ones that are good for the balance sheet as well as the world around me. These two things can’t be separated or be in conflict, and it simply makes sense.

I now want to meet with passionate people, experts and entrepreneurs who share similar views and are already dedicating their lives and companies to making a positive impact on global issues. I want to explore different places and cultures to get different perspectives. I’ll be in a different city and continent every few months, starting in San Francisco and then moving on to Seoul, Berlin and Cape Town.

D: So after Lausanne, you’ll be in San Francisco for four months. Tell us more about that.

M: I am excited to spend some time in SF. It is a unique and very controversial place. When we think about the city, there are a few words coming to mind: ‘“tech’, “start-ups”, “venture capital”, “Silicon Valley”. On the other end, having been there many times through my past job, I’ve been exposed to the many widespread issues that are less popular but nonetheless important, such as homelessness, gentrification, and widespread drugs addiction. While being there, I want to better understand American society and get in touch with innovative companies that are focusing on global issues, and leveraging tech and venture capital to make a positive impact.

D: You will then be in south Korea… why?

M: Seoul, South Korea and Asia in general represent a brand new world for me and I believe there’s a future in which world leadership could potentially come from that region. I want to dedicate time to study the culture and values of the region, to try and understand what that future could look like. I also have a personal connection with Asia since my girlfriend is Korean. So I look forward to learning her language and culture.

D: After Asia, you are coming back to “your” continent…

M: Yes, I’ll be back to Europe and specifically in Berlin. I worked there for Airbnb at the beginning of my career and had a great time in the city. There’s so much history and culture given its troublesome past, and Berliners are my kind of people: open-minded, multicultural, efficient but with a twist of art and romance. It’s a place where I’d like to live. I also believe that after Brexit, Berlin has a chance to become the cultural, political and economical capital of Europe. The start-up scene there is also booming, which makes it a great EU base for entrepreneurs.

D: Last, but not least, you will visit Africa, being based in Cape Town.

Africa is the place I know the least, and definitely would like to learn the most about. If we talk about innovation and sustainability, I believe Africa is the region in need of the most attention and with the biggest potential. I have not figured out yet the final leg of my trip but I will be based in Cape Town, with the objective of exploring the continent and better understanding its issues.

D: What are you going to do in these cities? Which kind of people are you trying to meet with?

M: I will be looking for experts, entrepreneurs, investors and passionate people in general who are already studying world issues and trying to make a difference. In San Francisco for instance, there is a community of people dedicated to “impact investing” and “social impact entrepreneurship”. My goal is to meet with these people, interview them and collect their thoughts, while forming my own point of view.

D: Any fears?

M: For sure. I’m leaving everything behind: a safe job and all its comforts, an amazing company, my country as well as my routines. I’ll be travelling around the world and visiting many new places. There will be many opportunities to lose drive and motivation and it’s easy to go back to what I’m comfortable with when things get tough. But I want to stick to the plan, and allow myself some time to truly think about what I want to do with my life.

D: We certainly wish you success with that. Do you have anything to say to our students who will be reading this interview?

M: Stand by your values and passions, strive to make a positive impact in the world and never settle for anything less. If like me you speak English, have access to the internet and are getting an education, then you need to realize that we are privileged. The question is, what are we going to do with such privilege? The Impact Sabbatical is my personal attempt to answer that question. I invite you to think about it too.

I would also recommend a book: “Never eat alone”, by Kate Keith Ferrazzi. An eye opener about how important relationships are in our lives and career. It’s a principle that has greatly influenced me and helped me through my journey.

D: Thanks Matteo, it’s been a pleasure having you with us today and good luck with your journey on behalf of BSL. How can people follow you on social media during your trip?

M: Thanks Daniele, my pleasure as well. I’ll document my journey online and create a dialogue. Here are the channels I will use to do that:

Medium: I publish here all my reflections and stories from the “Impact Sabbatical”

YouTube: I will publish here my interviews, vlogs and other creative material

Instagram: Follow me here to know where I am in the world and what I’m doing

Facebook: I use facebook to interact with my audience and create an online community

LinkedIn: I share here my industry views and career development reflections

 

Author: Daniele TicliCreating opportunities for Companies, Students and Alumni by addressing the needs of Education and Corporate world.

From Knowing to Doing – Developing Feedback Fluency of Future Leaders

In this semester’s Leadership and Management skills course I was looking for ways that would enable students to dig in deeper and stretch their learning. Each four hour session is designed to be experiential and learning is facilitated by using a combination of virtual simulations, reflection, applying the flipped classroom method, role play, assessments, working out loud and practicing participatory leadership tools.

A key skill set that I have noticed is often lacking in the management domain is the ability to give feedback in a timely and constructive manner.

Working with a class of 24 students from 12 countries you can imagine the differences in perspectives related to this skill. For example:

  • From my point of view, a feedback is connected with negative emotions and taking criticism personally, not on the work that one does.
  • I grew up in a culture where giving feedback is not the norm. Or if someone is giving you “Feedback”, it it’s usually to make you feel bad or prove they’re better than you are.
  • In my experience giving and receiving feedback were not positive experiences for me, for this reason I was scared to be involved in this process.
  • Sometimes when we give feedback towards our team members it may affect them from a personal perspective, it’s a very sensitive topic.

To create something that would truly create powerful impact with the students, I reached out to Sarah Schwab the CEO of The Experience Accelerator to ask if we could create a project together that would help the students build their feedback skills into a competence.  Sarah was open to the idea and we created a five-part learning journey for the students.

  1. It began with students logging into The Experience Accelerator to visualize a feedback virtual scenario
  2. Students were debriefed on the scenario and required to practice giving feedback and recording their interaction.
  3. Before class students received written feedback on their practice focusing on the areas they had performed well in as well as suggestions on how they could improve.
  4. At this point the learning went live and students had the opportunity in class to practice by giving, receiving and observing feedback in different scenarios that had been prepared for them. Watch the video
  5. And finally, students were given the opportunity to write a reflection about what they learned over the course of the assignment

In their reflection papers students expressed their surprise at the power of the exercise:

“I have learned that feedback is not about telling what the person did right or wrong, but about explaining how he or she made the other person feel.” KB

“I realized again how challenging it is when performing the online scenario where it somehow appeared easy when watching the video, but was a totally different story when I had to do my own recordings.” ME

“I would like to say that such an experience was truly helpful for me. I gained a lot of knowledge in terms of feedback, particularly if I want to give an effective feedback, I should always practice and be aware of some key points in order to avoid making mistakes from the very beginning.” SK

Their ability to put into practice a four step feedback model*  both virtually and in class during live role play has categorically changed the beliefs’ students had about feedback. Furthermore they now have a toolkit and clear understanding of how to deliver effective constructive feedback.

*Clarify the context, explain using as much detail as possible what happened, explain the impact their action had on the situation and discuss possible steps on how to move forward.

Author:

Nadene Canning, BSL Professor

 

Appreciative Inquiry, Business Innovation and the SDGs – A winning combination

For the first time in September 2017 Business School Lausanne designed a case study course that used the UN Global Goals as a lens for students to take a step closer to business innovation in their community, exploring companies that are both profitable and doing good in the world.

In Part 1 of the course students needed to research a company they believe are doing work related to the SDGs. The students job was to help the company to uncover and reveal an important story that has happened to them related to a recent project where clearly “good for the world” was created, sometimes even unintentionally.

To find out whether their discovery was valid, they had a wealth of information available to them on the Aim2Flourish platform regarding the sustainable development goals and corporate innovation. Once a company and a contact person had been identified, students reached out through the power of our professional networks to connect, explain their intention, and set up an in-person interview with the specific business leader. The interview was prepared beforehand in class using the appreciative inquiry method. Based on the information interview and their additional research, students then wrote their stories and we went through a few rounds of revisions before submitting them to the AIM2Flourish platform. From the outset students knew they were part of a competition for the most innovative stories and that there was a possibility that their story would be chosen the following year as one of the best-of-the-best stories.

Early April I received a message from Aim2Flourish requesting confirmation that all the information in one of the stories written by a student was valid. I reached out to the company in question and liaised with the press department, made some modifications and on April 16, 2018  was advised that the story written by Karim Albekov had been awarded one of the 17 Flourish Prizes, based on the Promoting Gender Equity story he had written about the organization: IKEA.

This business’ story was selected as one of the 17 best stories exemplifying how business is a positive force for good and demonstrating progress towards the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) published on the AIM2Flourish platform in 2018.

AIM2Flourish is a UN-supported global learning initiative where students discover and celebrate untold stories about business innovations for good, using the 17 SDGs as a lens. AIM2Flourish is an initiative of the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit at the Weatherhead School of Management – Case Western Reserve University.

Please join me in congratulating Karim Albekov for this excellent accomplishment and to all the other students who submitted their stories;  Alexandros Katsidonis,  Anna Iskanderova, Arsen Amanbayev, Lisa Foffano and Ana Cristina Junquira Ottoni. Give them all a big round of applause at graduation this summer for being the first to try and the first to succeed!

This year, Aim2Flourish will celebrate all of their 2018 Flourish Prize winners in a week-long, virtual celebration from May 7-11. During this time Aim2Flourish will host a global, multi-day celebration via our social channels on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium, and Zoom Video Conference with the hashtag #FlourishPrizes2018.

 

Author:

Nadene Canning, BSL Professor

 

Innovation at BSL: MEDICLY – A transparent blockchain healthcare system

Edited by Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers, Gap Frame Week designer and orchestrator

Student Group 1: Mariam Rawashdeh, Alexandra Gritsenko, Abdulkader AL Muhaidib, Andre Linney, Edoardo Danisi, Conrad Zawadzki, Mathieu Feltzinger, Grigory Klyuev, Tarek Talaat

DAY 1 – Ideation

Here we go, dear Readers; we are starting our Spring 2018 Gap Frame Week journey and this is our blog. Our group experience began with everyone introducing himself or herself and sharing personal insights. Out of the 8 members of our group, we had 7 different nationalities. This diversity helped us to get many initial ideas (80, to be precise) and different points of view.

We then discussed personal stories from our countries in connection to the health topic that we had unanimously chosen. What emerged is that health is certainly a multifaceted issue with many issues that need to be addressed. For example, we found during our research that even in developed countries, abuse and misinformation linked to use of medication is prevalent. What do guys think ? Is this a real issue?

While we talked, project ideas started to take shape, such as creating a transparent block chain healthcare system in which hospitals and pharmacies worldwide would be able to access the health background of virtually any patient. We discussed the pros and cons of a concept we called MEDICLY whereby any medical center or pharmacy across the globe could have access to an individual’s health record. The idea seemed appealing but we debated about the challenges of applying such an idea worldwide. For example, we established that there would be knowledge and communication barriers. Since we realized that applying this idea worldwide would be an immense challenge, we decide to stay at a country level, and to focus on Poland.

DAY 2 – Flexing of ideas

Let’s start the second day ! Our first task of the day was to identify relevant stakeholders. We then had to decide on some strategies to explore the feasibility of our Day 1 ideas.

The stakeholders we researched were Customers of companies, Cities & communities. Financial institutions, Consumers, Government and Regulators.

Customers of companies

We interviewed a pharmacist who was delighted with the idea and told us he would agree to take part in such a the project if it were launched. He found it simple, obvious and beneficial not only for the pharmaceutical business but for the entire health-care system.

Cities & communities

For cities & communities we sent an email to a local commune asking them about their opinions regarding the project, whether they would implement it in their commune and whether it is beneficial to them ? We also asked how it could work with local and Swiss regulations (knowing that in Switzerland, each commune is different).

Financial institutions

For financial institutions we interviewed an investor. The interviewed person said that he is observing a tremendous shift in technology and a tendency towards dealing with finance in very different ways (such as cryptocurrency). Medical health-care is an important aspect of human social existence and well-being. In his view, inefficiencies in the healthcare system inevitably translate into big problems for society. The investor we interviewed said that he believes in our idea and could see a future scenario where it may be possible to introduce it.

Consumer

For a consumer perspective, we interviewed fellow students of BSL and staff. The questions we asked were:

  • Do you think the current system of medical prescriptions is fair and functional?
  • Have you ever had any issues in trying to retrieve your or others medical records?
  • Do you know your blood type? If yes, do you have the blood type card with u at all times?
  • Do you know you if you have any allergies?
  • Do you think medical prescriptions are currently too easy or hard to get?

We concluded from the interviews that we had identified a problematic issue. People thought the idea was good but that there would probably be issues to solve regarding the handling of personal information and cloud safety (cybersecurity).

Government and Regulators

For governments & regulators, our team member contacted the Polish Health Ministry. We are still waiting for an answer….oh well…..you can’t win them all!

DAY 3 – Prototyping our concept

Today, we presented our project to all the students and faculty in the main auditorium. We got questions on how could we safely store patient data, and we had an interesting discussion around the block chain idea. Later in the day, we moved on to prototyping our idea. First, we carried out more research to get data that are more concrete and we decided to focus on the U.S. rather than Poland. Second, we shared all the information that different members of the team had been working on, combining and structuring our resources.

Back in our innovation space after our lunch break, we started working on the 10-prototyping criteria provided. We also made some decisions about what our slogan should be. Options we considered were: “partner in life”, “accessibility”, “partner for health”, “private health directory”, and we settled on the latter.

Once we finished the answers we went over the work done and refreshed everything for the opportunity we would have the next day to share our ideas with others and build on them (we call this session the “Frenzy”).

DAY 4 – Refining our prototype

Dear Readers: Here is the last part of our Spring 2018 Gap Frame Week blog!!! On this – the 4th day – we started organizing and planning for the Frenzy. We created posters and finalized the presentation, We even spoke with one of the other groups working on a health challenge also. We discovered that we had synergies and that seeking a partnership with the other student team might even make sense.

During the Frenzy we gave each other feedback. Our fellow students were highly engaged and gave many positive comments.

However, other students really wanted to understand how to ensure a sustainable flow of funding for the project once the program is sold to, for example, the government. We definitely need to focus on the funding model at our next Gap Frame Week in the Summer of 2018.

Once we integrated the feedback, we finished the presentation by adding our draft financial plan.

Phew…..we were finally done! Our team presenter rehearsed in front of everyone as, on the Friday – final day – we would only be allowed an 8 minute presentation. Wish us luck!!

 

Innovation at BSL: NAVINTA – Matching University students with rural communities in need

Edited by: Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers, Gap Frame Week designer and orchestrator

Blogpost by BSL Spring Gap Frame Week Student Group 5: Adelaide-Ioli
Eliopoulos, Arshia Soltani, David Chopuuryan, Jose Carreras-Medina, Moulaye El
Hassen, Nikita Safronov, Oleksandr Kryachko, Saveliy Danilov, Suchi Dubey

“Education is the passport to the future,
for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

-Malcolm X

This blog is mainly devoted to the teamwork issues related to our experience ofΣτιγμιότυπο 2018-05-03, 9.53.42 π.μ.
the Gap Frame Week (GFW) that has become such an essential part of the BSL community life. During this highly innovative week, we raise important questions about some of the world’s greatest environmental and social challenges. We share, reflect upon, and discuss possible solutions to these dilemmas, AND we develop a prototype of a solution. Being honest, sometimes we even get quite carried away and there are lots of different opinions – sometimes even raised voices – amongst the team members.

As Team 5, we decided to focus during the Spring 2018 GFW on the lack of equal opportunity for education and self-development. We came up with the idea of Navinta, which is the creation of a knowledge database using algorithm software to match University students with rural communities in need, and to empower them as educators of elementary school students. In order to create a successful concept prototype, which would contribute to equal opportunity for education, we needed to work as a team, as one organism. This short blog entry will talk about our experience during the week, our team chemistry and the way we worked together.

Our overall conclusion from our GFW experience is that the key to team success
lies in the creation of an original community, where everyone’s ideas are valued and represented. In order to find the right group chemistry, it is essential to get to know
each other, and to learn to respect each team member. Luckily,Στιγμιότυπο 2018-05-03, 9.56.15 π.μ. every member of our team knew each other before working on this project, but we were not very close. Therefore, we had to get to know each other better so we could operate better. The “Ice breaker” activity on the first day helped us to achieve this. The “Ice breaker” is an easy exercise, in which team members interview and introduce each other. It consists of 5 questions, to be answered by each team member within one minute each. During this session, even though we already knew each other, we still connected on another level. During the icebreaker time, we each drew symbols that represented the others (their characters and personalities, or what we knew about them). Even though it seemed as a simple task, we found it to be quite challenging. These symbols revealed a lot about each member of the group and helped us to get a better understanding of each other. Every member shared what he/she meant by the symbol, the idea and the meaning behind it. It was a crucial step on our way to finding the perfect team chemistry.

Respect, listening skills, and commitment (with an added ingredient of humor) in what we believe are necessary tools to create a warm and productive working atmosphere. The fact that we had a chance to self-organize as a team, had an immensely positive impact on our working process. Everything we did during the GFW, even when we were procrastinating, researching, interviewing, developing our posters or presentations, watching or making videos or even…. dancing, helped us to connect and as a result we feel we presented an inspired piece of work on the final day of the week.

Even after the working days were over, some of our team members met up, went out together, had dinner, and had some fun, which all helped up to bond even more. Even though those activities were not connected to the work at all – during the time we went out we did not talk about our project at all – it still had a positive effect on the chemistry of our team and we were able to work better together the following day.

At the end of the day, there really is no “I” in team and it  is crucial that every team member understands that. We are convinced that nothing is more vital to success than the team spirit.Στιγμιότυπο 2018-05-03, 9.57.42 π.μ.

In this blogpost, we have not talked
much about our solution, preferring to report on some of the team building aspects of the week. But watch this space for more news about NAVINTA and how it develops when we work on it further during GFW 4 from 14 to 20 May, 2018.

Until then, signing out, Group 5!

 

 

The Great Decline of the Swiss Franc

The Tough Years

The consensus among financial analysts during last 6-7 years is that the Swiss currency has been significantly overvalued and still is. Historically, EUR100 could be converted into more than CHF120, but in spring 2015, there was a remarkable currency movement and the Franc raised to unprecedented levels. Much at the joy of Swiss consumers traveling and purchasing abroad, but at the same time causing even more serious problems for Swiss companies and institutions having to increase their prices with up to 20% for clients abroad.

At the time, the Swiss National Bank was very aware of the issues a strong Swiss Franc would cause to exporting business and visitors to Switzerland, and therefore for a long time tempted to keep the EUR-CHF exchange rate above 1.20 (EUR1 = CHF1.20). To achieve this goal the Swiss National Bank sold CHF against EUR and also lowered interest rates, making it less attractive to change your money into Francs and to invest money here. The pressure however was big and too many foreign companies and investors continued to purchase Swiss Francs. In spring 2015, in an abrupt move, the Swiss National Bank went away from the first part of their strategy and stopped selling Francs to defend a level of 1.20. The reaction in financial markets was immediate, and the Swiss Franc went straight up and stabilized at level of EUR1 = 1CHF, even though the short-term interest rates at the same time were dropped to -0.75% (you actually received money if you took a loan in CHF) as a last desperate measure to park money in the Swiss mountains. 2015 and 2016 were tough years for many exporting companies. When a currency jumps by 20% overnight this translates into 20% more expensive prices of your goods when sold abroad and 20% higher costs on all goods and services bought outside Switzerland. Sales went down, margins went down, salaries were cut. Misery in short.

The Swiss Franc Is Becoming Cheaper

Few things – other than diamonds – last forever. Slowly since 2015, negative interest rates have helped equilibrate the Franc back into a downward trend. As can be seen on the graph below, the Swiss Franc has gradually gone down since, and is now after four years of continuous weakening coming back down and through the important threshold of 1.20. Analysts at UBS predict that the trend is not over, but will continue and in the shorter term already reach a level of 1.25. A tendency the president of the Swiss National Bank, Thomas Jordan, welcomes. He sees no reason to discontinue the decline by adjusting monetary policy. This is good and a fine guarantee for a continued depreciation of the Franc.

The great decline of the Swiss Franc is good news for Swiss exporting companies and visitors coming to Switzerland. In line with a weaker CHF companies can raise their export prices. It is also great news for future and current students at BSL who, through the new currency reality, get a 20% (soon to be 25%) discount compared to spring 2015!

A consequence of the weakening Franc is that interest rates are increased into positive territory. The opinion of the international financial sector is still that the Swiss Franc even today still is too strong. This and the fact that near-term risk appetite for equity investments is high – as the world economies are growing at a satisfying pace – will keep the CHF low and push it even lower.  

I welcome the trend and we hope for all of us that the next level will be 1.30 (EUR1 = CHF1.30). Breaking that threshold would certainly be bad news for Swiss consumers, having to pay higher prices for imported goods. However, given the dependency of Switzerland on exports (pharmaceuticals, machinery, clocks and chemicals), the country currently is, in my opinion, better off with an even weaker currency.

 

Author:

Dr. Jan Erik Meidell, Professor

 

 

Innovating with BSL: THE TAG – Keeping tags on our health with meaningful labels

Edited by Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers

Blog Post by GFW Group 7 BSL students: Arman Danielyan, Karina Bondarenko, Karina Grigoryeva, Khalid Attieh, Lidiya Kudina, Morgan Manin, Omar Eltanani, Timofei Plahotniuci, Ulysse Ortiz

 

Day 1

During our Spring 2018 Gapframe Innovation week, our group opted to work on “Quality of Life”. We found three main sub-themes to develop further: Education, Nutrition, and Peace & Stability. We then developed each of them by coming up with solution ideas using a design-thinking ideation exercise. Overall, we felt we could get most group traction around the Nutrition and Education themes. Can you believe that we came up with 80 different ideas?

Day 2

In the morning, our group discussed possible project ideas. Maybe surprisingly, we did not choose any of the original 80 ideas. Sleeping on it clearly brought inspiration because we actually came up with a brand new idea: “Health labeling for food” on two levels: for illiterate people and for already developed countries. We felt that if we designed a concept in this area, we could have impact globally. Click HERE for a very short video showing the general idea.

According to our research, health labelling is relevant for almost everybody. It not only informs those who are health conscious, but also those unaware of the food they are eating. Nowadays, too few people actually scrutinize the ingredients and nutritional value of the food they are buying. Could our solution provide an easy and non time-consuming way of checking these factors?

Our team came up with a cool solution: to put colorful labels on products, so that it is super easy to check whether the product being purchased is really healthy. The symbols relate to the levels of sugar, chemicals, salt, wheat, lactose, conserving agents.

On Day 2, we researched 5 main stakeholder groups: media, customers, thought leaders, cities & communities, government & regulators. We carried out interviews to benchmark the feedback and drawbacks of our project. We concluded from the feedback we got that the project was promising and interesting and that we should continue developing it. We defined our mission statement as follows: “We provide a simplified and understandable labelling system to evaluate how healthy food products are, allowing even the illiterate to link health risks or benefits to the food they eat.”

Day 3

Having presented our idea and the product to the other groups in the morning, we realized that we needed to be more specific with the labelling objective. For example, to look at the possibility of product labeling for blind people, or to concentrate on people with specific diseases, and for whom food has an important impact, such as those with digestive disorders, depression, obesity, heart / kidney diseases, diabetes, inflammation, osteoporosis.

Day 4

Today, we started prototyping and searching for ways of implementing our idea. Since we did not have enough time to create and personalize all the labels we wanted, we found some good options online, printed them out and stuck them to a number of products we bought. Since in our group we had a certified nutritionist, we used her knowledge to decide on which product to put what. Depending on the amount of sugar, salt, and harmful chemicals (such as aspartame in Coca Cola light), we distributed the labels on the products, using red ones to attract attention to less healthy ingredients, and green to distinguish the products that are healthy.

To set up the company, we discussed creating a Swiss association in the Swiss commercial register free of charge, with tax-free status. We also decided that launching a website made a lot of sense for our initiative, more as an awareness-building platform, to include all information related to our product and events and detailing the benefits of collaborating with us. The website and social media would be very important marketing tools. We also outlined important financial resources questions, including crowdfunding and aid agency possibilities.

Looking forward to developing this further in Gap Frame Week 3, 2018. There are many labelling initiatives out there; can we develop and outreach one that will lead to less consumer confusion and add value to society?

Innovation at BSL: Going solar with shacks – Improving living conditions in developing countries

Edited by Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers

Blog Post by GFW Group 4 BSL students: Abdullah Albawardi, Christopher Palermo, Eduard Mazhinov, Emma Chang, Eric Illick, Guan-Quan Tan, Stefany Solorzano, Tomy Ndakana, Victor Semenov

Living conditions all around the world have been consistently improving since the 20th century. However, many people in developing countries have not yet attained anything like the relatively luxurious standard of living of citizens in more developed countries. For this reason, our group dedicated its efforts towards a solution aimed at correcting and changing some aspects of the quality of life of people in developing countries, while tackling no less than FOUR Sustainable Development Goals (see illustration). Click HERE for our fun video showing our fantastic team moving through the prototyping steps during the Gap Frame innovation week. And if you are in the mood to discover more, read on:

Poor people in developing countries, whether in urban or rural settings often live in squalid conditions, in what are commonly termed “shacks”. A shack is a roughly built hut or cabin that is usually extremely flimsy, increasing the vulnerability of people, especially under severe climatic conditions, or earthquakes. Playfully adapting this term to our concept idea, we came up with the idea of the “Solar Shack”. We chose to focus our efforts specifically on prototyping cheap and sustainable housing for underprivileged, poverty-stricken people in areas where shacks are the most common form of housing.

To achieve this, we felt that whatever we designed needed to be self-sustaining (or self-maintaining, if you will). Thus, we focused on the provision of solar powered houses, with water filtering capabilities. Additionally, because of the limitations of available cash resources in the target countries concerned, the price and feasibility of the houses were a priority focus in our prototyping. We considered that having an individual house price of <$1,500 would be optimum, assuming that every unit can hold and sustain five people. Furthermore, such a low price could make the house proposition far more attractive to, for example, sponsoring or donor organizations.

We then expanded our idea to a concept of complexes of approximately six shacks, to form a solar compound within which a community could live. Each unit in the compound would have a chargeable battery of its own that would require minimum maintenance. Each house would also have a water collection and filtration system with a water tank. Furthermore, every compound would have a central battery and tank that will function as a backup charging and filtering system that all houses would draw from and contribute to when not in use.

We then brought the concept to yet another level with the idea of connecting compounds. We envisaged a solution whereby compounds are connected to a central battery and tank that all can draw from but also contribute to when not in need. The goal is to have layers of redundancies so that even if an entire compound ran out of water and/or electricity, the outer central tank would be able to support the “needy” compound in emergencies. Then, both the inner compounds and the larger grid would also have windmills generating electricity that would further contribute to actively charging the central batteries.

For our prototype context, we decided to choose a location that was a less obvious choice than most and where we could have significant impact. We thus narrowed our focus location to Madagascar, often a less “popular” choice for developers, and where poverty is extreme. Specifically, we focused on the smaller northern Malagasy town of Antsohihy rather than the capital. One of our own group members was from Madagascar and so we had some level of expertise and knowledge in the team who could report on the country’s complicated affairs.

The climate of Madagascar is quite humid and it rains very frequently. Since it is an island away from the mainland coast, it is frequently exposed to typhoons. As such, we have to design houses that can withstand torrential rain and very high wind speeds that can whip up debris that can possibly damage the houses. With these considerations in mind, we decided against using wood in the construction of the shacks because wood tends to become soggy and weak when continually exposed to strong winds and torrential rain. While possible to reduce the problem with more expensive and higher quality wood, our budgetary restrictions led us to reconsider our choices.

Assembling our materials in Antsohihy would be a logistical challenge but still doable. As Madagascar is an island, acquiring the materials and moving them to where we need them would be a potential challenge because of the geographic isolation of the location. As we decided to source the majority of our equipment from affordable sources from China, it would be extremely costly to have our materials flown in. Mahajanga is the closest port to Antsohihy (6.5 hours by road). As such, it would be the most appropriate location for us to offload our goods. From there, we could use trucks to transport the cargo over land. From there, our local contractors can supervise the transport and subsequent construction of the shacks.

When the group discussed the overall structure of the solar shack, we had a dilemma. We wanted to choose the appropriate material to hold our shack together and possibilities we discussed were to either have the walls made of bricks, or recycled plastic bottles along with concrete to support the structure. We have yet to really resolve this issue.

We went a long way to defining and even designing our prototype (click HERE for a first cut of the cool design). The week involved looking at multiple aspects of our prototype, not all of which can be detailed here. We just wanted to share our exciting idea with you in this blog. The questions are: How feasible is the concept? Can we really develop this into a viable start-up during the next Gap Frame Week from 14-18 May 2018? What transformations will we have to make to the product and business model in order to assure success? Let’s see how we do as we bring the project to the next level!