Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise Earns Honors for Project-Based Course


Associate Director Monica Touesnard’s course addresses complex issues of environmental and social sustainability

The Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise at Johnson and Associate Director Monica Touesnard earned an honorable mention for her “Creative Design for Affordability” course in a competition sponsored by the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. The 2011 D. Alfred N. and Lynn Manos Page Prize for Sustainability Issues in Business Curricula is designed to encourage and support efforts to introduce or substantially upgrade sustainability courses and associated coursework into the curriculum of business schools.

Touesnard’s course was one of three honorable mentions awarded. Other recognized courses and curriculum, respectively, comprise programs from IESE Business School and the University of Illinois. Johnson’s course was recognized for its innovation in encouraging students to apply design thinking principles to real-world projects that address environmental or social challenges in an economically disadvantaged area in Maharashtra, India.

The elective course, which is offered in partnership with the K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research (SIMSR) in India, advances the goals of the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise to engage in market creation and business development that addresses the world’s most pressing environmental and social problems.

“Johnson students work with students in India to identify innovative, yet viable solutions to global challenges in low-income communities,” Touesnard said.  “Teams have looked at issues as diverse as energy for cooking, health care for pregnant women, food safety with street vendors, and healthy meals for children.” 

Using ethnographic techniques, each team of students identifies a need, designs a solution, and creates a viable business concept to compete in the Acara Challenge, a program of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota that affords emerging entrepreneurs with the chance to envision and launch successful social businesses.

Tathiana Reis, MBA ‘12, one of two Johnson students who will travel to India in June to further pursue her team’s business concept, said she found Touesnard’s course fascinating, because of the opportunity to develop creative solutions that could make a real difference in an underdeveloped area.

“I was attracted to this course because of the creativity component. I was looking for a non-traditional MBA class, and I can say that making prototypes, videos, and storyboards in a design studio fulfilled my goal of attending a non-case-based class,” said Reis. “Also, the projects and examples presented in class were amazing at highlighting social issues and sustainability.   I couldn’t be happier to have had the opportunity to collaborate with a team of students in India – and to travel there this summer.”

In addition to “Creative Design for Affordability, ” an elective course , Johnson and the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise also offer the semester-long Sustainable Global Enterprise Immersion program. Like the elective, it focuses on building the leadership skills and critical thinking capabilities needed to formulate and implement practical, operational solutions that have value in today's marketplace.

Since the Sustainable Global Enterprise Immersion’s inception in 2005, more than 50 firms have sponsored projects, for which MBA students analyze a need and apply theories and business expertise to deliver implementable solutions. Graduates of the immersion program have gone on to work in both industry and the non-profit sector at firms such as Accenture, USAID, GE Energy, S. C. Johnson, EnerNOC, and the Clinton Foundation.

Johnson’s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise received a Course and Program grant from National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) in fall of 2010 to significantly enhance and institutionalize this new collaborative class that helps students conceptualize and develop new businesses that address global societal challenges.