Business School announces new Impact Challenge initiative

By Michael Sugerman , Daily Staff Reporter
Published August 27, 2014

Pitch, crowdfund, make a difference: This will be the agenda of the Ross School of Business’ newest establishment of its annual Impact Challenge, which drives MBA students to create and host community service projects in Detroit.

The 2014 project, unveiled Aug. 25 and organized by the Ross Leadership Initiative, requires the school’s 450 first-year MBAs to split into six teams to conceptualize a plan to engage with Detroit leaders, business owners, parents and children.

Business Associate Dean Scott DeRue, the Initiative’s director, said in a statement that this part of the graduate curriculum displays the role of business in changing the world.

“This year’s challenge will create a lasting impact for Detroit youth and our students at Ross,” DeRue said. “There is so much positive momentum around Detroit’s start-up culture that we wanted to do our part to support area children to become successful entrepreneurs.”

General Motors sponsors the program, contributing a $50,000 investment. Local partners include the Detroit Parent Network and TechTown Detroit.

Members of stakeholder organizations plan to consult with the student groups during the development process, which will culminate Aug. 28 as each team pitches its idea to a panel of judges.

In addition, the groups will receive guidance through recent work done by Ross’ weekend and evening MBA students, global MBA students and Master of Management students.

Once the judges select a winning venture for further development, 500 first-year BBA students will be tasked with raising seed money via Kickstarter to supplement GM’s donation the next day, Aug. 29.

When this phase is complete, the MBA teams will take the helm once again and use the next eight months to complete their collective project. In total, the Business School estimates, roughly 1,500 Ross students will have contributed to the process.

Last year’s program had MBA students working over a four-day span to develop a back-to-school fair for Detroit students, which ultimately drew more than 3,000 attendees.

In remarks following the Fall 2013 event, DeRue told students: “I firmly believe that, 10 to 15 years from now, one of these kids is going to walk into my office and say today is what made the difference and helped me get on a path that led me to the University of Michigan.”

Though 2014 marks the fourth year of a formalized Impact Challenge, the school has hosted projects throughout Detroit for more than 20 years.