Entrepreneurship and social innovation
PUCRS has joined Students 4 Change, a EU project, and is now offering courses employing the Service Learning methodology
Universities are the right environment to produce innovation with a focus not only technology but also on social needs These strategies can be used to address structural problems in societies and that is why the EU is taking their chances on the project Students 4 Change (S4C), under the Erasmus + program. In an effort to advance entrepreneurship and social innovation in Latin American academia, especially with an eye to the development of their students, the project features 15 higher education institutions from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Germany, Spain, France and Portugal, as well as an international non-profit organization. Only two universities from Brazil are taking part in the project: PUCRS and PUC-Rio.
S4C has made a list of more than 50 tools to be used by universities in the promotion of entrepreneurship and social innovation in class. They include the map of empathy, business modeling, innovation funnel and the problem-solving matrix, among others. In the project, PUCRS will be working with concepts, student and faculty competences and tools to be applied in the solution of social problems. The university joined forces with TU Dortmund University (Germany) to develop support mechanisms for the participating universities to continue working on their projects. “We’re working in every step of the process. We’ll also be working on a general and a specific report that includes the ten projects, as we can show the experiences of each university”, says the coordinator of S4C at PUCRS, Business School professor Lucas Roldan.
IN THE CLASSROOM
The case used in the project developed by PUCRS made use of the Service Learning methodology, which has been embraced by the University’s Extension Programs, under the responsibility of the Office of the Vice president of Extension and Community Affairs (Proex) since 2016. “It’s different from the existing traditional methodologies in terms of classroom practices, lesson planning, methods and assessment. The idea is that, by addressing the problems presented by the peers, students will understand the complexity of real demands, with an eye to the provision of services and providing feedback to the companies’ representatives”, says the Director of Community Affairs, Dr José Luís Ferraro. This model, released in 2016, employs flipped classroom tools, which earn students a protagonist role in the actions and develops skills that are inherent to problem solving. The greatest advantage is that companies having real problems can participate as “clients”. The method, which employs playful activities, is being offered to all Schools. Training programs to faculty members who wish to implement it will be offered, too.
Six undergraduate courses are being devised for S4C and they employ this method. “We’re going to use this project to qualify our faculty and expand Service Learning in a sustainable way, by mirroring the experiences of international universities that work with similar social initiatives”, says Roldan. The way he sees it, Service Learning is one of the most relevant projects under Students 4 Change for it uses the structure of a university. “We’ll be working with organizations that are connected to or are somehow address entrepreneurship and social innovation. Students will be expected to develop projects to address a problem in society in view of the existing reality during their academic training”, points he.
Online training sessions were offered in support of the Service Learning courses under S4C, from May to June. These sessions included School of Technology, School of Health Sciences and Business School professors and other faculty from the ten Latin American universities. PUCRS faculty started teaching these courses in the second semester of 2018. It featured as many as 80 professors. “PUCRS lesson plans were used in the online training. They were validated by the program coordinators and will be used again in an on-site session. We’ll have more than 200 students in the project using the Service Learning methodology under the S4C approach to deal with social problems”, says Roldan.
S4C took off in Jul 2016. Two international meetings were held and, in July, PUCRS was home to it. The event features at least five faculty members from the ten Latin American universities and representatives of EU institutions. The on-site training will serve as a coronation to the online activities. Participants will present what they consider the most important tools for the project and for the lesson plans of all universities. They will also take part in a creativity workshop.
Students 4 Change
The project Students 4 Change seeks to improve the quality and relevance of academic programs in Latin American universities, by fostering the development of social innovation and social entrepreneurship competences. Hence, the capacity to solve urgent social problems these regions are faced sees an increase. In Mar 2019, a meeting will be held in Chile, and both the outcomes and means to maintain the projects will be presented. The closing will take place in Oct 2019.
By taking part in Students 4 Change, PUCRS is able to increase its international visibility as it works with renowned and qualified partners in a social project. “We want to be a reference in social entrepreneurship. We have been working on initiatives in this area, but in a restricted way. This is one of our goals: to implement more systemic actions to conceive and offer solutions to social problems with the aid of our students”, points Roldan. The project also includes publication of articles in 2019, the development of an investigation bringing Service Learning and S4C together at the University and an invitation to participate in the next edition of the atlas of social innovation. “The idea is to expand the institution’s production to society”, complements Roldan.
Project S4C at PUCRS is embraced by the Office of the Vice President for Extension and Community Affairs, which is also responsible for the implementation of Service Learning. It includes the faculty members and 7th semester Business Administration major Felipe Chagas, and intern Luisa Bicchieri, a 6th semester major in the same program.
The European Union program is geared towards education, training, youth and sport. In an effort to contribute to the Europe 2020 Strategy, Erasmus + seeks to promote the sustainable development of its partners in higher education. The topics addressed include: unemployment reduction, education and the acquisition of new competences for adults as well as the reduction of dropout rates.