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IIHS’s Social Venture Design Course; OpeningUpNewVistasforEntrepreneurship

Siddharth Krishnaswamy
7th May 2012
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Although it seems evident that India is moving forward rapidly with reference to a growing economy, there lies a large number of inherent problems that are also being conveniently overlooked. Overpopulation being the primary cause for concern, India will become the most populous country in the world by mid-century with a peak population of over 1.5 billion. An astounding figure, one must say. As one delves deeper, it is apparent that a lot of population from rural India is migrating and nearly 50% or about 800 million of this population will live in Urban areas. To tackle this kind of a humongous urban growth rate in a reasonably short span would require methodical planning and diligent execution.The Indian Institue of Human Settlements, abbreviated to IIHS, sees this both as a challenge and an opportunity. “The key gap in addressing this challenge is neither financial investment nor technology," says A Suryanaraynan, currently the Head of Operations at the Indian Institute For Human Settlements, responsible for overall operations.  “The gap is the availability of adequately trained professionals to handle this level of complexity. IIHS plans to train 100,000 professionals in its campuses in the next two decades." The professionals and institutions that manage this urbananisation of the nation will have to come up with wise and timely solutions to create inclusive, equitable, and sustainable human settlements.

IIHS arose from the requirement of a professional who understands the need for an inter-disciplinarity approach and solution generation for human settlements. “When the conversation was taken to other like minded individuals, given the unprecedented scale and uniqueness of the situation that India faces, the idea was expanded to create a University dedicated to the study and development of practitioners in the area of human settlements.

Course focus on entrepreneurship

IIHS curriculum will focus on economic drivers of urbanisation, urban planning, physical infrastructure, transportation systems, social infrastructure and social justice, land and housing, public safety and disaster management, environment and sustainability, and urban governance.

These urban practioners are change agents. The ability to influence and make a difference is a key trait of an entrepreneur. The approach and attitude of an entrepreneur is vital for these professionals. In all of the above listed themes, there is scope for entrepreneurs to be involved and work with government and larger society to create sustainable solutions," adds Suryanaraynan.

Social Venture Design and entrepreneurial significance

Moving to something more specific to the field of entrepreneurship, IIHS offers a course called Social Venture Design. The course is about helping the participant define a problem they have the passion to solve, how to define a solution, how to create a viable business model around it, and how to communicate that model to various stakeholders. “The participants will leave with a better business model, a plan for taking it forward, tools to help them as they progress in growing the venture and a network of experts and fellow entrepreneurs to call on,” says Fred Rose, the co-founder and the driving force behind Acara Institute, based in University of Minnesota.

Fred adds, “I think it's easy to take a cursory look at the content of this course and say, yeah, so what, this looks pretty basic. That may look the case, but most ventures don't work because the basic ideas like value propositions and clear customer needs aren't well thought out or executed. We will apply them with rigor during the course but in a combination of lecture and working time, so each student gets attention in applying it to their particular situation."

Talking about the success of the course so far, he says, “The reception from participants that have taken this course before has been overwhelmingly positive. Having an intensive course focused on YOUR problem, and how to solve it, is not something universities typically do very well, if at all. So for many students, it's a new experience and is very empowering to them,” says Fred.

The Acara, University of Minnesota, (co-founded by Fred Rose) and IIHS partnership is a way to bring together global expertise in the area of social entrepreneurship and making it relevant for the local context.

The value in a global collaboration comes in many ways. Innovation almost always is a result of taking an idea from one place and trying it in another place. “Acara isn't about research but about how to create meaningful change to environmental and social issues. But we need to have partnerships to do that effectively. That's where IIHS comes in,” adds Fred.

The Social Venture Design course also brings in outside speakers and guests. “These are subject matter experts in a topic like Design Thinking or law, and also working entrepreneurs. Over the course of a week, there may be 10 or more outside people that will make an appearance in one way or the other.”

Summing it all up, Fred says, “We don't really define in this course what a social venture is. If you ask 10 people, you will get 10 different definitions of it. All we say is the venture should have a financial value proposition and a social value proposition. How that ends up being embodied depends on the model defined by the team.”


IIHS Social Venture Design Course

Besides this, IIHS organized a National Student Challenge – Sankranti and have launched a platform called Transform Urban India. The challenge attracted 170 student plans across India and the best 3 plans were awarded seed funding. IIHS and Acara will host their first open house event – Publics on Social Entrepreneurship – on 11th May 2012.

Do have a look at their site, objectives and more at- http://www.iihs.co.in/

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