Yale School of Management

Global Social Entrepreneurship Teams Consult with Social Impact Startups in Ghana

This spring, six student teams from the Global Social Entrepreneurship course had the opportunity to act as consultants for Ghanaian social enterprises on a range of projects.

As part of the student-run elective course, the teams spent a half semester working with the organizations remotely before traveling to Ghana in March and completing their work in April. The students had the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues at the University of Ghana Business School, a member school in the Global Network for Advanced Management.

The teams presented their work at Yale SOM’s Social Impact Lab this spring.

Impact Hub Accra

One student team worked with Impact Hub Accra (IHA), a nonprofit that provides incubation space and resources for Ghanaian entrepreneurs working on social impact startups. IHA plans to open a new incubator space, the African Health Innovation Center, which will be reserved for entrepreneurs working on healthcare startups.

The team included Abhi Anuwal ’17, Victoria Chen ’17, Diana Barrero-Zalles ’17, Rosanne Engel ’17, Emily Ottman ’16, and Martin Adonu, a student from the University of Ghana Business School.

We learned that we were going to need Ghana Health Services to be a really important partner in this project. Ghana Health Services is an umbrella organization that oversees all public hospitals in Ghana. So if these new startups are going to be implementing health solutions in rural areas, Ghana Health Services needs to be a big part of it.

We also learned that rural Ghana and [the city of] Accra have drastically different medical needs. While in Accra, you might see health concerns that are similar to other cities, like car accidents and heart disease, when you go into rural areas, bigger concerns are malaria and maternal health. That’s going to be an important thing for Impact Hub Accra to keep in mind. When they start building this African Health Innovation Center, they need to really target their programming, because startups will have to look at rural Ghana differently.

—Emily Ottman ’16


A student team consulted with Ignitia, a company that develops localized weather forecasts that it shares with small-scale farmers through text messages. Farmers rely on the messages to help them determine when to best plant, fertilize, and harvest their crops. Delivering to about 80,000 farmers in Ghana now, Ignitia wants to expand across West Africa.

The student team working with Ignitia included Judy Chang ’16, Elena Damaskos ’17, Fedor Petrenko ’16, Will Thornburrow ’17, and Ben Cohen ’17, FES ’17, and Robert Woode, a student from the University of Ghana Business School.

We really needed to take a step back and learn about the customers in a deeper way. Right now, all Ignitia knows is their GPS positions. We have to think about who the customers are, their needs, the best channels to reach them, and then how Ignitia can make smarter decisions about which marketing plan to follow. So our project slowly transitioned from ‘Let’s acquire new customers’ to ‘Let’s create some tools that Ignitia as an organization can use to answer those questions.’

—Elena Damaskos ’17

VOTO Mobile

One team worked with VOTO Mobile, a technology company that uses interactive texts and voice messages to help organizations working in Ghana share information. Some clients include the World Bank, UNICEF, and McKinsey & Company. VOTO Mobile wants to diversify its client base while maintaining a focus on social impact.

Team members included Matt Bosch ’17, Fabian Farkas ’17, Julie Bodenmann, Jackson Institute ’16, Lavinia Petrache ’17, Alex Savtchenko ’16, and Charles Manuel Agbaglo, a University of Ghana Business School student.

We ended up focusing on five different industries: investing, mining, consulting, consumer goods, and financial services. We interviewed key stakeholders from these industries to see if they’d be interested in this technology, what their concerns were, and what the results would be. The culture is very different, as we discovered, especially around communication and technology. So when you’re reaching out, there can be a lot of frustration, because Ghanaians value and prioritize different elements of communication. The people were very welcoming and helpful, but the culture of communication is different. In general, both consumers and companies in Ghana are very skeptical about technological solutions.

—Alex Savtchenko ’16

Other teams worked with a variety of organizations, including Growth Mosaic, a consulting firm for developing business; Affinity Ghana, a financial institution; and MooringaConnect, a firm that connects small farmers to the cosmetics industry.

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