Undergraduates Produce Raw Cases on Social Enterprise in Developing Economies

Professor Bo Hopkins had two goals in mind when he asked the undergraduates of his “Social Enterprise in Developing Economies” course to develop a raw case study about an organization that embodies the experiences discussed in class. First, to provide a meaningful benefit to the organization at the heart of the study, and second, to teach students how to embrace and reduce the ambiguity of real-world problems. Over the past six years, students have traveled to host organizations across six continents, spending 6-8 weeks at a time during their summer months between Spring and Fall semesters. The purpose of the course, Hopkins explains, is to “create a more informed, more engaged, and more willing to be open-minded student that will lend their talents to these kinds of challenges going forward, whether immediately or not.”

In order to be considered a host, mission-driven organizations in developing economies must be somewhat established and have already achieved some level of success. The problems these organizations face typically lie on a continuum of business issues related to maintaining and expanding operations. “All of our organizations are going to have a challenge - whether it’s an organizational development challenge, a fundraising challenge, a capacity building challenge, or perhaps a metrics challenge,” explained Hopkins. “Their problems are more complex than just getting up and running; they’re finding it harder to replicate or to expand the organization without more data, knowledge, and other information.” Case studies focus on a wide variety of social enterprises that offer, for example, financial services, commercialization strategies, solar energy, or alternative food sources to the poorest populations.

A selection of videos from the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs set of social enterprise case studies

Hopkins finds case studies, and raw cases in particular, an effective means for illustrating and reinforcing key concepts taught during class. “I think what’s great about the raw case format in particular is that we can bring in the multimedia aspect into the case. Students film, interview, and record...I think that there’s a lot of opportunity to use it to share stories,” Hopkins explains. To students, case writing is engaging and entertaining, but many acknowledge that it’s more difficult than they had anticipated. Despite these challenges, however, several student cases have earned prestigious awards. M-peso, for example, edged out 76 other entrants to win the William Davidson Institute’s international case writing competition.

While cases written by undergraduates provide good illustrations of business logic that has depth and research behind it, Hopkins cautions that they lack some of the typical financial data (e.g., financial statements, balance sheets, cash flows) found in graduate-level case studies.  “The core issue is not how are you going to help me be more profitable or make more money. Students are led to an equation that can be helped by time, energy, and strength around an analytic problem - it’s just not financial in nature.”

A selection of freely available, student written case studies from the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs is provided below:

To browse these and other case studies produced by the Yale School of Management or its partners, please visit the Yale SOM Case Study Directory.