Internationality in Business Management Degree – case UN based WSA

Teksti | Ilkka Kurkela , Anna Nolvi

The strategic intent of Laurea University of Applied Sciences is to be an international developer of working life competence and vitality. In today’s global work life, it is required to have a versatile skillset: international connections, understanding in sustainability, entrepreneurial mindset, and digital skills, to name but a few. To offer a learning environment for the students to learn these skills, Laurea co-operates with the UN based World Summit Awards (WSA). One of the most recent forms of cooperation was WSA YFI – International Entrepreneurship Program for students. WSA offers a global platform of experts, ideas, and skills for students to learn from.

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Picture. WSA consists of a talented global network from over 180 UN member countries. Photo by Philipp Benedikt.

UN based World Summit Awards offers a global platform for learning

WSA, initiated in 2003 under the framework of the UN World Summit on the Information Society, is a unique awards system, selecting and promoting local digital innovation to improve society. Combining an ongoing series of international events and activities with a global network of start-ups, social entrepreneurs, mentors, jurors, speakers, experts, government leaders, academia and civil society, WSA is an international platform for cutting edge examples of how ICTs can impact society in a positive way. (World Summit Awards.)

National Experts in more than 180 UN member states nominate local companies demonstrating global diversity and richness in the smart use of ICTs (Information and Communications Technology). A group of Global Jurors will later evaluate all the nationally nominated local companies to find 40 Global winners. The selected 40 winners represent companies that support many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). (Laurea)

With international events and meetings, WSA serves as a knowledge HUB and network of start-ups, mentors, entrepreneurs, jurors, governmental representatives, ICT experts & international organizations to ensure a global multi-stakeholder transfer. The World Summit Awards offer a platform for those who think beyond the box. (Laurea)

Cooperation between WSA and Laurea UAS since 2018

WSA network consists of WSA National Experts. With their diverse backgrounds and engagement, the National Experts are responsible for the national pre-selection of entries to the WSA. WSA leverages this network in over 180 UN member countries. (World Summit Awards)

Laurea UAS Development Manager Ilkka Kurkela has served as the National Expert & one of the Global Jurors in WSA since 2017. Since 2018, Laurea and WSA started to cooperate in pilot projects to offer students a possibility to benefit from the WSA network. During the years 2018-2021, there has been courses and projects available for students to learn skills in marketing, entrepreneurship, internationality, and sustainability among others.

One of the most beneficial courses has been the Digital Service Business & Marketing -course, in which senior lecturer Asko Mononen from Laurea has instructed a group of students to market the idea of UN WSA to startup companies in Finland. With the good work from students we have received national contest entries that ended up being global winners throughout WSA.

The most recent cooperation project is WSA YFI – an International entrepreneurship Program for Students. Laurea’s students took part in this project in autumn 2020 with senior lecturer Anna Nolvi as the instructor.

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Picture. The global jurors evaluating startups in the UN based WSA Global Congress in Portugal 2019. Photo by Philipp Benedikt.
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Picture. Ilkka Kurkela representing Laurea UAS and testing digital innovations in the WSA congress 2019. Photo by Philipp Benedikt.

Case WSA YFI – International Entrepreneurship Program for students 2020

Worlds Summit Award – Youth for Innovation -program brings together students from multiple European Universities to collaboratively analyse purpose-driven enterprises from across the world, which use digital solutions to contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. (World Summit Awards.)

WSA YFI October –December 2020 consisted of 2 Online Phases, providing participating students with the opportunity to apply their skills and knowledge on real ventures, collaborate internationally and interdisciplinary and gain intercultural competences. (World Summit Awards)

In the first phase, over the course of 6 weeks, 41 students from six international universities worked virtually and independently in interdisciplinary teams on eight tech venture challenges from Brazil, Germany, The United Kingdom, Uganda and Austria. The objective was to analyse enterprises of former WSA Winners (so called challenge hosts) and consult them on real business challenges. Students were encouraged to join online webinars to receive useful information along the way. The outcomes of the findings were presented through an online pitch in front of an international jury.

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Picture. Anna Nolvi guiding a group of international students. Photo by Paula Ikonen.

Anna Nolvi, a senior lecturer from Laurea, was one of the team leaders who lead a group of international students working on the Beaba challenge. Beaba is an institute whose mission is to demystify cancer, providing information about the disease and treatment in a clear, objective and optimistic way, for children, adolescents and their caregivers. The task was to research successful benchmarking companies with the same or close profile, which Beaba is targeting to (focus in The US and Europe). The team also suggested market opportunities for health design tools, interesting health information services ideas which Beaba could provide. Final deliverables also included revenue streams and a digital marketing strategy.

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Picture. An online meeting with Anna Nolvi, students and Beaba – a challenge host. Photo Anna Nolvi LinkedIn

In the second on-line part of the WSA European Young Innovators Festival (30.11 -2.12.2020) students collaborated in diverse teams to compile and present business analysis of EYI Winners (case study hosts). Students got the opportunity to meet their case study hosts and they received expert knowledge whilst participating in different workshops.  The final solutions were yet again pitched in front of an expert jury and other teams. The festival ended with the announcement of the winning team.

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Picture. Award ceremony hosted virtually on Hopin 2.12.2020. Screen shot, Anna Nolvi.

WSA international entrepreneurship program for students – Youth for Innovation (YFI) was a big success. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, both 2 phases of the program were organized on-line, although the second phase and the Festival were originally planned to be held in Graz, Austria.

Participating in the program was a great opportunity for Laurea students. For nine weeks, they had a chance to work on two different case studies for international business ventures, collaborate with a diverse group of students from 8 chosen universities, listen to expert knowledge webinars and get a skill of pitching in front of 17 international jury members.

World Summit Awards, infobox:

What is it? A UN based WSA is a unique awards system, selecting and promoting local digital innovation to improve society.
When was it founded? Founded in 2003
What is the purpose of WSA? To support and promote the UN´s Sustainable Development Goals
Are there any Finnish winners in the global competition? Yes, indeed. 2017: Lyfta, 2018: Chaos Architects, 2020: KAMU Health. Also, there are several companies that made it to the shortlist (top 20 of each category)
How can my company be involved? If you wish to apply as a company, contact the National Expert of your country on the WSA website

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Picture. Natalia Rincon Pitching Chaos Architects, a Finnish global winner in the WSA. Photo by Philipp Benedikt.

Sources and Background Material


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