Close your eyes and imagine the future. Go ahead. What do you see?
If you’re cynical, you probably picture a fallen world. Nations battle over food and water, as heat swelters and lungs clog with sulfur and nitrogen oxides. However, the optimists among you surely envision a place where scientists, government officials, and business leaders work hand-in-hand with an eye towards the long-term. There is a balance between conservation and development, where shared values trump special interests and technological innovation and financial know-how are channeled to the greater good.
The tools for this upbeat “double bottom line” vision are certainly available. Wireless communication and the internet have leveled walls in every form and fashion. They have democratized access to education and commerce. By nurturing platforms like crowdfunding and 3D printing, such tools have enabled anyone to potentially become a disruptive innovator. Question is, how can people harness what is available to them to turn such a vision into the status quo?
A MOOC THAT INTEGRATES ENTREPRENEURSHIP, CONSERVATION, AND DESIGN THINKING
Alex Dehgan, the Chanier Innovator in Residence at Duke University, has some ideas on that. In his MOOC “Innovation and Design for Global Grand Challenges,” Dehgan focuses on debunking our assumptions about the developing world, so students can apply a design-centered, interdisciplinary approach to issues ranging from food and water supply to infectious diseases —using entrepreneurship as a means to deliver solutions in ways that can be scaled and repeated (and, of course, turn a profit).
“There are three ways we can act,” Dehgan explains in a 2016 interview with The Solutions Journal. “One is as an entrepreneur—you start a business that can bring about change. You can be an intrepreneur—transform the public and private institutions that bring change from inside. And, you can be an extrapreneur, which asks: how do you transform other industries, and encourage other industries to change? The private sector is absolutely necessary for these solutions. We need the public sector to fund the research, take the first loss, and unlock additional capital to help these solutions get to scale. Both have important roles to play, and it’s crazy to not use all elements of our society.”
Alas, Dehgan is no sheltered, ivory tower idealist. A scientist and entrepreneur, Dehgan brings an unparalleled resume to the task. He is the former chief scientist at U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where he built its science and technology office from the ground up, leaving behind an 80 person team and a $100 million dollar budget. He also served several stints in the U.S. Department of State, where he was involved in everything from initial engagement talks with Iraq to interfacing with WMD scientists in Iraq. He even spearheaded the development of the first national park in Afghanistan. While a scientist and diplomat by trade, this Renaissance man is an entrepreneur at heart, whose passion is fostering startups across the globe.
“Our problems are exponential, but our solutions have been linear,” he adds in the same interview. “We need to increase the speed, scale, efficacy, and sustainability of our conservation interventions.”
A MIX OF FRESH COURSES AND OLD FAVORITES
Dehgan’s course is just one in a series of exciting MOOCs coming out in September. Looking to work in the arts? Vanderbilt’s “Leading Innovation in Arts and Culture,” a 10-week course taught by renowned professor David Owens, will examine how creatives can maximize resources and win over skeptical stakeholders and patrons. Copenhagen Business School takes a different path with “Leadership in 21st Century Organizations,” crafting a fictional 10-week long case study where students can witness one CEO’s journey to turn his scandal-ridden and domestic-focused operation into a global powerhouse. At the same time, Stanford returns with its celebrated “Organizational Analysis,” ranked by the Financial Times as one of the top MOOCs in any field.
For professionals to gain understanding of cutting edge developments, the Copenhagen Business School returns with “An Introduction To Consumer Neuroscience & Neuromarketing,” which provides strategies on how to influence decision-making. For students interested in philanthropy, Stanford has finally brought back “Giving 2.0,” taught by school legend Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen. Plus, the University of West Virginia is launching “Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination,” an all-important primer on the who, how, and why of fraud.
In case you’re new to MOOCs, several schools are opening new sessions of their most popular courses. Wharton, for example, is offering “Introduction to Marketing,” “Introduction to Financial Accounting,” and “Introduction to Operations.” At the same time, Darden returns with “Fundamentals of Project Planning and Management.” In terms of star power, it is hard to compete with Yale’s “Financial Markets,” taught by Bob Shiller, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics.
To learn more about these courses – and register for them – click on the links below.
MARKETING & STRATEGY
FINANCE AND OPERATIONS