Shoes, social responsibility and business are joining together at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, as the school partners with TED and TOMS shoes for an inaugural case study competition.
The competition, which begins today, is intended to allow students to apply knowledge and skills they learn in their management classes to a prompt provided by TOMS, said Stuti Goswamy, one of the competition organizers and a graduate student in business.
The prompt, one of six presented by companies at the TEDActive conference in February, was: “How can companies driven by consumerism also promote ““ and sustain ““ social responsibility?”
Groups of students submitted proposals offering specific practices businesses can implement to merge social responsibility with economic goals ““ similar to how TOMS has pledged to donate a pair of shoes for every oair sold, Goswamy said.
These proposals will be reviewed by a board of Anderson faculty members and representatives from TED and TOMS.
The competition is a continuation of the Anderson School’s partnership with the TED conference, which began in February with a live stream of the conference in the school’s central cafe.
“The case competition is a natural next step for UCLA Anderson’s partnership with TED,” said Dean Judy Olian in a statement. “This is a fabulous opportunity for them to translate the ideas generated at the TED conferences into practical working solutions.”
Organizers of the competition chose to work with TOMS because its prompt grabbed the attention of students, Goswamy said.
Some students who have applied for the competition said it gives them an opportunity to work to improve a real business.
“It’s good practice, because it allows us to solve real-world problems in a safer environment,” said Fabien Hietz, a graduate student in business and competition applicant. “It’s like there’s a safety net there ““ if we mess up, nothing bad happens.”
The projects will be judged on innovation and creativity, quality of research, feasibility and the level of impact.
While the TED conference focuses on more academic discussions of social change, applicant and graduate business student Lysbet Verlenden said she sees this as an opportunity to take the ideas and create concrete plans for companies.
“I think this competition points to the fact that (companies) want practical business expertise for plans that are implementable that make their companies better,” she said.
The organizers of the case study competition hope some of the ideas presented in the competition will eventually be adopted by TOMS or other companies, said Anderson spokeswoman Allison Holmes.
“We’ve never done this before and we’re playing it by ear ““ we can’t require them to implement these ideas, but the hope is to have as large of an impact as possible,” she said.
In the future, Anderson will work to spread the competition to other graduate schools on campus or other business schools, Holmes said.
The different perspectives that come from other graduate schools are already helping applicant and graduate business student Scott Thompson, who is partnering with dual-degree law and business graduate students on his application.
Because different graduate schools emphasize different skill sets, Thompson said that it is helpful to have those different perspectives on his team.
Four finalists for the competition will be announced Thursday and will present their proposals on May 31. The winning group will receive a $10,000 cash prize and a week-long intership at TED’s headquarters in New York.