Michèle Leaman

Michèle works with faculty, administrators, and students to change complex institutional systems to become more supportive environments for social entrepreneurship and changemaking.

Teaching Social Entrepreneurship: The Gumball Method

You have one week to raise funds for a cause of your choice. Your tools: $27 and 27 gumballs. What‘s your plan?

It’s called the Gumball Challenge, an assignment that Melissa Carrier, Executive Director of the Center for Social Value Creation at University of Maryland, integrated into two of her courses this fall: Effective Methods for Social Change and Social Enterprise.

“It was a great opportunity for students to build Social Entrepreneurship skills early in the semester, in an impactful, but efficient way,” Melissa told us. “Students get a week of experience as social entrepreneurs and come away with all the classic lessons learned.”

Student teams designed a remarkable array of week-long ventures.  “I had one team selling pizza slices near popular college bars between midnight and three am on the weekend.”

Many teams also learned to expand their strategies and re-tool along the way. “Business was good for the pizza team, but they realized half-slices would sell at the original price. And once they eliminated the expensive pepperoni option and only sold cheese pizza, there was another big hike in profits…. I was impressed. The total time spent on running their venture was really low, compared to the money the team raised for their cause.”

Students selected to use the funds they raised to support causes promoted through Kiva. Melissa encouraged students to choose their cause based on impact –Which cause works at systemic change? – helping students identify the difference between social entrepreneurship and traditional charity.

“It was a big success.” Melissa said. “The challenge completely transformed our classroom dynamics.  Students are more open to sharing with each other – the trust among the students and with me has been established, making for a rich learning environment for all of us.”

The Gumball Capital folks are always looking for faculty, staff, and student champions to bring the Gumball Challenge to new campuses. Their goal is to have fifty schools sign up to compete in the National Gumball Challenge week, November 15-21, 2010. Can you activate your campus community? It’s easy to get involved. Go to Gumball Challenge to learn more or send an email to Travis, Gumball Capital’s Executive Director, at travis@gumballcapital.org.

  • Read an excerpt from Melissa’s syllabus describing the Gumball Challenge assignment.
  • Read the Gumball Manifesto – It’s great advice for student teams on how to run a successful venture.
  • Watch one UMD Gumball Challenge team work on their venture ideas: