Approximately 60 first-year honors students collaborated on new interventions for combating homelessness and supporting the displaced.

The Elms College Division of Business hosted its second annual Innovation Challenge January 18-21, in which students use creativity and innovation to tackle a pervasive social problem. First-year students from a variety of majors worked together to invent programs, services, and technologies designed to combat homelessness.

“The students learned valuable skills related to problem solving and team building in addition to handling criticism and managing feedback,” said Amanda Garcia CPA, CFP, MS, director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

During the first three days of the challenge, the students conducted field research and then used the Lean LaunchPad method to test the practicality of their ideas. Lean LaunchPad is a business methodology that uses innovation and design thinking to help startup owners receive immediate feedback from customers in the marketplace during a business launch. The process allows entrepreneurs to learn and react quickly to market demands as they grow their businesses.

On January 21, community partners – including Elms alumni, service organizations, and local educators – visited campus and helped the students prepare for their final presentations. Later that day, student teams showcased their creative ideas and pitched their solutions to a team of judges, including John Vieau, the new Mayor of Chicopee; Walter Breau, Elms College Vice President of Academic Affairs; and Ryan Stelzer, co-founder of Strategy of Mind, a management consulting firm specializing in performance improvement.

“We challenged these students to use an empathetic approach as well as their own innovation and creativity to create real social change,” said MBA program director Kim Kenney-Rockwal, MBA, SPHR. “After this workshop, the first-year students will be able to utilize a critical and empathetic analysis in their remaining semesters at Elms and beyond.”

Want to get involved in social justice programs like the Innovation Challenge? Elms offers a wide range of events for students interested in giving back. Visit us to learn more.