Students becoming change agents

We hosted an Experts in Teamwork village where students got to develop real life solutions with real impact – becoming change agents

By Tina Larsen

Engage’s overall ambition is for students to become change agents for the better. There are numerous sustainability related challenges affecting people, the environment and society across the world. In order to act on these challenges, we must identify and understand them, develop solutions, put together the necessary resources, deal with uncertainty and risk, and not the least – act. A person who takes this responsibility is a “change agent”.

Become a change agent!

For three weeks this January students from all kinds of disciplines attended the Experts in Teamwork village called “Become a change agent!”. Experts in Teamwork (EiT) is a master’s degree course in which students develop their interdisciplinary teamwork skills. The students work in groups on a project related to a common theme, which unites the different projects in each village. The course is compulsory for all students in master’s programmes and programmes of professional study at NTNU.

The Engage village was managed in collaboration with NTNU’s School of Entrepreneurship at the Department of Industrial Economics and Technology Management (IØT). The students got access to the tools, concepts and perspectives developed by students and the academic staff here. The village is supported by a project funded by the Norwegian Research Council called Network for Engaged Entrepreneurship in Developing Economies (NEED) under the INTPART funding stream. The students got access to the knowledge of and context specific guidance from the Indian partners in this network.

Real life solutions and real impact

In the village, the students got to work together with rural Indian innovators and entrepreneurs to develop real life solutions with real life impact and learn about sustainable innovation and entrepreneurial methods. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the course were held on digital platforms. SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions), a partner in the NEED project, was instrumental in identifying relevant projects for the students, enabling and facilitating interactions between the student groups and rural innovators. SRISTI works with rural innovators and entrepreneurs to systematically document, disseminate, and add value to their innovations and bring these to a wider audience and markets. 

The 29 students in the village worked on five different products this year that have been developed by innovators in rural India. These include:

  • A low-cost walking aid with adjustable legs that enables the differently abled to walk and climb stairs
  • Adaptive clothing for the differently abled that offers greater independence and choice in clothing for people with limited mobility in their limbs
  • A cow dung plant pot and pot making machine that is an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic pots for plants
  • A multi-purpose food processing machine that enables farmers a low cost option for value addition to agricultural produce
  • A modified 3 wheeler vehicle offering wheelchair users independent long distance mobility

The students worked with the innovators and SRISTI staff to bring these products to a wider market. The students used the interdisciplinary skills in their teams to develop a range of solutions from market analyses, to business and financial plans, marketing plans as well as design on website and promotional materials. These have been shared with the innovators.

“It was motivating to do something that has real and valuable impact in a real situation. Although we worked on entrepreneurial projects in rural India, I learned the entrepreneurial way of thinking which can be used in all kinds of contexts. I now have the tools and experience to solve problems in a more efficient way.

Student attending the village
One of the student groups made a brochure for the company they worked with

A good team is a key to entrepreneurial success

The overall goal in Experts in Teamwork is to utilize the interdisciplinary competence in the group to solve the project. At the same time, during the work, the students take a meta-perspective on how the actual collaboration on the project works. In that way, they become aware of what they are doing in the group that works well or poorly. After reflecting on this, they can implement concrete measures to improve cooperation.

“We learned from each other – not only from our professional background but also how to work better as a team, how to communicate more efficiently, how to correspond to each other, how to give feedback and how to be more open. During the process we used these attributes and improved them to become a better team. “

Student attending the village

At Engage, we believe having a good team is one of the key elements to entrepreneurial success. During these three weeks, the students got to identify and understand the challenges, develop solutions, put together the necessary resources, deal with uncertainty and risk, and act. They have successfully learned how to become a change agent.