First- and second-year Social Entrepreneurship MA students pitched their ideas in the beginning of September. 13 students began their second year and 20 new students started their studies in the Social Entrepreneurship MA programme. Nearly all of them got together to pitch their ideas to each other. In time, these projects will grow into budding start-ups with wide social impact.
SEMA lecturers Katri-Liis Reimann and Zsolt Bugarszki offered advice for fresh SEMA students how to get their MA studies underway without any hiccups and weighed in on just a few of the pitched projects.
What's your advice for first-year SEMA students to help them hit the ground running?
Zsolt: We follow the project-based learning method at the Social Entrepreneurship MA programme which means that we encourage our students to develop their own idea, or to join existing ideas from day one. Acting is very important for executing development which won't happen in the classroom. Many of our courses are designed with a powerful connection to events and programmes outside of the University. For example, the STARTER programme or our co-operation with SEB bank is like this.
Above that we also suggest to use the vibrant start-up ecosystem of Tallinn, attending different events, hackathons and make use of other opportunities.
Katri-Liis: My advice would be first of all to be brave and try to include and convince other students and stakeholders whom they will meet in various hackathon events and StarterTallinn to support their own idea. Secondly, be open and embrace new opportunities and views of others arising from such opportunities. Take advantage of your two years spent here and the ecosystem of our university and the labs and hubs with which we connect you to. Pursue your idea and actually make it happen in within these two years!
Can you bring a couple of examples of pitched projects?
Zsolt: Our second-year students made relevant progress with their projects during the first year of the SEMA programme. LOOMRO is an initiative supporting people with disabilities by designing t-shirts and other products with their artworks. Another very promising project is Streetreasure that supports street children in Nigeria by providing them basic IT education.
Katri-Liis: A Greek student pitched the idea of "Wash Your Sins". The aim is to link the empty bottle refund system that Estonia has to other services such as the possibility for people to exchange the voucher to wash their clothes and buy new ones using the social enterprise services like laundry and second hand clothes shop. An Azerbaijani student pitched an idea of a social enterprise "New Horizons" which is about empowering women through education and an entrepreneurial skill set.
What's next for these projects? What's the culmination?
Zsolt: After the pitching event students create teams and they commence work on their project(s). We designed the MA programme in a way that each course supports these projects directly. School assignments are all related to the ongoing development work and students can take courses according to their development needs. We also encourage our students to participate or even initiate ELU courses, as they provide the perfect opportunity for recruiting team members and to do development work in a multidisciplinary environment. SEMA lecturers and supervisors are closely following our students' work, providing a creative environment for learning by development.
Katri-Liis: Those projects which were pitched in the SEMA event where the 1st and 2nd year students could meet and discuss them will be taken forward throughout the 2 years. They will get support from lecturers and our university and external mentors. We're hoping that after 2 years, these ideas will manifest into real businesses: making sales, attracting investors and having an impact on the world around us.
Below is an introductory video of the participants and their backgrounds.