Stanford launches free global innovation program to address COVID-19 challenges

The eight-week Stanford Graduate School of Business course begins an innovation sprint and an entrepreneurial program on key challenges to emerge from the pandemic.

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Many are contemplating their work and personal lives in the new normal, as they prepare for the adjustments they'll make as they emerge from the coronavirus quarantine. The Stanford Graduate School of Business (SGSB) is hoping to address some of those issues with Stanford Rebuild, a free, eight-week "global and innovation sprint and free entrepreneurial program to address key challenges emerging from COVID-19."

SGSB said "Uncertain times can spawn great companies," and developed the curriculum for Stanford Rebuild, which begins June 22, as educational and inspirational to graduates who plan to start new businesses to rebuild the economy and create solutions to address the new normal. 

"With the significant impact of COVID-19 on every sector and demographic, it's crucial for those of us who can, to help the world recover," said Stefanos Zenios, faculty co-director of SGSB's Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. Zenios was instrumental in developing Stanford Rebuild."Innovation and entrepreneurship can significantly accelerate recovery and contribute to a better outcome, and we want to encourage innovators and problem solvers around the world to tackle the challenges and opportunities we will face in the coming months."

Worldwide participation

The program is open to students, entrepreneurs, innovators, and business leaders worldwide to participate in an "investigation of ideas and solutions that will help us accelerate the path to a better post-COVID future." Anyone older than 13 worldwide can apply. Stanford affiliation and prior entrepreneurial experience are not required. All aspects of Stanford Rebuild are available at no charge.

"Having the chance to collaborate closely with other students across different disciplines is really exciting," said Mitch Peterman, an MBA candidate and co-president of the Stanford GSB Social Innovation Club. "There's a lot of uncertainty right now around what the future holds, but that just means there are additional opportunities to design ways for organizations to operate more equitably and efficiently." Peterman was integral in the planning of Stanford Rebuild, and previously led a Hackathon through the Social Innovation Club.

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Stanford Rebuild is based on the Stanford Embark curriculum and organized by SGSB's Center for Entrepreneurial Studies (CES) and Executive Education program, and, in partnership with schools and groups across Stanford University "and beyond."

"Stanford Rebuild is designed to address the critical need for rapid innovation and creativity at this uniquely challenging time," Zenios said. "Periods of disruption bring to light new problems and challenges that innovators can help address. And, they can also be a source of new opportunities as customer needs and pain points change."

Key categories of Stanford Rebuild

Stanford Rebuild highlights challenges and opportunities related to COVID-19 recovery within four key categories:

  • Reimagine Organizations
  • Reinforce Healthcare Systems
  • Revitalize the Workplace
  • Redesign Human Wellbeing

"Participants will have a better understanding of the disruptions and challenges that are affecting people all around them and those that provide the greatest opportunity for impact," Zenios said. 

Challenges Stanford Rebuild hopes to address

These categories tackle a range of challenges, including: 

  • Implementing scalable and socially-responsible testing and contact tracing,
  • redesigning childcare and early education,
  • addressing the mental health impact of social distancing, or
  • supporting small businesses as they recover and reinvent themselves. 

Participants are encouraged to present project ideas beyond the four categories, as long as the topic relates to the COVID-19 crisis.

The program will begin with a series of online events designed "to inspire creative problem solving. The kick-off is followed by the eight weeks in which students will work both independently and in teams to develop, test, and refine solutions using the Embark entrepreneurial toolkit. 

The most promising projects will be part of a range of projects presented as a global online event. The chosen projects will demonstrate meaningful accelerated economic, societal, and individual recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participants will have free access to Stanford's online entrepreneurial program and toolkit to help through the process of creating and evaluating projects designed to accelerate recovery from the economic and social downturn caused by the pandemic. 

"Our objective is to have many teams from around the world step up to look at both the challenges global communities will face in recovering from the pandemic, and the new opportunities that will certainly arise. By offering content, tools and expertise at no cost to aspiring innovators, we hope to inspire the next generation of services and organizations that help change lives in this new reality," Zenios said.

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