Pittsburgh Social Impact Case Competition

Pittsburgh Social Impact Case Competition

Sprouting Hope From Beans

2017 Social Impact Case Competition

Last summer, the Pittsburgh hub decided to start up an event - one that could bring the local non-profit scene and college students together and spark a conversation on a unified theme. We decided upon a forum that would bring local non-profit leaders to speak on a particular topic and address questions from a moderator and student audience.

However, given some feedback from folks involved in the Pittsburgh non-profit scene, this was cast as a bad idea as we were not adding any value to the non-profits. They didn’t need to have a forum to already reach out to one another, and this forum was not presenting them with any actionable solutions.

Thus, we changed our strategy and decided to instead host a case competition on behalf of a willing client partner and query the minds of students on a college campus to garner solutions. This was met with excitement right away, and we were able to target a particular non-profit that we thought may benefit from such an event. Building New Hope (BNH) was more than eager to engage us, and after an initial discovery session in which we hashed out the pain points with one of their board members (Prof. Therese Tardio), it was clear to both parties that this was an ideal match. The case was constructed to share both BNH’s missions and goals to the audience, and seek input from college students as to how to bolster BNH’s marketing and sales.

Seven months later, the Pittsburgh team, with the help of members from the DC and SF team to hosted a case competition on Carnegie Mellon’s campus at the Tepper School of Business. This was one of the first social impact case competitions this campus has seen, and with solid on the ground marketing help from a student organization, Undergraduate Marketing Organization (UMO), we ended up having 8 teams (28 participants) take part in the day’s affair.


Before talking about the event, gotta give kudos where kudos are due to our amazing team & Therese who stayed up until 3AM wrapping up loose ends and finishing up the case materials.<

9:00 - 10:15  Breakfast

> 9:10 - 9:15 Greetings & case competition introduction (Ajay Ghadiyaram, DSO)

> 9:15 - 9:45 BNH’s impact & operational model sharing (Therese Tardio, BNH)

> 9:45 - 10:15 Story sharing (Amy Badiani & Andrea Salomon, DSO)

10:15 - 12:00  Case Work Session

12:00 - 1:00  Lunch

Kudos to our food ordering gurus Nina & Ajay who ordered the perfect amount of food for participants and staff. Not only was there enough and no waste but it was also delicious. We had a variety of options from Noodles & Co.

1:00 - 2:30 Case Work Session

After lunch we release the case template to the team. In it were an awesome amount of resources from SWOT analysis to blank to blank to empathy maps.

While the students were hard at work and their creative juices were flowing, the staff took a breather and practiced YOGA lead by none other than Therese herself.

  • 12am: lots of things on our to-do list. Who’s in charge of the coffee pots & bananas?
  • 2am: finally finished! #DreamTeam #TeamworkMakesTheDreamWork
  • 9:10am: Ajay doing the introductions
  • Case Work Session I: Therese providing more background about BNH’s mission and operations to a case team
  • Case Work Session II: Students GSD
  • 2pm: Best downward dogs I’ve seen

2:30 - 4:00 Presentations

  • 10 minutes allocated to each team to present

  • Ideas and Presentations were:

    • “Coffee for People”
    • “Building New Hope”
    • “Building New Hope: Marketing Strategies & Rebranding”
    • “Behind the Beans”
    • “From Seed to Cup”
    • “Building New Hope”
    • “Espresso Marketing Plan: Espresso-ing a Bean’s Significance”
    • “From Packaging to Beyond”

Overall, the presentations highlighted an empathy in action, customer-first approach to social impact - demonstrating teams’ understanding of the challenges tackled by the farmers and their families, creativity to strengthen the brand and expand the market for ethically traded coffee, and actionable insights with short and long term recommendations for Building New Hope.

4:00 - 4:30 Judges discussion & feedback

Judging panel - Amy Badiani (DSO CXO), Anthony Buchanan (DSO CXO), Samantha Levinson (Heinz MS Student), Dr. Pajewski (Dir. of Undergraduate Business), Nicolette Sudic (marketing consultant), & Therese Tardio (BNH Board Member & CMU professor)

Kudos to our judges for giving us time on their Saturday! Everyone brought a fresh perspective

4:30 - 5:00 Prize awarded & closing remarks

Although a lot of wonderful ideas were presented, we still had to pick a winner. But due to the impressive efforts put forth by the students, BNH decided that we’d still award cash prizes ($500 in total) for the top 3 teams! Teams pitched ideas that hit upon packaging design rebrand for El Porvenir coffee (the co-op BNH was working with), social media campaigns, online marketing strategies (Etsy, snapchat geofilters), university outreach programs, and sustainability goals.

More info on the presentations and decks can be seen here: Team Recommendations

Overall, the judges walked away quite pleased with the ideas that were brought forth, and we are hoping to see BNH implement one or two of these ideas in the near future!

The students themselves learned quite a bit about non-profit consultancy, as well as about BNH and organic, fair trade coffee. Close to 80% of the students had come into this case competition having never been involved with social impact or international development causes, but a greater percentage (83%) than that walked away from this engagement with a desire to make a social impact!

More info on the initial impact of the case competition on the students can be seen here: Initial Impact


As we look back on such an eventful and energizing weekend, we take stock of all the new friends, experiences, and challenges faced along the way.

This team had never been assembled before, we were from all different parts of the nation (Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Miami, Boston). Given that, we were able to come together and put together an exceptional case competition.

Looking back and forward, we see a lot of potential in the experiences we each had along the way, from the process of organizing a case competition to the bonding and solidarity that naturally built up between the team. This is something we want to recreate in other HUBs as a means to connect students with opportunities to push social impact.

As a result, we are working to identify a follow-up opportunity in the following year. We wish to improve upon our first run by extending our reach to a broader student audience and offering new interesting problems that are facing social impact organizations across the globe. Building upon lessons learned, we look to ultimately build a reusable framework for organizing a case competition.

See Also

comments powered by Disqus