The Crisis Case Challenge 2020: an SBE student initiative to help local companies during COVID-19

A couple of weeks ago, 28 teams of 101 UM students handed in their final submission for the Crisis Case Challenge 2020 (CCC2020), a challenge with the purpose of providing creative and strategic business solutions to local and small businesses heavily affected by the current pandemic. The challenge, created by students for students, involved five ‘local’ companies.

Students came up with an array of creative and innovative solutions to help local businesses while also testing their business skills outside of the classroom, in a real-world setting. In this blog post, we share with you just a few highlights from this exciting and impactful project! 

CCC team SBE

'What can (business) students do to help during the COVID-19 situation and how can they use their skills to benefit the local community in times like these?' This was this question that prompted a group of SBE students to start their own initiative at the beginning of March, only a few weeks into the corona crisis here in the Netherlands. 'We knew about several great initiatives to help people in crisis such as Crew Against Corona, yet we felt a lack of initiatives aimed at local business support', says Shula Mensah, the Student Representative of SBE and the project's initiator.

With this idea in mind, a group of SBE students (Lukas Vanhoutte, Nanette van Haften, Elise Abraham, Freija van Lent, Shula Mensah and Sabine Nievelstein [staff]) met up virtually to discuss different possibilities. The simple idea of supporting local businesses turned into a collaborative initiative between the SBE Student Council and SCOPE, the official study association of SBE. Based on a pitch created by Shula, the Crisis Case Challenge 2020 (CCC2020) was officially established. 

Logo bedrijven CCC

The project kicks off

Due to the relatively short time-span before the end of the academic year, the organising team quickly got things in motion to get the project started. After an extensive search, five companies expressed their willingness to be part of CCC2020 and to receive support from UM students. The five companies were: Offices For You, which is a young company that rents out flexible office spaces and co-working spaces; the hotel Crowne Plaza MaastrichtThe Webshirt Company, which sells personalised clothing items B2B; WellColl, a car repair company in Limburg; and IXT, a company that recruits IT-professionals.

After company recruitment, students from SBE’s Case Competition Squad wrote case profiles on the companies. On 25 May, three weeks after kicking off the event, all teams delivered their solutions through online presentations, written documents, and other creative documents.

Collaboration with local companies

'The willingness to participate on the side of the local companies we contacted was great', says Lukas Vanhoutte, member of the organising team and a board member of SCOPE. Crowne Plaza Maastricht is a prime example of a company that went above and beyond to provide teams with the information they requested.

When asked why they decided to participate, Mariska Schuurmans, the company representative for Crowne Plaza Maastricht stated the following; 'Given the sanitary restrictions imposed by the government, we decided to fully close the hotel and wanted to turn this situation into an opportunity to explore unsailed waters and explore as many options as possible. This initiative sparked the interest of our staff as they expected to get creative out-of-the-box solutions from students.' 

After examining the results, Mariska was positively surprised. She hadn't expected the students to do such deep research not only on the hotel industry but also on the Crowne Plaza as a chain and the Maastricht location in particular. 'The diversity of approaches from the different teams enabled us to challenge our status quo and think more creatively about our business', Mariska adds. The multiple perspectives provided thinking material for new projects and ideas as well as an opportunity to take a step back and rethink their strategies.

Bringing knowledge outside of the classroom

Team CCC

When asked why they decided to participate in CCC2020, students stated that they wanted to help out companies in times of need and use the opportunity to apply their business skills to real-life cases by bringing their knowledge out of the classroom. Goldia Hung, Anton Metelmann and Heiko Wentao Lin, all third-year students at SBE, formed the team Golden Solutions and worked on the Crowne Plaza case. 'We decided to take part in the CCC2020 after coming across it on SBE’s Instagram because it seemed like a great opportunity to work on a modern case. What makes it fun and interesting is that you can help the community', says Goldia. Anton elaborates: 'It was challenging at first because we didn't know much about the hotel industry and we held our meetings online, but it was definitely manageable'

Within their company category, team Golden Solutions received the highest score from the jury. They offered solutions that maximise organisational value, have the potential to increase demand, include more automatisation and aim to manage uncertainty.

Mariska Schuurmans, company representative Crown Plaza Maastricht.

SBE alumni unite to work with their alma mater

Alumni SBE CCC

Some alumni also participated in the CCC2020. The alumni team, Team CHAB Consulting, was made up of four former BSc IB students and provided solutions for OfficesForYou. When asked why they wanted to participate in the CCC2020 as an Alumni team, they answered 'As proud alumni of SBE, participating in the university's CCC2020 was a no brainer for us. The event gave us the opportunity to reconnect with our alma mater and to apply what we learned in three years of hard work during our studies. In addition, we appreciated being able to support a good cause and to spread some hope and brave ideas in these challenging times.'

The four alumni have been busy since graduating: Clarissa Böker is currently working as a visiting analyst at the Berlin-based early-stage venture capital fund Rheingau Founders. Berit Leinhäuser interns at Mars Wrigley and supports the marketing team to gain FMCG experience while Helen Gasche is currently pursuing an internship in the brand communication department of BMW in Munich before starting her Master‘s at the University of St.Gallen (HSG) in September. After interning as an associate consultant at SMP Strategy Consulting,Annika Bleffert is now supporting the strategy department of ParkNow, a global joint venture founded by BMW Group and Daimler AG.

SBE's faculty board inspired by the students

Peter Møllgaard

SBE's Faculty Board strongly supported the CCC2020 and was greatly impressed by the outcome.

Peter Mollgaard, dean of SBE, expressed: 'I am proud of the work delivered by our students. CCC2020 provided them with an opportunity to have a societal impact and to contribute to businesses in the region. I am impressed with the work and dedication that was put into all the deliverables.'

This article was written by SCOPE in collaboration with SBE's Student Representative Shula Mensah

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