Yusuf Simonson, Jenn Halweil and Holly Hardison outside of Société Générale's headquarters in Paris, France.

Going Global

March 11, 2010

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Last month, NC State students Holly Hardison, Jenn Halweil and Yusuf Simonson boarded a plane for Paris, France, with a singular goal of seeing how they’d fare in a business-game competition called Citizen Act – an event that brings together university students from around the world to develop business initiatives that highlighting the interdependent nature of corporate success and social welfare.

“Jenn Skyped me when I was studying abroad in Spain,” Hardison said, “saying ‘Hey, you wanted to get more involved with bettering the world before we graduate?’

“And, now, here we are.”

Their team, Contribution Globale, was the only U.S. team to advance to the second round of the competition, and is now competing for a 12,000-euro prize and the chance to turn their idea into reality.

The project, known as RoseLeaf, proposes the creation of a social network within Société Générale’s retail banking and consumer finance sectors to support aspiring women entrepreneurs and business leaders.

“The goal of RoseLeaf is to provide women with greater access to financial capital and mentoring and, in turn, raise the likelihood of these women fostering meaningful careers and financial independence,” Halweil said. “Given the strong correlation between gender inequality and poverty, we also view this as a sustainable development project, targeting women in low-income and rural areas with the goal of hopefully raising these communities out of poverty.”

Win or lose, the NC State students have already been rewarded with an outstanding educational opportunity.

“The competition provided great networking opportunities, both with the executives and with other students similarity interested in corporate social responsibility,” Simonson said. “I’ve never met so many people from such a diverse range of countries in such a short amount of time.”

“It’s been a very rewarding opportunity to be introduced to such a successful and distinct group of individuals working within the Citizen Act competition and within Société Générale’s network,” Hardison said.

The international travel alone helped the trio to realize the important role that corporate social responsibility plays in emerging business practices.

“In light of the recent recession, I have been fascinated by ways in which the financial industry can engage in more socially responsible business practices,” Simonson said.

The greatest leaders of the 21st century recognize the concept of what Prahalad deemed a global ecosystem, Halweil said.

“They recognize that change cannot occur without diversity and collaboration,” she said. “Citizen Act is the embodiment of this idea.”

It was the very ideal that attracted her to the project in the first place.

“I initiated our team’s participation because I did not want to wait until graduation to begin to bring positive change in the global community.”

Since Contribution Globale’s return from France, the students have been busy developing a wiki-blog to promote their project and solicit feedback on their idea. Feedback and poll responses, Halweil said, are greatly appreciated and will go a long way to determining the team’s placement in the final stage of competition.

Editor’s Note: The author, Joseph Wright, is an NC State senior double-majoring in Civil Engineering and English (World Literature). He is the former editor-in-chief of NC State’s literary magazine, Windhover.