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The 2019 Challenge: 700 students debate the future of society

Le Défi de la rentrée 2019 : 700 étudiants rôdés à la controverse
Published on
21 October 2019

From Sept. 13 to 26, 700 first year students in the Grande Ecole Program participated in a debate on society and the environment. Six major topics were subdivided into 18 controversial debate issues in order for students to raise their awareness about the major challenges of tomorrow. The goal was for students to establish their position as citizens and future managers in terms of the challenges brought on by the management of technology.

The initiative offered an innovative challenge for the entering class of 2019 and encouraged the 700 students to make use of their ability to think critically. “We don’t ask students to simply choose a side. The goal is for them to take into account all the scientific and less scientific opinions about a major societal challenge. By welcoming controversy and opposing ideas, they’re able to explore these subjects in a conscientious manner,” explains Ivan Laurens, teacher of marketing, and Lionel Strub, assistant professor in the department of People, Organizations and Society at Grenoble Ecole de Management, both of whom initiated the 2019 Challenge.

Encouraging collective intelligence

The end goal of this initiative lies in the ability to understand, analyze, criticize and summarize modern challenges in technology management, many of which can often be quite complex. “Our ambition was for the challenge to encourage teamwork and collective intelligence. A rigorous approach with proven data was the starting point. There was also an important workload in terms of educational activities to explain these controversies to all types of participants,” explain Lionel and Ivan. “These subjects require a systemic perspective and the ability to organize and adjust one’s perspective.” In other words, qualities that will also be of great relevance for future managers. 

Giving voice to students, citizens and future managers

Ten days in a row were dedicated to educational activities, team discussions and training on six controversial challenges (see box below). The students’ work led to the creation of a poster, an information booklet and a sketch for each of the themes. Overall the 2019 Challenge included 50 hours of lectures and classwork.

On the morning of Sept. 26, students were able to present their work to a variety of delegations: teachers from GEM, teachers from other schools, representatives from local authorities and companies, the head of corporate relations at GEM, second and third year students, and GEM alumni. The afternoon was dedicated to the Challenge Trophies as well as two roundtable discussions to conclude the event.

The 2019 Challenge marked a first conjoining between the 700 new Grande Ecole students and Grenoble Ecole de Management’s engagement as a Business Lab for Society. GEM’s strategic position as a Business Lab for Society is built around four pillars: education for all, gender equality, economic peace, and responsible consumption and climate change.

Six challenges, 18 debate issues

Improved, cheaper healthcare for all
Nomade healthcare, a privilege of the rich?
Treating pain without medicine, the way of the future?
Connected healthcare tools, a substitute for waiting rooms?

Reducing our energy consumption
Is a fairphone in our pocket the chance for an eco-responsible industry?
Is water a product like any other consumer product? 
“Autonomade” houses: the move towards living off the ground?

Economic, sustainable transportation
Autonomous cars, a real technological solution or an appealing snare?
Is the electric bicycle a real solution?
Going all electric: a green, sustainable solution for mobility?

Providing electricity for all 
Storing electricity: is hydrogen a sustainable solution?
Free heating thanks to data centers?
An eco-responsible engagement to use machines that consume less energy? 

Eco-responsible consumption 
Frugality and consumption: happiness in frugality?
“Blablacaring” your consumption: real or illusory solution?
Made in France clothing: a necessity or a punishment? 

Building cities that are livable and welcoming 
Our homes: islands of pollution or a source of well-being?
Urban agriculture: necessity or hipster gadget?
Measuring local pollution to enact sustainable cities?

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