Global Network Students Compete in Globalization Hackathon Finale

April 26, 2017

A network-wide course on the future of globalization culminated with student presentations, assessed in real time by former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

The final session of “The End of Globalization?,” the online course taught by Yale’s David Bach this spring, raised the innovation and global inquiry that characterized the course to a new level. In front of an audience that included hundreds of in-person observers and thousands more tuned in virtually, four student teams from four time zones—some on site, some videoconferencing in the wee hours—presented ideas developed during eight-hour “hackathons” the week of the event. They received immediate feedback on their presentations not only from Bach, but also from former Secretary of State John Kerry and from Michael Warren, managing principal of Albright Stonebridge Group.

The session was part of a major symposium to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Global Network for Advanced Management. The course itself was a showpiece for how the Global Network has enabled initiatives that connect students and faculty worldwide to analyze and strategize solutions to timely issues.

Twice a week for two months, Bach’s 41 students—from 21 different network schools—have met virtually to better understand the nature and extent of populist and nationalist backlash in different regions, and the likely impacts on the global economy.

Speaking before the symposium, Elizabeth Heng, a student in the class from the Yale SOM MBA for Executives program,  said, “We’ve discussed topics ranging from the history of globalization to populism to immigration to countering violent extremism.” Zainab Aslam, a Yale SOM full-time MBA student in the “small network online course” (SNOC), called it “a great example of a flexible and global model for education, [which] sprang up as a response to the many conversations that were happening at SOM around the rise of anti-globalization sentiment. The course has already provided a platform for rich dialogue on difficult topics including income inequality, immigration, and terrorism.” Felix Schroeder, a student from Seoul National University Graduate School of Business, praised the SNOC’s “exceptional selection of guest speakers, which provided us with expert perspectives on every topic: migration, populism, economics, inequality, Europe, and trust in institutions. It was a great opportunity for students getting in-depth answers from international specialists to any detail in every aspect.”

In the week before the final session, the students in the class organized “hackathon” sessions together with their colleagues who had not take then class to create presentations that answered three critical questions set by Bach: “What factor or factors is/are most responsible for seemingly turning a growing number of citizens and leaders across many countries against openness, cross-border engagement, and globalization, as well as against the elites they most associate with globalization? What can business in your region do to address these factors and to counteract this trend? What do you think the future of globalization looks like?”

From the entries submitted by teams representing fifteen Global Network schools, a panel of faculty members from ESMT Berlin, IIM Bangalore, and Oxford Saïd selected four teams for the final round: Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley; the London School of Economics; Seoul National University Graduate School of Business; and Yale University (including students from Yale SOM, Yale Law School, and the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs).

The students representing Berkeley Haas were George Panagiotakopoulous, Richard Erlank, Eddie Gandevia, Manasi Jagannatha, and Ritu Kamal. In their presentation, they emphasized, among other arguments, that “businesses [in the U.S.] should advocate for policies that stabilize main drivers of change,” and reaffirm the “natural and necessary” interdependence of business and labor.

The Seoul team consisted of Haein Choi, Felix Schroeder, Sven Helge Joosten, Mikyong Ku, Jihye Kim, Bio Jeong, and Inyoung Jung. They found through their research that the rate of change of improvement in the human development index seems to be correlated with support for globalization.

The London School of Economics students were Diego Espinoza-Chavarri, Yiming Jin, Diane Zachariah, and Rebecca Van Roy, who wrote in a blog post about her experience in Bach’s course that “the contest offered an exceptional opportunity to apply the management science techniques I have learned during the course.” The team concluded that it is the rate of change in inequality (as measured by the GINI index), and not absolute inequality, that seems to drive anti-globalization sentiment

The Yale University team consisted of Beth Goldberg (SOM), Andrew Kuzrok (SOM), David Manners-Weber (Yale Law School), Julia McDowell (SOM), and Andrew Watrous (joint SOM–Jackson Institute for Global Affairs). Their presentation underscored the steps the U.S. private sector can take to give employees more agency and diversify the workplace.

Secretary Kerry praised the thinking of each team, agreeing that public resentment of inequality is not just perception, but reality, quoting his undergraduate Yale history professor John Morton Blum, who said, “All politics is a reaction to felt needs.” And, he added, companies are only now waking up to this imbalance in ordinary fortunes, particularly after a too-slow recovery from the wave of global financial crises. 

Kerry cautioned, however, against an over-reliance on social engineering, with the exception of adopting broad principles such as those highlighted in the Seoul team’s presentation. “If you look at the Seoul recommendations, one, two, and three: one was to address environmental pollution; two, the company structure has to be thoughtful and revamped; that’s the social structure, obviously. And then, of course, the issue of transparency, which is governance. In effect, what Seoul put on the table is what we call ESG—environment, social, and governance considerations with respect to investment.” He noted that he sees wasted energy in the attempt to redress the “macro downsides of what capitalism unleashed.” Instead, Kerry said, governments and businesses must “focus energy on creating a new paradigm for that investment,” he said.

With all of that in mind, he said, he’s bullish on the continued future—with those necessary adaptations—of globalization. “It may be a rough ride; there may be some very tough moments. But the corporate world is ahead of the political world in understanding what needs to be done... I’m not someone who says the world is closing in on us.”

Michael Warren—who stressed the importance of multidimensional thinking, remarking that he would like to see a synthesis of all four presentations—observed that he, too, was optimistic about the survival of globalization.

But there are many imperative transitions ahead, he said, and businesses need to think beyond the next few quarters’ profits. “Businesses and markets are up for grabs,” said Warren. “They’re going to have to be much more expert in navigating this environment.” He praised the students’ focus on impact investing and encouraged them to be the kinds of global thinkers that companies need. “The fact that you’re now thinking about policy and being creative about policy, being advocates, being citizens of the local communities and the global communities—not just focused on quarterly earnings and profits—is exactly the direction that is going to need to be taken.”

Bach, meanwhile, said one purpose of the SNOC and of the hackathon was to separate signal from noise, by focusing on facts—“experts and data and evidence and patterns.” The students’ presentations reinforced, he said, “what not to do—turn inward and blame others.”

Bach also noted that that the Global Network has an important role to play in understanding and responding to the current moment and pointed to the submissions from more than 30 faculty members across the Global Network who contributed essays on globalization’s future to Global Network Perspectives

After Bach had asked the in-person and online audiences to cast their votes via smartphone for the most insightful presentation, the name of the winners appeared on the big screen: the team from Seoul National University Business School. Reflecting after the event, winning team member Haein Choi underscored a key takeaway from their presentation: “We hope that business leaders take additional responsibility in trying to create more positive thinking toward globalization."

Yale SOM student Heng reflected at the close of the symposium, “I think that ‘The End of Globalization?’ was one of the highlights of my time here at Yale SOM. It was incredible to be able to connect with students twice a week from around the globe. It was fascinating collecting real-time data and video clips on globalization from across the world. In order to solve the largest problems not only for our country but the world, we need to start reaching outward and across borders.”

More presentations, data, and video from the hackathon will be available soon; check this page for updates. 

Read more about the course "The End of Globalization?"