A course on world food policy at Cornell might help a poor country if it inspired a few students in their careers. But put the course's materials online and teach workshops around the world on how to use them using a social entrepreneurial approach -- then the result could be leaders with the skills to help alleviate some of world's hunger and poverty.
That's the program that the 2001 World Food Prize laureate and Cornell professor Per Pinstrup-Andersen has been pilot testing in concert with three other U.S. universities.
He has posted 63 case studies from around the world about real-world policy issues experienced and written by 56 experts. Next he plans to teach 75 educators from Africa and Asia in workshops to be held in Uganda, Bangladesh and China how to use the materials, together with a new textbook he is writing with Fuzhi Cheng, a former postdoctoral fellow. The educators will learn how to engage students in tackling an issue from various points of view, hashing out policy and developing sustainable approaches that address the challenge, be it coping with famine in Ethiopia, allocating irrigation water in Egypt, countering the growing obesity problem in China or assessing genetically modified food aid in Zambia.
"[Students at] universities in many developing countries suffer from lack of good teaching material and outdated teaching methods, ... boring lectures based on irrelevant and outdated textbooks given by unmotivated professors and lecturers," says Pinstrup-Andersen, the J. Thomas Clark Professor of Entrepreneurship and the H.E. Babcock Professor of Food, Nutrition and Public Policy at Cornell. "The goals of this program are help motivate teachers and to replace lectures with a participatory social entrepreneurial approach that involves stimulating and interactive sessions based on relevant and timely case studies."
The social entrepreneurial approach, says Pinstrup-Andersen, is intended to develop "a mind-set," a way to approach policy analysis.
"Entrepreneurship education helps students become leaders, innovators and creative problem-solvers by teaching them how to apply what they've learned in class to developing practical, innovative and sustainable approaches to benefit society, with an emphasis on those who are marginalized and poor," he says.
"Social entrepreneurs have a social mission -- in this case to reduce poverty, hunger and human misery in developing countries in a sustainable way."
Pinstrup-Andersen has pilot tested the course at the University of Copenhagen, Wageningen University and in a new course at Cornell last semester (Food Policy for Developing Countries). Others are doing so at the University of Illinois, Tufts University and the University of Colorado. Members of the program's advisory team hail from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the former Soviet Union and some 100 reviewers have been involved in assessing the case studies. Cornell colleagues, including Terry Ehling, David Ruddy, Michael Wakoff and Peter Potter, have assisted with the effort.
Pinstrup-Andersen also will ensure that the educators worldwide will network so they continue to get access to the most appropriate and latest teaching materials, and he will regularly add case studies to the Web site.
The project, which is in collaboration with and co-funded by the University of Copenhagen, Wageningen University and the CGIAR/IFPRI Open University, also is supported by Entrepreneurship@Cornell and the Division of Nutritional Sciences' Babcock chair. The international workshops are supported by the Danish Development Assistance Agency.