Members of the 2015 entrepreneurship master's program, ESTEEM, launched their summer with service to South Bend as part of a Business Model Canvas course taught by Assistant Director Sunny Shah. Teams of students learned to gather and assess potential customers’ needs so that startup enterprises can address them effectively.
“We participated in projects that really helped impact and shape the South Bend community,” said John Vernon, whose team worked with the city’s Code Enforcement office to help fight neighborhood blight with a smartphone application.
“We went out and canvassed the neighborhood and talked to people about Code Enforcement and what their pain points were – people in the neighborhood, community organizations, nonprofit groups, neighborhood groups,” he said. “There was this support from the neighbors. They were willing to go out. If their neighbor’s lawn was overgrown, they would go out and mow it.”
The app, still under development, enables residents to report code violations or to ask for help they need on such issues as mowing, snow removal, and trash pickup. It also allows individuals and groups to volunteer assistance. Dealing with code violations, including vacant and abandoned properties, is a high priority for city officials.
“This effort through Code Enforcement helps to solve that issue in a way,” Vernon says. “Through our app, we’re empowering the community to sign up. They can go and take care of some of these homes. It’s kind of coordinated with South Bend’s open source platform for code violations. It will be able to follow the code enforcement violations in real time.”
Another team conducted a project aimed at improving Transpo (the local bus system), and a third worked on a textbook sharing program and sales program that would be a resource for Notre Dame students as well as students at other local colleges and universities.
“Notre Dame said, “Hey, there’s this opportunity to do this cool program in the community,” says Vernon, who earned his undergraduate degree in neuroscience at Notre Dame. Even though we’re here for just a year, we still want to make an impact. ESTEEM prides itself on that. It’s the master’s with a mission. They want to be a global force for good. I think this summer opportunity definitely gave us that chance.”