Innovations That Inspire

The Global Links Initiative

Recognition Year(s): 2023
School: Roy E. Crummer Graduate School of Business, Rollins College
Location: United States

As a cross-cultural training program, The Global Links Initiative advances social entrepreneurship skills of female scholars from emerging countries, who then educate students to mentor female entrepreneurs.

Paola Mazzilli, Professor of Consumer Behavior and Bioethics at ESPM, a Global Links Initiative Partner; and Mary Conway Dato-on, Professor of International Business and Social Entrepreneurship, Crummer Graduate School of Business, Rollins College

Call to Action

The Global Links Initiative (TGLI) had its genesis in 2011 when Rick Goings, chair of the Rollins Board of Trustees, traveled to Baghdad, Iraq, with the U.S. Department of Defense to determine whether sustainable business opportunities for women were possible, either by established businesses or through entrepreneurial endeavors.

After meeting with financial institutions, government officials, and military generals, Goings concluded that no entrepreneurial options were viable, as there was no one qualified to teach entrepreneurship. Sitting with the dean of the College of Science for Women at the University of Baghdad, Goings personally committed to sponsoring a female business professor to travel to the U.S. and study entrepreneurship at the graduate level so she could learn and return.

Upon returning to Orlando, Goings charged Elinor Steele, a Crummer alumna, to coordinate with Mary Conway Dato-on, a professor at the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College, as a co-founding partner. The team met with the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues for support and collaboration. TGLI’s potential to bolster women’s entrepreneurship around the globe closely aligns with Crummer’s mission to educate for global citizenship and responsible leadership. TGLI is committed to fostering a global perspective in classrooms and strengthening entrepreneurship understanding around the world.

Innovation Details

TGLI’s objective is to empower women through education and entrepreneurship around the world. Research indicates that women lack access to business opportunities and funding. Emerging markets lack programs focused on educating and mentoring women whose entrepreneurial skills can build ecosystems of continued impact.

To address these needs, TGLI created an ecosystem for entrepreneurial development by connecting the scholar, her university, and students as lifelong resources. While working with an Iraqi scholar, Conway Dato-on developed two additional TGLI phases that further strengthened the train-the-trainer model and enhanced economic inclusion and empowerment of women entrepreneurs. These phases created a ripple effect from the Iraqi scholar’s initial learning. The scholar furthers the impact by developing future generations of entrepreneurs through teaching, research, and mentorship of women entrepreneurs in her community.

TGLI’s model comprises three phases. In phase one, “learn,” a female scholar visits the School of Business for an immersive program to advance her teaching, research, and business skills. In phase two, “return,” she re-engages with her home school and matches university students with female entrepreneurs to grow businesses and improve social and economic outcomes. In phase three, “ripple,” top-performing students receive entrepreneurial training through cross-cultural immersion at Rollins College. This process builds business skills and fosters self-confidence for the scholar, students, and female entrepreneurs, creating ripples of impact across cultures.

While TGLI was founded with a vision to support a female scholar in a single country, Iraq, the process has been implemented in additional developing countries, India and Brazil, and the program has plans to expand into Mexico. TGLI coalesces business school partnerships and entrepreneurial ecosystems around four United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: quality education, gender equality, decent work and economic growth, and partnerships for the goals.

Innovation Impact

TGLI has generated 10 years of results across four cycles in three countries. The initiative has mentored five female scholars from three emerging countries and paired more than 280 female entrepreneurs with student volunteers to grow businesses and improve social and economic outcomes. In addition, TGLI has trained over 5,000 students and scholars on business skills and entrepreneurial mindsets, reached more than 172,000 people worldwide via webinars, and received 135,000 USD in federal grants for activities in India.

TGLI participants have advanced cross-cultural learning, published four journal articles, and presented at several academic conferences as a direct result of TGLI scholars’ collaborations. TGLI also matched a female entrepreneur to an impact investor to grow her solar business in India. As a result of students’ engagement with TGLI, university students in both emerging markets and the U.S. have received a greater number of job offers and higher-quality offers.

Employers recognize the value of experiential learning, problem-solving, and entrepreneurial mindsets that students developed as a result of their female entrepreneur mentorship. The expansion of TGLI across several countries has enabled global meetings where participants share ideas for continued business growth, positive impact, and self-empowerment, thus facilitating the overall objective to support and nurture female entrepreneurship.

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