For millennia, entrepreneurs have been changing the way we live, how we work, what we eat, and more. They touch every aspect of society with their ingenuity, creativity, and technical know-how and today we are excited to honor their accomplishments by celebrating National Entrepreneurs’ Day.

At Cisco, we see entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial skills as necessary to creating jobs and economic growth, as well as essential to helping people navigate the ever-evolving job market. But they are also integral to solving the world’s most challenging problems in this age of digitization. From water scarcity and income inequality to climate change and unemployment – complex global challenges can be solved when people innovate as technologists, think as entrepreneurs, and act as social change agents. Or in other words, when people are global problem solvers.

The entrepreneurial landscape has changed. Entrepreneurship is no longer about creating the next hot app or making millions in profit. As more and more people strive to find meaning and purpose in their work, more entrepreneurs are emerging who want to develop solutions that can benefit people and society.

This trend is especially prevalent with millennials. According to a recent Cone Communications study, 75 percent of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company and 76 percent consider a company’s social and environmental commitments before deciding where to work. The impact of this cannot be underestimated. Even though millennials make up just 30 percent of the workforce today, by 2025 they will be the majority, at 75 percent, according to Brookings.

In our rapidly changing, hyper-connected world, we believe developing a generation of global problem solvers is critical to discovering the solutions for today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. We are so deeply committed to this philosophy that we have created a free middle school curriculum called Global Problem Solvers (GPS): The Series.

Cultivating tomorrow’s innovators

This animation-based curriculum features a team of teenage superheroes and helps students develop entrepreneurial skills like design thinking and business modeling, in addition to STEM, team building, and problem-solving capabilities. To accomplish this, the program introduces students to real-world challenges, for example ensuring a village has clean drinking water, and asks them to develop innovative solutions.

This team of teens uses skills in technology, entrepreneurship, teamwork and more to solve global problems.

One school in St. Joseph, Missouri used the GPS: The Series curriculum with great results. The St. Joseph’s Christian school implemented it in its fifth and sixth grade IT classes and the impact rippled throughout the school and the town. Not only did the students actively engage with the curriculum in class, they reached out to teachers outside of their class, in math, social studies, and computer science, gathering information to help develop solutions for their selected global problems. The students didn’t shy away from tough problems. They tackled complex challenges like world hunger, terrorism, and bullying.

The school administration was so impressed by the student’s creativity and problem-solving skills, they held a school-wide assembly, with local officials and media in attendance, for the students to present their solutions. And the local officials were so inspired by their presentations that the sixth grade class was invited to present their solutions to the town’s community foundation later in the year, and GPS: The Series became a permanent part of its fifth grade curriculum.

Supporting innovators with the potential to break through

In addition to GPS: The Series, we host the annual Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge. An innovation competition now in its fourth year, the Challenge awards $350,000 USD in cash prizes to students or recent graduates who have developed an early stage technology solution that enables economic development, and/or benefits society or the environment. To date, the Challenge has funded solutions that provide affordable irrigation services to smallholder farmers; a portable, IoT-based fetal heart monitoring system; and a patient-centric cervical cancer screening technology, just to name a few.

Applicants have an opportunity to win as much as $100,000 to support their breakthrough solutions, and they also get access to valuable resources like pitch coaching. The Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge 2020 is accepting applications until January 17, 2020, and we invite problem solvers around the world to submit an application.

Not only have we created GPS: The Series and the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge, but we also provide cash grant investments to leading-edge nonprofits that support entrepreneurs, such as NESsT, and Entrepreneurship for All. NESsT leverages donations and capital to invest in locally-based entrepreneurial solutions that generate dignified jobs for people most in need. And Entrepreneurship for All accelerates economic and social impact through entrepreneurship in mid-sized cities through a small business/nonprofit accelerator program and pitch contests.

The contributions of entrepreneurs have never been more valuable. They hold the keys to our economic future and play an instrumental role in solving the world’s toughest challenges. It is our responsibility to not only create an environment that allows them to thrive, but to become global problem solvers.

Celebrate National Entrepreneurs’ Day with us! Share this blog to encourage future entrepreneurs to apply for the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge or teachers and students to explore Global Problem Solvers: The Series.


Mary de Wysocki

SVP & Chief Sustainability Officer

Chief Sustainability Office