The World Challenges Programme (WCP)

WCP - World Challenges Program

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”
– Albert Einstein


The WCP at Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) aligns education, research, and engagement agendas with key global development issues. We access new thinking and develop different ways to approach these challenges, and therefore create opportunities for knowledge transfer between practitioners, academics, students, and the public through a variety of actions.

World Challenges are 'wicked problems' – messy, ambiguous issues with no clear solution. Wicked problems involve a variety of stakeholders and occur in the context of food waste, biodiversity, ecology, climate change, migration, social exclusion, and gender discrimination.

Our innovative teaching programs provide education with a special focus on sustainability. International student teams are closely supervised by cross-university professors and intercultural professional experts.


The World Challenges Programme currently offers two elective courses on Master and PhD level:

and on Bachelor level:


-- NEWS --

ICSE Application Phase for 2022 - 2023 now open!
We are now accepting applications to participate in the structured exchange program ICSE during fall 2022 / spring 2023. The eligibility criteria and application procedure can be found on the ICSE websites (see above). Deadline for applications is 21.02.2022. For information about the application procedure, please visit: USI Students Mobility

Best Paper Award 2020
Best Emerging Researcher Paper Award in Pedagogical Innovation and Research in Management Education at the European Academy of Management 2020. Our Research and Coordination Consultant Monika Maślikowska presented the paper “How do dynamic boundaries affect team cohesion in virtual student teams?” and it was recognized for the “robust methodology, topical subject and contribution".

Book publication 27 November 2020
Our book on teaching sustainability is published on Routledge:
Gibbert, M., Välikangas, L. & Marijane Luistro-Jonsson (2020): The Sustainability Grand Challenge - A Wicked Learning Workbook. London, New York: Routledge.

Grant received September 2020
Tackling World Challenges has won the prestigious Movetia grant for Sustainable Food System Transitions

Prof. Michael Gibbert

Academic Director of WCP Integrated Education

Michael Gibbert is a Professor of Marketing at USI’s Institute of Marketing and Communication Management (IMCA). He earned his PhD from the University of St. Gallen, holds an MSc from the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa) and did his post-doctoral fellowship at Yale University. He also worked as a research assistant at INSEAD, Fontainebleau and as associate professor at Bocconi University (2003-2010) in Milan and is the author or co-author of numerous journal articles and books on innovation, strategic marketing, organizational theory and research methodology.

Personal page and contact

Lisa Märcz

Coordinator of WCP

Lisa Märcz is a Ph.D. student and teaching assistant at the Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society. As a new coordination member of the World Challenges Programme (WCP) she is committed to the master elective course Tackling World Challenges (TWC) and the bachelor specialization Intercultural Communication and Sustainable Economics (ICSE).

Lisa's research focuses on human-nonhuman relations, wildlife management, and sustainability. She is a professional zookeeper and studied biosciences, cultural anthropology and American studies in Germany (Rostock and Mainz) and Switzerland (Zurich and Berne). Her published (2018) bachelor thesis discussed the borders between humans and other animals by looking at documented cases of feral (animal-raised) human children, her master thesis reflected on human-wolf conflicts in Germany. Current projects at USI include human-wolf situations in Ticino, and research on the relations between human consumers and nonhuman products in the context of on-farm-slaughter in Switzerland.

Personal page and contact

Monika Maślikowska

Research and Coordination Consultant

Monika Maślikowska is a Ph.D. student at the Institute of Marketing and Communication Management (IMCA) at USI. She holds a Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship and is committed to teaching, research, and academic activities, including Research and Coordination Consultancy at WCP. From 2017 to 2020, she developed and coordinated the World Challenges Programme, including the Tackling World Challenges cross-university course and the International Communication and Economics Bachelor specialization. Apart from USI, she’s been collaborating with several international universities, including Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden, Hanken School of Economics in Finland, and EM Normandie in France.
Monika has a master degree in Management and a bachelor degree in Business Management and Engineering (Architecture and Urban Planning) from Wroclaw University of Science and Technology in Poland. She has also worked for global organizations in Luxembourg and studied in Australia, Italy, and Spain.

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Nele Langenbraun

Coordination Assistant

Nele Langebraun is a Ph.D. student and teaching assistant at the Institute of Marketing and Communication Management (IMCA) at USI. She holds a BA in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from the University of Oxford and a MA in Environmental and Food Economics from the University of Milan. She previously also worked as a policy advisor at the European Parliament.

Nele’s research interests include sustainability and climate change, energy and natural resources, and environmental policy. Her MA thesis researched the effects of extreme weather events on market outcomes in the Sahel and her doctoral research focuses on sustainability transitions.

Bareerah Hafeez Hoorani

Research consultant

Bareerah Hafeez Hoorani is a PhD student at the Institute of Marketing and Communication Management, Università della Svizzera italiana (Switzerland). She completed her MSc in Economics with a specialization in econometrics at the University of Geneva. Her current research interests revolve around research methods, with special focus on the role of case selection, the usage of time in longitudinal qualitative studies, process of theorizing, transparency, case study design and rigor. Her work has been published in Scientometrics and Journal of Informetrics. Furthermore, she has presented her papers at the Academy of Management (AOM), European Academy of Management (EURAM), British Academy of Management (BAM), in which she also received the British Academy of Management Best Full Paper Award (2018), and Strategic Management Society (SMS) Annual Conference (2020), in which she was nominated for the PhD prize award. Bareerah has also been a reviewer at conferences including the Academy of Management and Midwest Academy of Management. Furthermore, she assisted in the teaching of ‘Case Studies: Design, Methods, and Reporting’ course at the Swiss Summer School. She has also been a recipient of the ‘Shadowing grant’ in 2018 by the Università della Svizzera italiana (Switzerland), where she conducted one month of research at the Leeds University Business School with Prof Emmanuella Plakoyiannaki. In the past, she has also worked with ‘Teach for Pakistan’ (NGO) in an effort of tackling educational inequality.

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Jean-Patrick Villeneuve

Director at Institute of Communication and Public Policy (ICPP)

Jean-Patrick Villeneuve is associate professor of Public Administration and Management at the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) since January 2014. He is Director of the Institute of Communication and Public Policy, Head of the GRIP (Public Integrity Research Group) and Co-Director of the Master programme Public Management and Policy (offered in collaboration with the University of Lausanne and the University of Berne). He is Director of the Governance Stream of the Middle East Mediterranean Summer Summit (MEM). He is also Adjunct Professor of Public Management at the Ecole nationale d’Administration publique (Québec, Canada), Visiting Professor at the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE - 对外经济贸易大学 Beijing, China) and member of the Independent Transparency Mediation Commission of Ticino (Bellinzona, Switzerland). He is member of the International Executive Committee of the Global Conference on Transparency Research (Newark, USA) and, until recently, Member of the Independent Expert Panel of the Open Government Partnership (Washington D.C., USA).

He holds a Ph.D. in Public Administration from the Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration IDHEAP/HEC Lausanne (Switzerland), an M.Phil. from Cambridge University (United Kingdom), an M.A/M.P.A. from Concordia University (Canada) and a B.A. from McGill University (Canada).

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Marlen Heide

Institute for Public Communication (ICP)

Marlen Heide is a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute for Public Communication (ICP) at the Università della Svizzera italiana. Her research interest is in the field of transparency studies, security and defense policy, and anti-corruption. Besides her academic activities, she works as an international consultant in the field of anti-corruption, e.g. for the European Commission LRRC Network for Corruption Expertise; or the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Prior to joining USI, she worked at the Transparency International Secretariat and the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She conducted survey research in Tbilisi, Georgia and was a consultant for the German Armed Forces. She studied at Erfurt University, Boĝaziçi University, Istanbul, and holds an MA in War Studies from King's College, London.

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Liisa Välikangas

Course Director WCP Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki

Liisa was a professor at the Department of Management and Organisation at Hanken School of Economics (Helsinki, Finland) and is now professor at the Department of Technology, Management and Economics Innovation DTU in Lyngby, Denmark. She holds a Doctor of Science in Economics and Business Administration and her current projects include "Uncertainty Management in Engineering¿Service Development" and "Robust Decision Making for the Management of Large Engineering Projects".

Since the launch of The World Challenges Programme in 2017, Liisa coordinates and supervises students from Helsinki, and teaches during WCP Scandinavia how to "spit in the salad" in order to make changes for a sustainable world: Minor Rebellion as Institutional Agency (2019). Together with Michael Gibbert and Marijane Luistro-Jonsson she published "The Sustainability Grand Challenge. A Wicked Learning Workbook" (2020).

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Marijane Luistro Jonsson

Course Director WCP Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden

Marijane is an affiliated researcher at the SSE's House of Innovation (HOI), as well as SSE's Center for Sustainability Research (CSR), where she joins interdisciplinary research of creating and nurturing new ventures, as well as transforming and renewing existing organizations is crucial for societal prosperity. Within this education and outreach environment Marijane focuses on innovation, digitalization and entrepreneurship.

Since the launch of The World Challenges Programme in 2017, Marijane coordinates and supervises students from Stockholm, and teaches during WCP Scandinavia about the technology, policy and cognition that could create "wicked solutions" to global wicked problems. Together with Michael Gibbert and Liisa Välikangas she published "The Sustainability Grand Challenge. A Wicked Learning Workbook" (2020).

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Angela Coetzee

Lead Research Consultant at the Sustainability Institute (SI), Lynedoch

As Lead of Research Advisory Angela oversees the research and consulting projects at the Sustainability Institute. Angela has proven experience in the fields of development projects, entrepreneurial education, food systems and sustainability. She is particularly interested in work that focuses on the intersections between entrepreneurial education and sustainability. Angela has a robust understanding of entrepreneurship education, mainly in tertiary education institutions in the African context. Prior to the SI, Angela spent a decade in entrepreneurship development at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation (AGOF), a philanthropic initiative that invests deeply in entrepreneurship development in Southern Africa. At AGOF her work ranged from programme management to communications and multimedia data collection for mission-driven development.

As a food systems researcher (and a passionate chef) Angela is particularly interested in the claims made for more sustainable alternatives and in the role that power relations play in the food system. Her Masters, therefore, focused on production claims made for more sustainable chicken production in the Western Cape, including how this impacts on sector development. Her PhD will now focus on how agency and structure enable or prohibit entrepreneurial activity in the context of land reform.

Her recent work includes:

  • Acting as project director for the Pan African Institute of Water and Energy Sciences’ higher education entrepreneurial development project based in Algeria
  • Directing the GIZ-funded Knowledge Hub for Organic Agriculture in Southern Africa project
  • Assisting with research for the Southern Africa Food Policy “Stories of Challenge” project
  • Acting as co-investigator for the development of Food and Agriculture Organisation’s food-based dietary guidelines for Tanzania
  • Contributing to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development’s Food and Nutrition Strategy

Angela holds a BA in Value Policy Studies and an MPhil in Sustainable Development from the University of Stellenbosch.

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Candice Kelly

Research Advisory Associate at the Sustainability Institute (SI), Lynedoch

Candice has been working with the Sustainability Institute in various capacities since she completed her MPhil in Sustainable Development in 2008. Currently, most of her time is dedicated to her role as project manager of the Knowledge Hub for Organic Agriculture in Southern Africa. This donor-funded project seeks to develop knowledge hubs in four regions across the African continent, that will collect, validate and disseminate knowledge about ecological organic agriculture to farmers. The first phase of the project runs from November 2019 – October 2021, and phase two until October 2023.

Since 2009, Candice has been appointed as an Extraordinary Lecturer at Stellenbosch University, and teaching and supervising students from the Postgraduate Diploma and Masters’ in Sustainable Development (in the School of Public Leadership). She provides academic coordination of the sustainable food systems modules that aim to introduce students to the key issues related to social justice and ecological resilience in the food system.

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Dr. Stefano Giacomelli

Post Doctoral Researcher

Stefano Giacomelli holds a Ph.D. in Communication Sciences from USI (‘summa cum laude’), and a Master of Law from Catholic University, in Milan, Italy (103/110).

Stefano research examines the connection between humans and nature from an interdisciplinary perspective, at the interface of the social and natural sciences. His current research interests are Environmental science, Environmental policy and governance, Rural studies. In his research, he mainly uses qualitative methodologies, especially case-study, ethnography and comparative approaches.

Personal page and contact


Roberto Manzi

Business Development Manager

Roberto Manzi has an established and recognised expertise in startup programs with a high innovative content. His job is to translate research programs into a business, and generate a competitive business through innovation and research. His humanistic education (he studied Philosophy and Theology, and currently is a researcher in Communication Sciences), combined with specialized skills acquired in various professional experiences allow him to have an open mind and a strategic vision in the business. He has experience both in the industrial, commercial and service industries; he works in top management of Multinational Corporations, Family Companies, start-ups, and sits on different boards of directors.

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  • Integrated Education

    We believe that the attitudes and skills that you learn in your early twenties will be formative for your later years.

    Our aim is to develop well-rounded leaders for tomorrow who know how to act responsibly and keep an eye on global sustainability when making decisions locally.

    We offer innovative initiatives that range from university courses and teacher training workshops, to primary through high school levels. We emphasize learning in the classroom, through experiences, by discovery, and from each other. This broad target is united in a focus on investigating world challenges.


    Our first challenge 2017-2021: Food - Responsible Consumption and Production

    The first wicked problem we will address falls within goal 12 of the Sustainable Development Goals SDGs, Responsible Consumption and Production - in particular: Food Waste. The challenge is to reduce food losses along the supply chain from production and distribution through to the consumer.



    Master Elective Courses

    • Tackling World Challenges Scandinavia brings together Master and PhD students from Università della Svizzera italiana, Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden and Hanken School of Economics in Finland to work in interdisciplinary and culturally diverse teams on a real-life 'wicked problem' in cooperation with an organization.
      The course consists of lectures, field trip, group work, knowledge sharing, expert interviews, company collaboration, and high level presentations. There will be a kick-off meeting at the beginning of the course where students from USI will personally meet students from the other university partners at Stockholm. In the remaining seminars and lectures, students in the different schools will meet virtually and groups are expected to coordinate and connect using the available digital platform. The course brings together 36 students (12 per University) and is structured into six interdisciplinary teams (e.g. ethics/CSR, management, communications) of six students (two per university).
    • Tackling World Challenges South Africa is a blended, context-based elective course on Food System Transitions, open to Master and PhD students from Università della Svizzera italiana and Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Students will study and research with international and intercultural professors, experts, and colleagues.
      The course is structed in two steps:
      Phase 1 - Students travel to Stellenbosch in the second half of July 2021 for ten days (or longer) and study at the Sustainability Institute (SI) in Lynedoch, one of Africa's leading experts in the field.
      Phase 2 - Students apply their acquired knowledge in Lugano in fall semester 2021 on Ticino’s famous sloping vineyards together with the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL.


    Apply for spring 2021 and fall 2021 now!

    Places are limited so apply now to reserve your place. Course participants receive a scholarship (travel costs). To apply, send a copy of English language and other certificates you may have and a motivation piece to

    Application deadline for Scandinavia is 31 December 2020. Details here.
    Application deadline for South Africa is 31 December 2020. Details here.

    For frequently asked questions about South Africa please download our Q&A document.


    Bachelor Specialization

    The Intercultural Communication and Sustainable Economics (ICSE) specialization is an English language specialization offered to third year Bachelor students in USI's faculties of Economics and Communication in cooperation with Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki, Finland. ICSE students from USI spend their fifth semester (September to December) at Hanken, and exchange students from Hanken will be at USI in their sixth semester (February to June). ICSE students will develop analytical focus, hone their judgement skills and intercultural awareness, and increase empathy relative to the great challenges and risks that societies face today.

    Applications for 2021/2022 are now open!

    ICE participants receive a scholarship and a reduction in tuition. Places are limited so apply early to reserve your place. To apply, send your complete internal application form, a copy of English language and other certificates you may have and a motivation piece to

    Application deadline is 31 January 2021.

    For more​ information on application details visit our blog here.

  • Turn ideas into action

    An alliance of engaged partners support WCP and its initiatives. World Challenges affect everyone and new approaches are needed to find solutions. We welcome contributions and participation at all levels and from all areas.

    It’s easy to help - make a donation. Volunteer some time. Take part in our programs in the community, at the university or for schools. We provide opportunities for individuals, families and organizations to make a difference in the lives of our youth.

    Write to us for information on how to get involved:


    • WCP Partnership

    Donations or non-financial contributions provide support for projects that advance our mission.


    • Education Partnership

    Excellence Scholarship - Your contribution provides travel and tuition support for students to participate in the WCP Master’s elective course.


    • Educational Programming

    Resources contributed to the educational programming fund go towards developing new courses, extending successful projects, and exploring new teaching approaches at all educational levels.


    • Research Fellowship

    A contribution to this fund supports a PhD student to conduct research on World Challenge topics. Candidates submit proposals for research and are selected on a competitive basis for a fellowship that covers full tuition and a stipend for living expenses.

  • Outreach


    • Best Emerging Researcher Paper Award in Pedagogical Innovation and Research in Management Education at the European Academy of Management 2020. Our Research and Coordination Consultant Monika Maślikowska presented the paper “How do dynamic boundaries affect team cohesion in virtual student teams?” and it was recognized for the “robust methodology, topical subject and contribution".


    Book Chapters

    Academic Articles

    Academic Conferences

    • Maślikowska M. (2020) How do dynamic boundaries affect team cohesion in the virtual student teams? (BEST EMERGING RESEARCHER PAPER AWARD). European Academy of Management. EURAM. Dublin (virtual)
    • Välikangas L., Maślikowska M. (2019) Tackling World Challenges: Toward a Wicked Pedagogy. European Association for International Education. EAIE. Helsinki
    • Maślikowska, M. and Gibbert, M. (2019). Two Levels of ‘Fit’ between Working Spaces and Organizational Culture: A Comparative Case Study. European Academy of Management conference, 1781.
    • Giacomelli, S., Gibbert, M., Viganò, R. (2017). Approaches to Preventing Illegal Releases of Boars in the Wild. The Wildlife Society Conference. Albuquerque, the U.S.
    • Hare, D., Giacomelli, S., Gibbert, M., Blossey, B. (2017). Public Trust Thinking: Comparing Public Ownership of Wildlife in Italy and the United States. The Wildlife Society Conference. Albuquerque, the U.S. Poster presentation.
    • Giacomelli, S., Gibbert, M., Viganò, R. (2017). Challenges in wild boar management: balancing the demands of hunters and the public. Academy of Management (AoM), Organizations and the Natural Environment Division. Atlanta, the U.S.
    • Giacomelli, S. (2017). Quality Certifications vs. Consumer’s Reviews in Online Food Shopping. American Marketing Association Conference (AMA), winter session. Orlando, the U.S. Poster presentation.

    Academic Workshops

    • Gibbert, M., Giacomelli, S., Viganò R. (2018). A Tale of Two Boars: Ungulate Management in Italy and Germany. Re-negotiating “Wilderness” in More-than-human Worlds. CEFRES: French Research Center in Humanities and Social Sciences. Prague, Czech Republic.
    • Giacomelli, S., Gibbert M., (2018). Men and Women playing gender during hunting in the Alps. Winter School LabEx ITEM. Bellinzona, Switzerland.
    • Giacomelli, S., Gibbert, M., Viganò, R. (2018). Illegal Releases of Wild Boar in the Alps: Motivations and Solutions. Winter School LabEx ITEM. Bellinzona, Switzerland.