The World Challenges Programme (WCP)

WCP - World Challenges Program

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it's the only thing that ever has."
– Margaret Mead (Anthropologist)

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them."
– Albert Einstein (Physicist)

“As always in life, people want a simple answer... and it’s always wrong.”
— Baroness Susan Greenfield (Neuroscientist)

"Nothing is impossible. The word itself says, “'I’m possible!'”
– Audrey Hepburn (Actress)

"Don't let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.”
— Mae Jemison (Engineer, Physician and Former NASA Astronaut)


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 across disciplines. International student teams are closely supervised by cross-university professors and intercultural professional experts.


The World Challenges Programme currently offers one interdisciplinary structured exchange program on bachelor level:



Best Student Paper Award 2023
Our paper Using Counterfactuals for Theory Building in Management and Organization Studies written by Gizem Kadioglu, Bareerah Hafeez Hoorani, and Michael Gibbert received the Best Student Paper Award from the Research Methods Division and a prestigious nomination for the Carolyn B. Dexter Award during the Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2023, held in Boston.

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 with 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


Past Projects

Master Elective Course
Sping semester 2022: Tackling World Challenges - Scandinavia

ICSE Application Phase for 2022 - 2023
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

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 and TWC

Lisa Märcz is a doctoral student and teaching assistant at the Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society. As coordinator of the World Challenges Programme (WCP) since 2020, she is contact person for all associates, departments, and partner organizations. Within our educational realm, Lisa is responsible for the development of the master elective course Tackling World Challenges (TWC) and is research consultant to the interdisciplinary structured exchange programn 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 and Switzerland. 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. The current doctoral research project at USI concerns human-cattle relations in the context of on-farm-slaughter in Switzerland.

Personal page and contact

Nele Langenbraun

Coordinator of ICSE

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.

Personal page and contact

Sonja Schönberg

Coordination Assistant

Sonja Schönberg holds an MSc in Food, Nutrition and Health. In her qualitative research, she explores theories of social practices on sustainable meat consumption.

At Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH, she teaches and researches at the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics on the role of Dieticians in Sustainable Food Systems and on Planetary Health. She is a member of the SDSN Expert Panel 'Future of Food Switzerland', of the Stakeholder Group on the Transformation of Meat Consumption in Switzerland, of the Association of Dietitians of Switzerland SVDE/ASDD and of the German Alliance on Climate Change and Health KLUG.

Personal page and contact

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).

Personal page and contact

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).

Personal page and contact

Monika Maślikowska

Research and Development

Dr. Monika Maślikowska is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Zurich and a lecturer at Zurich University of Applied Sciences. She was responsible for the development of the World Challenges Programme during the years 2017-2021 and remained a development consultant since. Monika currently continues working on one of the WCP-based research projects on boundary spanning coordination in dynamic virtual teams for sustainable innovation.

Personal page and contact

Gizem Kadıoğlu


Gizem Kadıoğlu is a Ph.D. student at the Faculty of Communication, Culture, and Society and currently working as a teaching assistant at the Institute of Marketing and Communication Management at USI. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Food Engineering from Middle East Technical University and a Master of Science in Environmental and Food Economics from Università degli Studi di Milano. Prior to pursuing an academic career, she worked as a Process Development Engineer at a starch production plant owned by a multinational corporation.
Her master’s thesis is on assessing the impacts of climate change on agricultural productivity at a global level. Gizem’s current area of research is centered around research methodology, with a specific emphasis on engaging with counterfactuals in management and entrepreneurship studies. Her research focuses include qualitative research methods in management literature, climate change, sustainability, and agrifood systems.

Personal page and contact

Alessandra Pozzan


Alessandra Pozzan is research assistant at the Faculty of Communication, Culture, and Society and is currently working at the Institute of Marketing and Communication Management at USI. She holds a Bachelor of Linguistic Sciences in Languages, media and digital cultures in German and Russian from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano and a Master of Science in International Tourism with a minor in eTourism from Università della Svizzera italiana.

Her master’s thesis unveils the role of context in reviving a mountain route ecotourism experience. Alessandra’s current area of research focuses on qualitative research in tourism, with a specific emphasis on the role of context in qualitative case studies and ICTs as a new context for research. Her interests span qualitative research methods in tourism, ICTs in tourism, mountain tourism, and sustainability.

Personal page and contact

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).

Personal page and contact

Marlen Heide


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.

Personal page and contact

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 [email protected].

    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 [email protected].

    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: [email protected]


    • 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.