A group of 26 North­eastern Uni­ver­sity stu­dents spent five weeks in Bali this past spring, attending classes and con­sulting with com­mu­nity leaders, health care workers and spir­i­tual leaders to develop entre­pre­neurial ideas for solving some of the Indone­sian island’s social problems.

They were working all the time,” said pro­fessor Denise Horn, who led the social entre­pre­neur­ship Global Corps practicum through the university’s Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions program.

Using lessons Horn devel­oped for the new practicum, stu­dents spent the first week in cul­tural immer­sion, and the next three learning how to iden­tify prob­lems, do field research and build an organization.

Then stu­dents were paired with Bali­nese stu­dents, divided into groups and sent out to develop a social entre­pre­neur­ship project.

The meat of it was they had to do it them­selves,” said Horn. “It was pretty amazing the range of projects stu­dents came up with, and it was com­pletely on their own.”

The projects addressed anemia in expec­tant mothers, mental ill­ness, child sex abuse, and HIV and testing, and were designed as real busi­ness pro­posals that could be imple­mented by the com­mu­nity or orga­ni­za­tions within the community.

Expo­sure to the Bali­nese stu­dents and to com­mu­nity leaders “to get an inside view of the way their cul­ture works itself out,” were among the high­lights of the course, said Rebecca Eng-​​Wong, one of the stu­dents in the program.

For example, the stu­dents dis­cov­ered that youth unem­ploy­ment was par­tic­u­larly a problem for orphans in Bali, so they vis­ited orphan­ages and dis­cussed entre­pre­neurial projects and skills with the staff and residents.

Eng-Wong’s group cre­ated a puppet show, set to music, designed to enable ele­men­tary school chil­dren to iden­tify and respond to sex abuse.

It was the most intense work I’ve ever done in my life,” she said.

Stu­dents Douce Hunt, Meg Lazar and Jared Sholk’s project on mental ill­ness took a “non­profit spin” that would send trained vol­un­teers or pro­fes­sionals to people’s homes to show fam­i­lies how to prop­erly care for a men­tally ill family member, with the goal of suc­cessful soci­etal rein­te­gra­tion, said Hunt.

Hunt and Sholk saw first hand the human impact that lim­ited resources can have on the men­tally ill. While researching the project, they vis­ited fam­i­lies caring for men­tally ill rel­a­tives. At one family’s home, a men­tally retarded girl was chained to a wall. “(She) was staring at us through a cracked door as we talked about her con­di­tion,” wrote Hunt in a blog she kept for the course.

The family had to chain her up, or she’d run away, she said. “It was rough seeing someone in bondage like that,” said Hunt. But the family had no alternative.

Stu­dent Kath­leen Hunt worked on a project to teach basic health edu­ca­tion to ele­men­tary school chil­dren, as a first step toward avoiding sex­u­ally trans­mitted dis­eases later in their lives.

But get­ting to know a Bali­nese stu­dent, who spoke little Eng­lish, was one of the most rewarding of her expe­ri­ences, Kath­leen Hunt said, even though “we felt we were dom­i­nating with our loud­ness” in a country of shy, soft-​​spoken people.

Lis­tening is an impor­tant skill that Horn hoped stu­dents grasped through the expe­ri­ence. “It’s about teaching the stu­dents a little humility,” she said. “They can really make a dif­fer­ence if they learn how to listen to people.”

Most stu­dents learned this lesson, said Horn, because they were embedded in the com­mu­nity, working to create a plan for an orga­ni­za­tion that would sus­tain their social entre­pre­neur­ship projects.

In the final analysis, she said, “It’s not about the grade, it’s about building something.”