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Tobias Lorenz, doctoral student at the UW/H Faculty of Management and Economics, manages an online fair trade language school. Glovico (global video conference) arranges for native speakers in Africa, Latin America and Asia to teach foreign languages to German learners: Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Arabic, English and other languages spoken in development countries. The fee is above average for the instructor's country but rather moderate compared to Germany, so that both sides profit from the deal. German learners acquire not only language skills, they experience cultural exchange face to face via Skype, i.e. Internet video phone.

Tobias Lorenz came up with this fair trade idea. He conceived glovico as a non-profit and eventually self-supporting social business. He raised the seed capital of Euro 10.000 himself and is looking for co-investors. The founder expects that it takes some time to repay investments; from then on profits will not be distributed but reinvested in social projects. This is exactly what social business means, and this is what he values about his commitment: "I find that a social entrepreneur feels a different kind of job satisfaction. It is not about getting rich but being happy in what you do." But this is not the only thing he enjoys about glovico. "I have met the most interesting people in the social business world, realy fascinating characters who make visions come true, critical minds."

For instance, he was repeatedly accused of supporting teachers with his project, i.e. individuals of some status and relative prosperity. It is true that every glovico language instructor needs a headset, Internet connection and the pertinent language skills in order to teach. Lorenz: "We plan a microcredit program in order to recruit also poorer teachers for our business." 

Quality control is an important aspect in language instruction. Glovico interviews prospective instructors via Skype. "We focus on professional communication and Internet connection in the preparatory stage and evaluate a candidate's personality. Previous knowledge in didactics is not required. However, most of our Spanish instructors are professional language teachers who also teach offline." Instructors of French have no didactic training. Lorenz: "Africa is far behind South America in this respect." Glovico tries to make up for this disadvantage; a retired French teacher offers "teacher training" to African instructors. Lorenz: "Our main quality control tool is the Web 2.0 rating mechanism where students assess their instructor subsequent to a lesson. Criteria are punctuality, accent, competence, kindness and quality of Internet connection. We thus gather collective records on instructors. In the medium term we plan to intensify curricular development. We have ambitious plans and hope to expand the envisioned combination of entrepreneurship and social change." 

See the homepage of Glovico.

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Universität Witten/Herdecke
Phone: +49 (0)2302 / 926-0

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