A newly minted MBA may go on to work in a large consulting firm, head to Wall Street, or even go on the entrepreneurial route. Wherever they end up – and while the degree is not purely indicative of one’s actual path – we can’t discount their potential to make big changes to our society.
Business schools around the world customarily send 40 percent of their graduates into the field of finance. A quick look at the statistics from Harvard Business School shows 35 percent of their class of 2012 entered the same field. Questions arose as to whether or not business students are taught in a way that has contributed to the financial crisis or prepared such that they could have mitigated it.
As the saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility”, and that is what the team at Emzingo hope to achieve with the next generation of MBAs.
Founded by Ramon Marmolejos, Amani M’Bale, and Drew Bonfiglio – you guessed it, MBA graduates – who conceived the idea for Emzingo at an incubator when they attended IE Business School in Madrid, the company connects MBA students with social ventures and organizations that need them to grow. The founders decided there is a need to bridge the gap between business and society and that there needs to be more responsible leaders.
Their flagship initiative is the NexGen Leadership Program, where Emzingo Fellows are placed in their field partner organizations for six to eight weeks to help with various activities including business development, funding, and performance management. Fellows also participate in a one-week, intensive orientation with workshops and lectures on topics including leadership, social innovation, and microfinance. This is where they learn about the countries and organizations with which they will be working.
The NexGen pilot was launched in the summer of 2010 with six students. Based on the success, the first program began in January of 2011 and sent students to South Africa. While the program targeted MBAs at IE Business School, it has expanded to include students from Leeds Business School, London School of Economics, and ESADE, as well as partner organizations in Peru.
One organization that they’ve been supporting since the pilot is Kliptown Youth Program (KYP), whose co-founder Thulani Madondo was recently nominated as a finalist for CNN Heroes 2012. Kliptown is a township located just outside Johannesburg where youth face immense challenges because of the lack of schools, health clinics, electricity, and proper sanitation. As a result, many children turn to drugs and crime. In 2007, KYP began offering programs and facilities for youth from tutoring to sports and libraries to get them off the streets.
“Fellows taught Thulani how to manage cash flow and how youth could benefit from having access to the Internet. These kinds of easy-to-do things added up to the creation of a three-year plan that helps KYP better serve the community and become a more sustainable organization,” said Pablo Esteves, an Emzingo alumnus who became the director for strategic partnerships and marketing at the company.
Helping communities is tricky business. J. Gregory Dees, who is often referred to as the “father of social entrepreneurship education”, explained in a recent interview published in the Academy of Management Learning & Education that his own experience helping local entrepreneurs in Appalachia was humbling and eye-opening. The community reacted negatively to the idea that a “guy from Harvard is coming to save us”.
In reality, it takes time to build trust and to show that one is listening rather than condescending. He warns that business students are often encouraged to be confident, analytic, and action-oriented problem solvers – skills great for business plan competitions and for the corporate world, but could come across as arrogance.
Esteves explains that Fellows start working virtually with the organizations two months before they enter a country. During the first week of arrival, they are encouraged to talk to and learn from as many people as they can.
“One of the most important things in the program is the orientation week, because during that week we stress to the MBA students that they won’t be able to produce change if they assume that they can flash their MBAs and say ‘We are MBAs, we have the solution for everything.’ ”
On the day of Esteves’ birthday, or November 27 for those of us who are unfamiliar, Emzingo launched a 44-day, all-or-nothing Indiegogo campaign to make a push for expansion. Three days before the campaign ended, they only had $30,000 out of the $50,000 required. You might call it a birthday wish come true or urgency at work, but the campaign turned out to be successful.
“We’re going to use part of those funds to expand. Currently we’re looking at several locations including the Philippines, Ghana or Kenya, and Mexico or Colombia,” said Esteves, adding that, “To make real impact, we have to start working with large corporations.”
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