Connor Scholars putting social entrepreneurship skills to work across the globe
Connor Scholars putting social entrepreneurship skills to work across the globe
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As the world becomes more interconnected, skills necessary to conduct business on a global scale are in increasing demand. So, too, are individuals who possess experiences and perspectives from working in nontraditional business settings or for nontraditional organizations.
Fisher’s Global Projects Program: Nonprofit provides undergraduate students with access to opportunities to put their business skills to work helping social entrepreneurship organizations around the world.
Global Projects Program: Nonprofit
India: Raksha Vocational School
Based in Kochi, India, Global Projects Program (GPP) students worked with the Raksha Society’s Vocational Unit, which trains more than two dozen special needs young adults with social and vocational skills such as carpentry, tailoring, catering and paper bag manufacturing.
The GPP team worked with Raksha to explore restructuring and rebranding the organization as a business; improve Raksha’s marketing to promote its products and increase overall awareness; and improve the way the organization records and analyzes its sales data to maximize profit and impact.
“This experience was unlike any of my previous experiences and, as a result, I learned so many new lessons,” said Madeline Lake, a third-year student specializing in accounting. “The culture in India is so different from anywhere I have ever traveled, but being open to learning about differences in your own culture and the culture of the country you visit is so important.
“Without an effort to understand another culture, there will be no teamwork, cohesion or collaboration. In the end, we were able to collaborate so well with Raksha and overcome our cultural differences because both parties were open to learning about and understanding the culture and norms of the other party. This made our work a success!”
Continuing the GPP’s longstanding engagement with the Aatmiya Women’s Economic Center in Patan, Nepal, a team of Fisher students worked with the organization to further its mission of empowering women through a focus on marketing, client relations and outreach.
Among the Fisher team’s accomplishments were:
- researching and connecting with potential business partners and creating professional correspondence materials for the center
- developing and formalizing relationships between Aatmiya and its customers, standardizing costs, and streamlining ordering processes
- creating a year’s worth of social media content, a new promo video, a GoFundMe page, and a new website
“This project was a great opportunity for me to step a little outside of my comfort zone and build a new skill set in the area of web design and online content,” Hill said. “During my two weeks in Nepal, I constructed a new page that highlights the women of the economic development center and the products that they make.”
South Africa: Estratweni & Philippi Music Project
While food trucks are commonplace in the U.S., Estratweni Mobile Foods is a pioneer in South Africa. The company, started by two friends, serves residents of the Philippi community near Cape Town. Using the insights of GPP students, Estratweni sought to explore increasing its operations from one truck to 10, and employing two to three workers at each location. Estratweni’s ultimate goal is to increase employment and to create a revenue stream to establish Estratweni Youth Development, an after-school development program.
The GPP team provided advice to help improve operations — including stronger administration in the form of keeping cash logs and developing a savings strategy — as well as proposing the idea of upgrading to a new trailer and hiring more employees. The team also focused its efforts on increasing the company’s social media presence by building a website, and creating Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts.
“My time in Cape Town allowed me to broaden my perspective on business and also the world, and it will certainly help me to think outside the box and work effectively in group settings in the future,” said Nicole Walt, a 2018 Fisher graduate who specialized in finance. “Spending the time to get to know the people you are working with and thinking about business challenges in the context of your environment can make a huge difference, and I have this project to thank for making me a better person and professional.”
A second GPP team in South Africa worked with the Philippi Music Project (PMP), a social enterprise created to provide an incubator for musicians from the townships in and around Cape Town. The GPP team worked with PMP to explore the creation of new revenue streams to help the organization with its goal of expanding into central Cape Town.
Students helped refine PMP’s business model to reduce duplication, and they created a marketing plan that called for enhancements to the organization’s social media presence and increased partnerships with tourism companies.
Working with Sibu Nyamakazi, the co-founder of PMP, the GPP team recommended exploring collaboration with the area’s tourism infrastructure and leveraging PMP’s existing Airbnb experience to reach new customers.
“There are no words to describe the passion these entrepreneurs have for building the community that raised them,” said Aruni Prakash, a third-year student specializing in finance and operations management. “Sibu said these key words our first day: ‘Impact first, growth second.’ These words served as our guiding mantra for the rest of our project, and we still talk about these words today. We were truly attached to Philippi Music Project, and were excited to keep working to help it succeed.”
Soles4Souls is a nonprofit organization that partners with organizations to collect shoes and clothing to donate to disaster relief or to create micro-enterprises in developing countries. The company is based in the U.S. but works in more than 127 countries around the world. GPP teams were tasked with exploring how the company could expand into the United Kingdom.
In addition to promotional outreach to churches, gyms, schools and companies on behalf of Soles4Souls, GPP students conducted a series of meetings with companies in the U.K, including bigword — the largest translation company in the world. The organization provides services to NATO and the U.S. Department of Defense. During the meeting, the GPP team set up a collection campaign within the company and helped create a partnership between bigword and Soles4Souls in which bigword offered to provide translation services to Soles4Souls.
“It was an amazing experience getting to meet with bigword, and an even better experience to have helped set up such a large shoe drive for Soles4Souls,” said Alec Feldstein, a third-year student specializing in finance and real estate. “With over 400 employees at it Leeds headquarters alone, bigword should be able to donate hundreds of pairs of shoes! This experience was everything I could have asked for from the Global Projects Program. I not only had an amazing experience learning about the company, but was also able to foster meaningful global connections.”
A second GPP team was tasked with researching and locating prospective storage facilities throughout the London area and surrounding towns in order to help Soles4Souls’ U.K. expansion efforts. The team provided the company with a research document that contained information on businesses, schools, warehouses, and churches that could potentially serve as storage facilities.
“I had the privilege of working with 10 other talented and wonderful students who had the passion that I did for the work and the solutions that we were putting forth,” said Mehdy Slama, a fourth-year finance student.
Slama shared his thoughts on how the global experience and his work with Soles4Souls helped London become his favorite city.
“Wherever you go, make a difference in the community that will last and that will impact the lives of everyone involved. Surround yourself with great people that help and encourage you to do your best work supporting a great cause. Working on our projects was fun and engaging, as was the joy we found in exploring London and all of its cultural aspects.”
Thanks to support from Chris (BA ’78) and Sara (BS '80) Connor and the Connor Family Scholars Fund, 33 Fisher students spent two weeks in Africa, Asia and Europe working on challenges ranging from improving outreach for people with physical and mental disabilities in India, to growing a local music incubator in South Africa. The program is conducted by Fisher's Office of Global Business.
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“My Global Projects Program experience in Nepal gave me the opportunity to try something new and learn about an area of business where I did not have a lot of previous experience. I am grateful for the challenges that this project presented and the professional skills that I was able to take away from this experience.”
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