6/25/13 – Stories from the Field: This guest post is written by Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA student Andy Kumar, as he conducts his field work in Zambia, for his venture LimaLinks. A summer practicum is a required component of the GSSE MBA, and gives students an opportunity to put their education to work.
Three weeks have flown by of our summer practicum and we are around the halfway point. The winters in Lusaka are mild, the food is good, and people are accessible in Zambia. It is good to be back in the field. As an anthropologist, I have spent considerable time in the field interviewing and engaged in participant observation. As an MBA student conducting primary research through similar methodology, I am excited to gain new insights, drive impact, and create dialogues in the language of business. Lima Links, our project with International Development Enterprise (iDE), delivers real time market information to multiple stakeholders to create greater transparency and efficiency thus increasing the amount of, and equity in the Zambian vegetable value chain.
Tools of the Trade
Over the past year in the GSSE program, I have been exposed to and tactfully lead through the traditional regimen of MBA tools, all within the context of mission-driven business. Now that I am on the ground with my team, I can truly understand the value of my education. At the top level is language. The working knowledge and institutional memory of any number of systems are unlocked through language, and this is certainly the case as we conduct high-level interviews with stakeholders and experts in the areas of social ventures, agribusiness and ICT. Just below language is the organization of business. Through development of industry and market analyses as well as modeling, we have powerful lenses through which to examine project performance and credibility. As the team digs into the meat of Lima Links, we critically assess the project’s social impact, financial viability, scalability, and sustainability in terms that make dollars and sense. Efficiency and efficacy are the names of the game, and the GSSE experience has made this all the more clear through financial, managerial, and contextual training for enterprise execution and value delivery.
Drilling down a step further is project management. This concerns the logistics of organizing the resources we take into a project, and how to negotiate both the human as well as environmental landscapes. Through team training, constant modeling, role-playing, and scenario analysis we have come to the field prepared to work cohesively, effectively, and with sensitivity towards our surroundings. We take a human-centered approach to rapidly iterate and test hypotheses, consistently cross checking against our literature review and stakeholders. Working in development spaces is challenging. Creating, testing, and launching ventures is too. Combining these can emotionally and mentally push practitioners and researchers to the edge of capabilities. GSSE coursework increases these capacities through a holistic approach to mission driven business. The practicum cements this through experiential learning in the field. In addition, I am excited to be sharing this experience with a capable team, in a beautiful part of the world.