Duke MBA Students Consult with Social Entrepreneurs around the World

The CASE team is spread around the globe right now – from Hyderabad, India to Johannesburg, South Africa. Why, you might ask? …

Four years ago, CASE developed and launched a program called the Global Consulting Practicum (GCP) in Social Entrepreneurship. The GCP is a course in which teams of Duke MBAs engage in projects with social entrepreneurs (both nonprofit and for-profit) in developing countries.

The course begins with classroom sessions at Fuqua where we teach the students about social entrepreneurship, consulting skills, and the global context in which they are going to work.  Simultaneously, the students begin working on their projects – interacting with their clients via email and Skype, defining their project scope, and beginning to conduct their research and analysis.

Over Spring Break in March, we take the students to the country where their client is located.  They work intensely for 2 weeks conducting site visits, interviews, and focus groups to gather data for their projects and better understand the environment in which their client works.

I am currently in India with a group of this year’s GCP students.  The student teams are engaged in a variety of projects, including:

  • helping develop a for-profit business model for agricultural extension services intended to help improve the lives of small-scale farmers;
  • assisting a health care foundation provide health education and basic health services in rural areas;
  • helping to improve the operational efficiencies of a microfinance institution (MFI)

It is an opportunity for our students to deeply engage in real world, current issues.  After all, nothing can be more “real world” then working with an MFI in Andhra Pradesh as the crisis in the microfinance industry unfolds. As the students work, the Indian government is setting up new regulations which could redefine the industry and, due to some politicians encouraging borrowers to stop making loan payments, repayment rates have plummeted from over 90% to less than 10% in some areas. (for more on the situation in Andhra Pradesh, read CASE Faculty Cathy Clark’s blog on the topic)

The students are learning first hand the challenges of running a social venture – trying to balance profits and mission, while managing the complex ecosystem that affects their client’s work.

At the end of the course, the students have helped a social venture in a developing country deal with a strategic issue, and the students have become inspired. Our surveys have shown that GCP graduates are more likely to participate in community service, serve on nonprofit boards or even become social entrepreneurs themselves! In one student’s words:

“The GCP represents the Fuqua and CASE spirit at its best: developing strong leaders while directly impacting the world in which we live. I have gained incredible insight into social entrepreneurship and have been inspired to continue working to improve the lives of others.”

To date, 168 students have worked on 32 projects ranging from strategy and marketing to earned income and scaling social impact. We’ve worked with social ventures all over the world, from Nicaragua to Belize, India and South Africa.

The GCP is a truly impactful experience – for CASE, for our students and for the clients we work with.  Want to learn more?  Watch our 2 minute video and hear in our students’ words what the GCP is all about: CASE GCP in Social Entrepreneurship