CASE’s GCP in South Africa – One Week In

This post was written by second-year Duke MBA Jake Kiser.  Jake reflects on the first week of his experience in South Africa with CASE’s Global Consulting Practicum in Social Entrepreneurship.

I don’t think any of the GCP teams believe we are already halfway done with our in-country experience in South Africa! The first week has been a whirlwind of introductions, site visits, interviews, and late night PowerPoint assemblage over a beer or Diet Coke … ah … Coke Light, rather!

Four different teams of Duke students have landed in Johannesburg to continue working with client organizations as part of Duke’s Global Consulting Practicum in Social Entrepreneurship. Teams of three to six Duke MBA students began working with various social ventures in November and are spending their spring breaks soaking in a new culture and working in-person with their organizations.

After the workday, we’re enjoying exploring a bit of Johannesburg nightlife, where the reflections on the week are accompanied by story sharing and a lot of laughing. The GCP offers the opportunity to work with and learn from social ventures assisting people in need. The work is difficult, but the students are enjoying it. On top of that, we are all looking forward to a fun weekend on safari in Pilanesburg!

The Organizations and Projects in South Africa…

Junior Achievement South Africa: Junior Achievement has a program currently running that teaches enterprise development for students in secondary school. One of the biggest challenges these 14 – 20-year-olds face is idea generation. What exactly defines a good business idea? Where does it come from? Stephanie, Joe, Sarah, and Joe developed and formalized a curriculum from their start-up (Innovation Education International). They will be teaching their Process of Innovation to classes in Johannesburg and rural Limpopo in addition to helping Junior Achievement integrate this very first part of entrepreneurship into their curriculum.

The Duke team was wholly impressed by the students’ responsiveness to the first two days of teaching in Johannesburg and humbled by their own personal learning experience. Students identified needs such as a need for more schoolbooks and brainstormed creative solutions. The team’s favorite was one boy’s suggestion of paying one Rand for a “casual Friday” privilege at school. All money would go toward purchasing the school library more books, furthering their education.

Conquest for Life: Like many other socially-oriented organizations in South Africa, Conquest for Life is striving for financial sustainability. John, Misa, Jessie, Apoorva, and Eilean are evaluating how to make Conquest for Life’s revenue more consistent. The organization runs a network of centers in various townships around Johannesburg that attack crime at its source – motivating youth and empowering Conquest’s employees. The Duke team has also noticed a critical link between employee retention and quality of service provided, from which financial sustainability will flow. They have spent their first week visiting townships from Orange Farm to Soweto, meeting with employees and volunteers, and even having the opportunity to play with and teach the children. One moment that will stick with the group is seeing John – a 6-and-half-foot mountain of a man – play “Fire On the Mountain” (a schoolyard game) with fifty primary school children.  Stay tuned for the video.

These personal visits and interviews, as well as a braai (cookout) at Conquest’s founder’s house, have created a truly cultural experience for the Duke team. They will be delivering recommendations on how to better train employees, motivating them to stay with the organization, and impacting financial sustainability.

ASHA Trust: Grace, Eric, and Rama have experienced a side of South Africa not many visitors get to – especially on the first workday! The Duke team visited Bram Fischerville (near Soweto) and experienced the combination of overcrowded crèches (daycares), dirt roads, and a resilient and loving spirit. Then, in the same afternoon, the team had the unique privilege of meeting with the Development Bank of Southern Africa. Seeing daycare centers of 50 – 60 children in small one-room shacks made the GCP experience much more tangible for the Duke team, but this was coupled with promising meetings with the DBSA that helped illuminate the potential for financial sustainability.

The Duke team will be working with ASHA to evaluate a proposed revenue-generating model, but in a testament to the team’s dedication, they have also identified potential weaknesses in ASHA’s marketing message. The team will be helping to redesign the website and make a more communicable mission statement.

African Children’s Feeding Scheme: In what seems to be a recurring theme in South African organizations, one initial project leads to a desire to help the community in other ways. What started as simply a feeding scheme has now expanded to womens’ empowerment, HIV/AIDS awareness, nutrition education, gardening, and craft making. It is this last activity that the Duke team is focusing on.

The women of ACFS spend many days making handicrafts sold in local markets. However, the organization does not have the time to discern the correct cost accounting and competitive pricing. How should these crafts be marketed, and at what price? Where should they be sold?

Dave, Mark, Briana, Priya, and Jingyi are in the process of some of the more fun market research they’ve ever had a chance to conduct. They have been visiting various craft shows and markets around Johannesburg, doing some hard negotiation, and researching the best way to position ACFS crafts. The impact on the team is evident:

“GCP has provided me the opportunity to develop my international business skills while impacting the growth of another country. I have seen first-hand the importance of social entrepreneurship in South Africa, and I’m humbled to be part of a program that inspires innovation, risk-taking, and sustainable business practices amongst the local citizens.”

– Mark, First Year Duke MBA

“I have thoroughly enjoyed working with my client, the African Children’s Feeding Scheme (ACFS). The organization’s mission is focused on fighting malnutrition and empowering women in South Africa. Each day that I work on site with my client, I can see how my work positively impacts the South African community.”

-Briana, First Year Duke MBA