Aug 182015
 

EcuadorThe Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps (MSEC) is a unique study and internship program for UMD students to learn about and work directly with emerging economies in Latin America. Students travel to the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, or Nicaragua and focus on creating sustainable entrepreneurial solutions to complex challenges. Earlier this summer we connected with Rachel George, an undergraduate student who just got back from her travels to Ecuador through MSEC, about her experience with the program. Here’s what she had to say:

George: I grew up in Maryland, and this fall I will begin my senior year at UMD, majoring in both English and Marketing. I’m a photographer for the Diamondback, a member of the QUEST honors program, lead designer for the QUEST Marketing Team, Creative Director of the startup Meta Cartel and vice president of the Black Belt Club. When I graduate I plan to work in User Experience or User Interface Design, and eventually plan to have some international component to my career.

I learned about MSEC through the QUEST Facebook page. I initially didn’t plan to apply, but the more I thought about it the more I wanted to do something different with my summer. The MSEC program presented an opportunity to see a new country (and continent), and to learn how to help people in a new way. I traveled to Ecuador and was able to explore three different regions of the country. We spent the first two weeks in Cuenca, which is a beautiful major city. Over the subsequent six weeks we traveled to Pulinguí, a small village close to Riobamba in the north, Ñamarin, a small town near Saraguro in the south, and Timbara, also in the south.

The transition from Maryland to Ecuador was smooth. I enjoyed the differences of this new country, like the countless juices they drink with their meals — blackberry, strawberry, guava, passion fruit, tomate de arból (“tree tomato”), and even cantaloupe juice! The biggest adjustment was adapting to my rural homestay in the village of Pulinguí. It was very cold because of the altitude — almost 10,000 feet — and every morning we awoke to see the Chimborazo volcano looming over us. My host mom had 9 baby pigs, two grown pigs, 15 guinea pigs (which are a major delicacy; they taste a bit like super salty turkey meat), 6 bunnies, a cow, a llama, and a donkey. She would take the animals out to pasture every morning and bring them back every evening by 6pm. We ate dinner by 7pm and went to bed by 8pm.  In such a small, remote (and cold!) village there’s not much to do at night but sleep. The lifestyle was certainly different than what I am accustomed to in Maryland.

During my two-month stay in Ecuador I worked on a wood stove project for the Social Entrepreneur Corps (SE Corps). The SE Corps designed a healthier and more efficient version of the wood stove, and my team and I were  focused on 1) creating a model for distributing and installing the stoves in regions where they are most needed, and 2) designing a viable payment plan option so that more families could invest in the $200 stove (many families cannot afford that type of up-front cost; and, those who can least afford it are also those who could benefit most). Many people in rural Ecuador cook indoors, on wood stoves without chimney ventilation, or over open fire pits. The smoke can cause serious health problems, especially for the eyes and lungs. Our stove, the Andean wood stove, uses a chimney to vent the smoke out and away from the house, and burns the wood more efficiently. It’s a simple innovations, but an important one.

Our feasibility assessment took on an even greater level of importance when we learned that gas prices will increase in 2016 across all of Ecuador. The majority of families use gas stoves and a tank of gas, which lasts about a week for a family of four, costs $2.50. In 2016, a single tank will cost at least $25. This incredible price increase will force many families to look for alternatives, and for those who cannot afford electric, wood stoves become the only option. So it was really important that we develop a successful plan to distribute these stoves, and make them affordable as possible. The Andean stove project has been under evaluation for a number of years, and this is the final year of assessment. If our model for implementation our team designed turns out not to be viable, then SE Corps will likely drop the Andean stove project all together. The country director has our recommendations in hand. We do not yet know if the project will move forward, but there’s optimism that the stove project will extend for another year to help with the 2016 price increase transition.

The MSEC experience helped introduce me to the world of international development and the challenges nonprofits face when operating in other countries. While in Ecuador we dealt with many important logistical, interpersonal, and ethical decisions;  from those experiences I realized the significance of always putting people first – in whatever career I choose. We learned to make decisions quickly and how to create usable, adaptable solutions.  In doing so I gained valuable communication skills and confidence in how to produce solid work fast. These are things I can take with me and apply to the remainder of my education, and my future career.

I would advise anyone interested in the MSEC program to talk with Jenn Precht (coordinator for MSEC), review the Education Abroad website and the Social Entrepreneur Corps website, or reach out to me directly! I am happy to share more about my experience. For future students of MSEC, I encourage you to ask questions — to leadership, to your fellow interns, to your mentors, and to the people in the organizations you work with in-country. Learn as much as you can about your projects, about the campaigns, about why you are there in the first place. The more you know, the better able you will be to produce work that truly helps people. And, take advantage of the opportunity to immerse yourself in the people around you. MSEC was an excellent opportunity to learn about social innovation and to get a glimpse of what it would truly take to follow a path of international development work. I am incredibly grateful for the experience!

Aug 102015
 

San Ramon Cropped
The Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps (MSEC) is a unique study and internship program for UMD students to learn about and work directly with emerging economies in Latin America. Students travel to the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, or Nicaragua and focus on creating sustainable entrepreneurial solutions to complex challenges. Earlier this summer we connected with Alexis Marion, an undergraduate student currently in Nicaragua with MSEC, about her experience with the program. Here’s what she had to say:

Marion: I am originally from Miami, Florida and at UMD studying Finance and Marketing with a minor in Law and Society. I am affiliated with University Student Judiciary (USJ) as a community advocate, work as a Resident Assistant on campus, and a member of Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity. I heard about MSEC while scrolling the Smith Global site looking for additional opportunities that I could take advantage of in Spring semester, after my trip to South Africa. I guess you can say I caught the travel bug and wanted a longer in-country experience where I could actually intern and work with an organization or different businesses while in country.  MSEC offered a very specific program that met all these needs, with a business focus. I applied because I knew it would be a challenge and that’s just what I was looking for.

This is my first time in Nicaragua and I love it; the people are very warm and personable, and those we’ve met and worked with have really opened up their lives to us. Currently, I am based in San Ramon, Nicaragua which is a department in the North known for its rural landscape filled with coffee farms and beautiful mountains. My team is working on three main projects. The first project is with a local tour company headed by a group of home-stay mothers. Their goal is to start a community bank where the moms are able to pool their funds and take out loans for large expenses, like sending their children to school. We also teach them about the importance of managing personal spending. Our second project helped to re-open a Cyber cafe in the community enabling really affordable access to the internet, which is especially important to the children in the community. The Cyber Café will also serve to attract tourists since there aren’t many other places that have wifi where you can come in with your own device and connect. We developed a cost structure, re-organized the layout, and helped sustain their internet access for a few months. Our final and main project is an ongoing effort to engage with rural communities to provide free eye exams, utilizing a new technology known as the SV-one.  We collaborate with schools, local artisans, and participate in municipal events to share information about eye health and issues such as cataracts (which are very common here), and bring along eyeglasses that are significantly cheaper to purchase from our group than from local “Opticas”.

Two important skills I gained from this experience are patience and adaptability. I definitely grew in these areas, and I’m better able to work in teams toward a common goal. I intend to further develop these skills upon my return to the states, since these abilities are in high demand for almost any position. I also think the experience of interning internationally during my undergraduate years will set me apart during my job search, and will definitely help spark conversation during interviews. My global experiences have really opened my eyes to larger themes in international development, and sparked an interest in working internationally after graduation.

For those considering MSEC, I would advise coming into the program with an open mind. Other countries and cultures are not on a time crunch like we tend to be in the US – and that is okay. It works out in the end. With some patience and a willingness to do things a differently you can help communities get moving in ways you cannot even fathom, but won’t have the ability to see fully play-out during your short time in country.

Feb 242015
 

fairfaxvillage

University of Maryland undergrad Hannah Breakstone attended the Social Enterprise Symposium twice prior to the 2014 Symposium, but this one was different. Breakstone, interested in a career in Public Health, was determined to network and meet people in the impact community. The Social Enterprise Symposium, which  explores social, environmental, and economic change from a variety of lenses, was the perfect place for Breakstone to connect with impact driven professionals.

After attending a session titled “Inside Industry: Creating Social Value”, Breakstone met session speaker Robert Jordan, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner. Jordan served on the Washington D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commission for a neighborhood in Ward 7 of Washington D.C. “He was looking for resources to empower his neighborhood, and I was really interested in being a part of that,” said Breakstone.

After a brief conversation, Jordan was decidedly impressed by Breakstone’s enthusiasm for public health and experience at the University of Maryland’s Career Center, and promised to reach out to Breakstone if an opportunity were to arise for her in the future.  One week later, as Jordan was beginning a grant application to develop a workforce development program in Ward 7, Breakstone came to mind.

Jordan called Breakstone and asked for her help. The program Jordan aimed to cultivate would employ high school students to create green spaces in the city during summer break. The goal would be to teach career development skills to the students, helping them hone skills that would be relevant to future employment, and to improve the city. If they received the grant, Jordan and Breakstone would run the program. Breakstone accepted, and it wasn’t long before they won a grant from the Summer Youth Employment Program.

Breakstone, Jordan and a group of high school students set their sights on turning an old tennis and basketball court in Fairfax Village, Washington D.C. into the beginnings of a community garden and gathering space. “All of the students were paid hourly. This wasn’t a summer camp, and it wasn’t volunteer work,” said Breakstone. “They were working for us, but while working for us we made sure they learned certain skills.” She used her experience working at the University of Maryland’s Career Center to help the students develop professional competences.

The students also learned a lot about urban agriculture in Washington D.C. Breakstone and Jordan brought in local experts to teach the students about the basics of growing food, as well as plants that are native to the region and can be grown easily in a community garden. “I had no idea there’s a species of cantaloupe that’s native to DC,” Breakstone said.

In August 2014 Breakstone and Jordan hosted a big celebration and cookout in their early-stage community garden for the whole neighborhood. They invited all the students who worked on the project and their families to celebrate the achievement. Forty students completed the program and each one left with a resume and cover letter for future jobs.

Reflecting on the experience, Breakstone said, “I got involved because I’m passionate about public health, and for me public health spans a lot of different things. It involves lifestyle, resources that are available to you and where you live. We created a space to plant healthy food in a recognized food dessert. That’s advancing public health.”

The experience solidified Breakstone’s commitment to public health and helping others. After she graduates this Spring, Breakstone plans on pursuing this passion at Epic Systems – a Health IT company based out of Madison, WI.

Join Hannah, and a stellar group of impact professionals, at this year’s 7th Annual Social Enterprise Symposium. The Symposium is free for UMD students, staff and faculty, but registration is required. Attendees are free to come and go as class schedules allow. Register today!

Feb 182015
 

Njeri Warrington in Nicaragua

For freshman Njeri Warrington, studying abroad seemed an elusive consideration for her senior year of college. With the academic demands of an International Business and Marketing double major, Spanish minor and the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Honors Program, Warrington’s focus was on completing credit requirements.

But then she learned about the Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps (MSEC) – an 8 week summer internship abroad focused on social entrepreneurship. MSEC sends undergraduate students to the Dominican Republic, Ecuador or Nicaragua to help combat poverty by supporting small community-based businesses.

MSEC is both an internship as well as an academic program – a major selling point for Warrington.  She could study abroad and earn 9 credits toward her business majors and Spanish minor, staying on track for graduation. Excited by this new possibility, Warrington applied for the Nicaragua program and was one of eight students accepted.

The program started in Spring with a prep course that met once a week. The course introduced students to the culture of their respective destination countries, reviewed the work of the previous year’s participants and covered the fundamentals of social entrepreneurship.

In June, Warrington’s group left for Nicaragua and joined students from two other U.S. Universities. The first two weeks were spent preparing to work in the field. Students took Spanish classes and reviewed case studies with the MSEC regional directors. Warrington was already prepared to communicate in a different language, but the training also helped her adapt to a different culture. “The way we solve problems in America doesn’t always apply to the way we solve them in other countries,” explained Warrington.

For the remaining six weeks, Warrington’s team conducted market research, assessing the needs of the community for permanent retail stores that could sell ‘quality of life’ products, such as eye glasses, solar lamps and water filtration systems. The students educated community members about such products (many of whom had never used goods of this kind before) and trained them on how to market and sell these items. “There were a few times when things got really difficult,” said Warrington. “But my team kept an open mind and instead of taking something as a challenge, we looked at it as a learning experience.”

After Warrington and the other students of the Nicaragua group returned home, they connected with their peers who traveled to the Dominican Republic and Ecuador. Together, the students planned the final segment of the MSEC program – a symposium to showcase their experience.  “Everyone had a really good time working together on the symposium. We had the chance to hear the experiences of students who went to the Dominican Republic and Ecuador and compare them to our own.”

The students also met with Greg Van Kirk, Executive Director of Community Enterprise Solutions – the in-country partner of MSEC– about the positive impact the students made. “Much of our work didn’t have an immediate impact,” explains Warrington. “We trusted that it was there, but there were only a few moments where you could really see that someone was thankful for what we were doing.” Van Kirk explained how the student’s work was already having a lasting impact on the communities they served.

During the symposium, Warrington and her fellow students shared how MSEC helped build infrastructure for economic opportunity in the communities they visited, and the impact the program had on them personally. MSEC students developed strong connections among each other, and were deeply affected by the distinctive experience of working in a Latin American country. “We were out in the field talking to people that lived in houses that were more like big, dark huts. Their endless hospitality gave us all a deep respect for their culture.”

Now a sophomore, Warrington has studied abroad, added internship experience to her resume and is on track to finish her double major and minor on time. “[MSEC] is awesome! That’s all I can really say about it.”

Applications for the 2015 program are open until March 1. Register today. The Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps is supported by Education Abroad, the Robert H. Smith School of Business, and the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Feb 102015
 

 

Social Enterprise Symposium
The Social Enterprise Symposium (SES) is just three weeks away! If you’re someone who likes to push the envelope, explore big ideas, and aim to create a better world, SES is definitely for you. Here are five reasons why the 7th Annual Social Enterprise Symposium is the place to be on Friday, February 27.

  • Learn from an Industry Innovator [TOMS Shoes]. TOMS Shoes is an innovator in social enterprise. In 2006 they introduced the buy-one give-one business model, and have shown it can be an effective model for creating commercial and social value. Shira Shafir, Director of Social Innovation & Impact at TOMS Shoes, will keynote the Symposium where she will discuss TOMS journey toward success and the ways in which the TOMS model continues to evolve.  Coupon codes will be provided to everyone who attends the keynote for discounts on TOMS products!
  • Engage Impact All-Stars. Terracycle, Grameen Foundation, TOMS, the UnReasonable Institute. These are just some of the organizations who will share their unique insights and high-impact ideas. From our breakout sessions and workshops, to the “Afternoon Buzz”, SES is sure to impress with a lineup of individuals representing social entrepreneurship, corporate sustainability, microfinance and more.
  • Explore Social and Environmental Change from a Range of Perspectives. Did you know that faculty and researchers from across campus are using their talents to create a better world? From Art to Agriculture, Business to Engineering, learn how UMD innovators are addressing the world’s toughest social and environmental challenges.
  • “Invest” in Student Social Entrepreneurs. Aspiring student social entrepreneurs will showcase their ideas at the 2015 Social Enterprise Symposium “Do Good Showcase”. Stop by, wander around, and check out what these student innovators have to offer! Listen to a pitch, challenge them, ask questions, and when you’re ready, use your “Do Good Dollars” (distributed via program booklets) to “invest” in the Venture you find most promising. Ventures with the most “Do Good Dollars” will receive a matched award in real dollars, sponsored by the Do Good Challenge.
  • Make New Connections. Have Fun! Want to get more involved in social impact initiatives, but not sure where to start? Our “Ask Me About” Networking Reception is the perfect opportunity to get to know the many student organizations and UMD initiatives focused on creating positives social and environmental change. Close-out the Social Enterprise Symposium with an hour of delicious desserts and exciting conversation!

Convinced Yet? Good! Register now for the 2015 Social Enterprise Symposium. See you there!

Dec 112014
 

Testudo scarf

Winter break is just around the corner (breathe heavy sigh of relief!) Pretty soon the last final will be in, and you’ll be smooth sailing for a peaceful and relaxing winter break. But if sleeping-in and over indulging on hot chocolate doesn’t keep you satisfied for long, this is the post for you. Here are seven ways to jumpstart your New Year (and Spring semester!) to make a positive impact on the world around you. ‘Tis the season… Let’s do this!

Do Some Good. Do you have a cause that’s near and dear to your heart? Now’s the time to act! Transform that passion into a project and register to compete in the Do Good Challenge! The Do Good Challenge is an eight-week prize competition that inspires Terps to make the greatest social impact they can for their favorite cause. Students team-up to volunteer, fundraise, promote awareness, or advance their own social enterprises. The Challenge begins February 9th. Start planning now with these project resources.

Improve Our Campus and Community. Want to collaborate with UMD allies to advance social and environmental change on campus and beyond? Wondering where to start?  Check out the University of Maryland Living Lab Portal – a new online platform that connects UMD students with experiential learning projects that improve the UMD campus and local community. Work with your peers and University of Maryland departments trying to make UMD a better place to learn, live and work. Apply for a Living Lab project over the winter so you can hit the ground running this spring!

Learn from Social Impact Leaders (Like TOM’s Shoes!) Register now for the 2015 Social Enterprise Symposium – the University of Maryland’s premiere event on social enterprise and social entrepreneurship. On Friday, February 27th we’ll explore positive social and environmental change from a variety of perspectives. Allies in the School of Public Policy, Business, Arts & Humanities, Behavioral and Social Science, Agriculture & Natural Resources, Engineering, and the Academy for Innovation & Entrepreneurship will host sessions that motivate positive change and emphasize entrepreneurial thinking. Shira Shafir, Director of Social Innovation at TOM’s Shoes will keynote the event! Oh by the way, it’s free to UMD students, staff, and faculty so register nowto reserve your spot!

Volunteer. Connect. Network. Want to network with impact-driven students from across the globe, learn from social impact all-stars, and help make the world’s largest convening for social entrepreneurship in higher education a success? Sign up to volunteer at the Ashoka U Exchange. By giving some of your time to support this premiere social impact event you’ll gain access free of charge, and get a (very cool) free t-shirt. Email csvc@rhsmith.umd.edu with your name and hours of availability on February 26-28, 2015.

Sharpen Your Impact Skills. Applications are open for all kinds of incredible 2015 opportunities focused on skill building for social impact. Three that we don’t mind shamelessly promoting are Social Innovation Fellows (SIF), ChangeTheWorld.org Nonprofit Consulting Program (CTW), and Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps (MSEC). SIF applications are due February 9th, CTW applications are due February 2nd and MSEC applications are due March 1st! Send any questions you have to csvc@rhsmith.umd.edu

Get Inspired. Read a Book. Break into that stack of books you haven’t had time to read during the semester. Don’t have anything lined up? Swing by CSVC and borrow Mission in a Bottle or Building Social Business. We’re happy to make other suggestions as well!

Rest and Recover. One of the best ways to come back in the spring ready to do amazing things is to take a much deserved break! Trust us – R&R is the best way to bring the best you to your spring endeavors.

Good luck on your productive, restorative and enjoyable break. We’ll be here at CSVC, so feel free to drop us an email or swing by the office.

Dec 022014
 

Social Enterprise Symposium Volunteers

If you enjoyed the 2014 Social Enterprise Symposium, then you’re going to love what’s in store for 2015! Take your experience to a whole new level by connecting and engaging more deeply as an Event Volunteer!  In this role you’ll meet students from across the University of Maryland and beyond, as the 2015 Symposium will coincide with the 2015 Ashoka U Exchange (Feb.26-28) – the world’s largest gathering of social entrepreneurship in higher education. UMD is the lead host of the 2015 Exchange and on Friday, February 27, the Symposium will be the featured student programming track of this exciting international event. To get the most out of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Volunteers can give a portion of their time to the Symposium (Feb. 27), and another portion to the Ashoka U Exchange (Feb 26 & 28).

Not quite convinced? Here are 5 reasons why YOU should get involved:

  • Meet awesome people. The Social Enterprise Symposium and AshokaU Exchange attract some of the brightest, most dynamic people you’d ever have the pleasure to meet. On top of making new (read: awesome) friends, some volunteers will assist speakers before and after sessions. Can you say networking opportunity!? One of these speakers is the Director for Social Innovation and Impact for TOM’s shoes!
  • Free food!  If you’re volunteering during a time that overlaps the lunch hour, you get to dig in for a tasty feast. We’ll also have an evening networking reception with delicious desserts.
  • Save big bucks. Were you thinking about attending the AshokaU Exchange, but couldn’t come up with the $475 registration fee? Volunteer on either Thursday (Feb.26) or Saturday (Feb.28) and gain access to attend the other day FOR FREE.
  • Free t-shirt. Volunteers for both events get an awesome free t-shirt to remember the event!
  • Build credibility. The Social Enterprise Symposium is a signature event of the University of Maryland. The AshokaU Exchange is the hallmark gathering for aspiring social entrepreneurs. Be an integral part of these important events, and have something to brag about to your friends and potential employers.

So, are you ready to volunteer? We’ll be hosting an info session Wednesday December 3rd at 6pm in the Portico(Room 2109) on the second floor of Mckeldin Library (more free food!) If you’re interested in volunteering for either of these events, email csvc@rhsmith.umd.edu with your name and availability.

The Ashoka U Exchange will take place February 26-28, 2015, in Washington, DC and College Park, MD. The 7th Annual Social Enterprise Symposium (SES) will take place Friday February 27, 2015 at the Stamp Student Union as a featured component of the Exchange.

Nov 212014
 

CTW Symposium Fall, 2014

If you’re in ChangeTheWorld.org Nonprofit consulting you just finished up the CTW Symposium. If you’re in the Social Venture Consulting Practicum, you just had your Devil’s Advocate session. It’s time to take all of the feedback and turn it into a final presentation for your client. But what exactly does that mean and where do you start? Resident experiential learning pro, Pammi Bhullar, has some tips on how to use your feedback to deliver a strong final presentation to your client.

  1. All feedback isn’t created equal. Some of the feedback you get is gold. Some will be less so. Have a discussion with your team and decide what’s worth pursuing, what’s worth including in the presentation and what’s just not a good fit.
  2. Be realistic. It’s easy to get overwhelmed after a lot of external feedback. Boil it down to immediate needs and pursue what you can finish in the time you have left.
  3. If you can’t implement it, pass it along. When you get really good feedback that’s not feasible to pursue as part of your project, make sure to include it as an additional recommendation and explain to your client why you didn’t quite get to it. That feedback is important to both you and your client so make sure to share!
  4. Cover all your final presentation bases. There are a few things every final presentation should have: 1) a slide deck with notes 2) a final report 3) an executive summary of the final report. Make sure you clarify the target audience for each of these deliverables and tailor them for that audience.
  5. Reference Past Presentations for Inspiration. Having trouble structuring your final presentation and report? Examples of past final presentations exist for both ChangeTheWorld.org and the Social Venture Consulting Practicum. CTW examples can be found in the CTW google folder and SVC examples can be found on the canvas site. If you need help finding either of these, email Pammi!
  6. Use Your client’s Templates. If your client has their own PowerPoint slides and document templates, use them when putting together final presentations and reports. The presentations you’re creating aren’t for you; they’re for your client. Make the recommendations feel like theirs and not yours.
  7. Pitch another round of Consulting. Many times the project that you tackle will uncover other needs in the organization. So in true consulting fashion, remind your client that they can apply for the ChangeTheWorld.org nonprofit consulting for next semester!

If you keep these considerations in mind, you’ll turn all of your work this semester into a high quality, actionable report that will propel your nonprofit client forward. Now all you have to do is do it. Good luck!

Nov 132014
 

MTM Impact Career Workshop *adapted from CSVC’s October Quarterly Newsletter In Depth piece

Today’s college students are redefining career success.  Increasingly, they seek opportunities aligned with personal passions and the ability to make a positive impact on the world. Broadly, this area of interest in doing well by doing good has come to be known as the “Impact” sector.  Given this considerable shift in interest, universities are beginning to broaden career programming and services to empower students to pursue such goals.

The challenge however, is that many universities are trying to meet a contemporary need with a set of outdated beliefs.  When we think “impact”, we generally think nonprofit; but in reality impact jobs exist across a variety of sectors, organizational structures, and often hybridized business structures. Another common assumption is that the impact sector is truly its own distinct space, when in reality it permeates all sectors.  For instance, Calvert Investments and TOMS Shoes both empower underserved communities, but one is a financial services firm and the other is an apparel company. Both blend impact practices and language with the praxis and language of their respective, functional industries.

In these ways, the impact sector is truly a unique space and requires a different approach to job search preparation and planning. As such, we must look between and beyond traditional methods to get our students on track for impact careers.

Having the right skills, knowledge, and competency is essential, but it’s also only one piece in the impact careers puzzle. Students also need to know where to find, and how to identify, impact organizations that align with their specific career goals. Once identified, students must effectively market themselves and their experiences. Making this effort more challenging is the fact that many impact organizations utilize their tight-knit networks to promote new job opportunities. Therefore, unless an outside job seeker is paying very close attention, such opportunities easily go unnoticed.

In partnership with More Than Money Careers, the Smith Office of Career Services and both MBA and Undergraduate Smith Net Impact chapters, CSVC hosts an  impact careers workshop for students at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. This workshop helps students better define what they are looking for (a critical and often overlooked step), and leverage online resources to target and connect with impact organizations, as well as engage specific impact individuals within the space. During our workshop this fall, Dr. Mrim Boutla, co-founder of More Than Money Careers, will lead the workshop and then provide focused group coaching to workshop participants. Participants of the workshop will also receive one month of free 24/7 access to the More than Money Careers e-learning platform.

Our next workshop is December 5th from 10am-2pm. Learn more about our Impact Careers Workshop and RSVP by emailing csvc@rhsmith.umd.edu

Oct 292014
 
Eco Energy Finance SVC Team

From Left to right: Rodrigo Velasquez, Kallen Trachsel, Rohit Chowdhury, Tristan Williams

Last Spring Smith MBA, Kallen Trachsel and her team of three other MBA student consultants helped EcoEnergyFinance (EEF) deliver clean energy to rural Pakistan. EEF provides affordable renewable energy products to the most energy-deprived regions of Pakistan through a distribution network focused on reaching marginalized, rural communities. As a revenue generating nonprofit, EEF strives to develop diverse and sustainable funding streams through product sales and grant funding.

Through the Smith Experience Social Venture Consulting Practicum, Trachsel and her team worked with EEF and Smith faculty advisor, Oliver Schlake to develop recommendations on how EEF can achieve financial sustainability.

The MBA student team dove into EEF’s financials and operations. After analyzing the company, the team realized that in order for EEF to be attractive to grantors, it needed to boost the profitability of its solar lanterns while reducing operating and overhead costs. The team shifted the scope of their project to addressing operational issues that would lead to more sustainable revenue generation. They developed recommendations for EEF’s cost structure, sales and marketing strategies, inventory management and revamped the employee compensation structure.

Trachsel and her team heavily leveraged their MBA coursework during their analysis and recommendations. They valued each initiative using corporate valuation techniques taught in their finance courses, identified on-the-ground marketing opportunities based on their market management course and used the MECE consulting framework taught by Professor Protiti Dastidar to organize their recommendations.  “This was a great opportunity for us to tie together our whole first semester of core curriculum,” said Trachsel.

Trachsel and the rest of the team presented their recommendations to Shazia Khan, Executive Director of EEF.  Khan was particularly impressed with the recommendation to reduce EEF’s product mix to only those products the team proved had significant profitability, as well as the recommendation to change the payment structure of EEF’s on-the-ground sales team to provide greater incentives for higher sales. Khan plans to implement both of these recommendations.

Reflecting on the experience, Trachsel remembers the challenge and ultimate payoff of re-scoping the project after the team’s initial analysis. “We set ourselves up for success rather than failure. That’s what I learned out of all this; how to set realistic expectations.”

For students interested in applying for the Social Venture Consulting Practicum, Trachsel challenges them to look beyond the easy route of giving companies exactly what they want. Instead, dig in and find the core problems. “Find the issues and don’t be scared to show the owner what’s wrong with her own company.”

Learn more and apply for Smith Experience Social Venture Consulting or CSVC’s other Spring 2014 MBA consulting opportunities by visiting our MBA Consulting Practicum page. Applications for Spring 2014 practicums are due October 31st.