Students Present Social Venture Consulting Projects
The Center for Social Value Creation (CSVC) at the Robert H. Smith School of
Business organized the final presentations for the spring term of this year’s Social
Venture Consulting Program on Thursday, May 6. Since its launch in 2006, the Social
Venture Consulting Program has matched more than 260 students with 65 nonprofit
organizations across the country through a strategic partnership with
a website that provides free web hosting to over 1,000 US non-profit organizations.
The program plays a key role in the initiatives of the Center for Social Value
Creation, which aims to develop a new generation of leaders with a deep sense of
responsibility and the knowledge to use business as a vehicle to bring about social
and environmental change. The program originally involved only MBA students, but
this semester 3 teams out of the 11 participating teams consisted of Smith undergraduates.
The presentations marked the culmination of a process that began back in December
2009, when more than 50 applications from non-profit organizations across the country
were screened by the CSVC to select 11 projects that could benefit from the program.
Clients were shortlisted based not only on their need and on fit but also, on their
ability to provide the participating students with a quality learning experience.
Likewise, student teams were chosen in a very competitive process in January. (Typically
two to three times the number of students actually selected, apply during each program)
The clients for the program this spring included Humane Farm Animal Care, Alliance
for Community Trees, Maryland Theatre for the Performing Arts, Permaculture Credit
Union, Preston Mitchum Jr. Foundation, Rutland Area Farm and Food Link, PACT, SportsChallenge
Leadership and Education Allliance, LifeSmarts, Bethesda Green, and Centro Artistico
y Cultural Buena Vista.
The projects were inherently diverse and complex in the nature of the operations,
the domain, the tasks required and the final deliverables. Broadly, the students
engaged with the clients to develop the business plan, conduct market research and
analysis, craft the social media strategy, analyze operations to increase efficiency
and cut costs, develop recommendations for establishing corporate partnerships and
fund raising, and to develop the marketing and communications strategy to raise
awareness and drive participation.
The student consultants presented their projects, focusing on learning outcomes
and reflection, to an audience of their peers, clients, staff and faculty and alumni
of the Smith School. They narrated their invaluable experiences through the project
and shared their insights from working with the clients in the non-profit sector,
highlighting the challenges they faced given that they themselves study full time,
leaving them with almost no time for other activities. In addition, the short duration
of the projects and the fact that the clients are spread across the country, making
it even more difficult to interact and collaborate, and almost impossible to travel
to the client locations.
However, the students demonstrated how they were able to overcome the challenges,
however big they may have been, and how they had been able to create value for their
clients by providing them with clearly defined executable strategies, putting to
test the team’s business acumen, skills and perspectives while also allowing them
to learn through the experience.
The Social Venture Consulting program under the aegis of the Smith School with
its vision to create responsible leaders has consistently proven to be a win-win
for non-profits and students alike. The non-profits get a team of dedicated problem
solvers and business leaders ready to tackle the problems that the organizations
themselves may not have been able to handle or foresee. The students on their part
get a platform to be involved with and bring about transformative social change
in the communities around them. The Smith community, though its voluntary involvement
in such activities aimed at creating value for masses thus consistently highlights
the school’s commitment and culture to bringing about social and environmental change,
Siddhartha Jain - Smith Media Group, MBA Candidate 2010