Fasika Delessa '18 writes about an evening of impact and celebration at the Change the World Consulting Showcase, Nov. 15, 2017, at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.
This month, 63 students apart of the Center for Social Value Creation’s Change the World Consulting program, one of the center’s longest-standing initiatives, came together to celebrate, reflect and learn at the semi-annual Change the World Showcase. Every semester, Change the World student consultants provide free business consulting services to local nonprofits and social enterprises on the frontlines of addressing large-scale societal issues, from food insecurity, human trafficking, homelessness, and more.
Change the World Consulting is a program best described as a win-win; students bring new energy, fresh perspectives, and research-driven solutions to resource-limited organizations, while gaining a competitive edge in future applications with real-world experience under their belts. Undergraduate and graduate students from across the university are placed in teams of four-to-five and use their talents to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom and recommend unique solutions to complex business challenges faced by local organizations. This semester, teams invested over 3,024 hours providing services to the following organizations: NooshTube, Shelters to Shutters, Shepherd’s Table, Trees for the Future, The University of Maryland SAFE Center, ArtsCentric, Baltimore Orchard Project, Habitat for Humanity, Environmental Finance Center, and Write to Be.
Kirsten Craft, assistant director of the Center for Social Value Creation, kicked off the showcase by first thanking students for their hard work and also thanking clients for their trust and openness throughout the projects. Craft then addressed the growing nonprofit landscape in Maryland, with over 30,000 in the state and growing, along with 250,000 of the state’s residents employed by a nonprofit. CTW consultants make a measurable, tremendous impact on the state, Craft said, through their months-long efforts to help nonprofit clients better serve their communities. After Craft’s remarks, Kim Glinka, director of the Center for Social Value Creation, welcomed the consultants, thanked them for their efforts, and encouraged students to continue engaging with the center long after the semester ends.
At the close of Craft’s remarks, the portion of the evening where teams showcased their findings began. The teams selected one spokesperson from among each of their 10 groups to represent them. In five-minute rotations, all 10 representatives took to the front of the room over the span of the evening and formally presented their team's current recommendations along with questions for the audience. During the mini-presentations, audience-members wrote down feedback on sticky notes, which were then laid around the room on posters that teams could take home to process and implement final recommendations.
For Zimberlyn Bolton, a first-year MBA student and consultant for Shepherd's Table, the interactive nature of the showcase was “really helpful, it was great being able to look at things from different angles. And to know other teams had similar experiences and challenges...hearing how they worked through them will help us better impact our own client.”
After a semester of working within their own teams, junior JoAnna Mak, consultant for Baltimore Orchard Project, appreciated everyone being brought together through the showcase, stating, “Being here, and seeing the work that everyone has done, is really encouraging...it’s inspiring to see the breakthroughs other teams had in their projects.”
In addition to the sense of solidarity fostered by the showcase, the evening also solidified Mak’s “interest in working in the social impact space.” She described how the Center for Social Value Creation, through various course offerings and its signature Change the World Consulting program, assured her she “could work for an organization that was trying to make positive change” with her business degree.
Nicole Valentine, a senior government and politics major, attended the showcase simply to learn more about the program, and hearing the teams speak about their direct experiences with clients, reinforced everything she loves about the social-sector space.
This semester, teams worked exclusively with local organizations, intentionally developed by Craft, who said through local partnerships, “students are able to get a better feel for clients problems because they can see their client-in house… and understand what it’s really like to be in that environment, which they can then use as a framework for their recommendations.”
In addition, Craft said, “the local-focus has allowed the University to foster longstanding relationships with the surrounding nonprofit community, with clients signing up to do the program semester after semester....We’ve built that trust, which says a lot about the work the students do.”
Students now have the remainder of the semester to take all they learned from their fellow consultants at the showcase and develop final recommendations for their clients; all of which will ultimately help build a more efficient nonprofit and social enterprise community in Maryland.
More information about Change the World consulting can be found on the website.