January 2, 2017

Making The World Feel Smaller

Innovation for Humanity offers unique experience for Global MBA


Lindsay McQuaid (Global MBA '13)

When Lindsay McQuaid (Global MBA '13) was looking for a business school, Carey’s global program jumped out. In particular, the Innovation for Humanity (known as I4H) course drew her attention; no other business school offered such in-depth, hands-on experiences in other parts of the world.

“I loved the fact that I4H was an intensive, working, on-the-ground project,” says McQuaid (right), who majored in anthropology and peace studies as an undergraduate. “It showed a commitment to that real experience, not just observing. I wanted to do something.”

I4H – a requirement in the full-time Global MBA program – is a yearlong course on the role of social entrepreneurs in community development. Students spend the fall semester of their first year researching emerging markets and underserved populations, as well as the challenges businesses may experience in developing nations.

During the January intersession, teams of students spend three weeks at an organization or company in a developing country – a hospital, educational foundation, or energy facility, for example – observing and analyzing their hosts’ business challenges. By the end of the spring semester, each team completes a report presenting recommendations to its sponsor.

Since the GMBA program’s launch in 2010, more than 450 students have completed the I4H course, working on projects in the U.S. and about a half-dozen different countries in Asia, Africa, and South America. The course is intended to get students thinking about the markets of the future, says Bonnie Robeson, a Carey senior lecturer who has led I4H student teams to India for the past six years. By supporting education and employment to help move people out of poverty and into the middle class, students are helping to improve people’s quality of life and create demand for goods and services.

“What if we could get more people to join in a functioning economy?” Robeson asks. “Once they have a job and make money, they can buy better food, get healthier, go to the doctor, and get eyeglasses. Then they can see, and then they can work.”

One recent project helped a company selling and repairing solar lanterns to develop a payment plan that would make the product affordable. The lanterns enable children in rural areas to do homework at night while adults create handicrafts or check on livestock, minus the health and safety issues posed by kerosene.

“We don’t just want [Carey students and graduates] to be entrepreneurs, but social entrepreneurs helping all of society,” Robeson says. “It’s a different way of thinking; we’re turning things upside down. There are projects where we are helping to grow an economy and provide an opportunity for people at the bottom of the pyramid.”

McQuaid and her teammates helped to develop a new marketing and outreach plan for a Peruvian cancer foundation that helps kids afford treatment. The experience has helped in her current role managing an Oregon-based team implementing software in outpatient rehab organizations. Innovation for Humanity gave her an awareness of differences in culture and communication styles – whether across national boundaries or between offices in urban and rural America.

Most of all, I4H opened up McQuaid’s sense of what is possible for her, showing her more about the world she lives in and giving her tools to engage with it. “It made the world feel smaller in a really good way,” she says.

Rachel Wallach's article first appeared in the fall 2016 edition of Carey Business. 

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