Social Entrepreneurship is the application of business skills to social issues, and a focus on the triple bottom line; People, Planet, and Profit.
Westminster MBA Student Ashley Petherick and other MBA students recently travelled to Uganda to consult on rural water issues working with the charities “Busoga Trust” and “Whave”, for the MBA elective module “Social Entrepreneurship”. The module utilises experiential learning; the process of learning through experience, in management consulting. What greater opportunity than to work on a complex and significant social issue, in a challenging overseas environment, like the issue of clean water in rural Uganda.
Clean water is a fundamental to human life.
There is a positive correlation between the amount of water used to eat, drink, cook with, and use for personal hygiene, and your health and well-being. Better health is likely to enable improved education and employment, thus leading to greater wealth – which is also positively correlated to health and well-being. Water really is the source of life; chemically, and socially.
Rural Uganda is one of the world’s poorest nations, and has significant environmental, economic, and social challenges with clean water. It’s likely the clean water issue is a significant constraint to rural communities’ self-determination, and their ability to improve health, wealth, and well-being, on a personal and national level.
For 6 weeks we conducted literature research and internet based interviews of charity workers in Uganda, to understand the PESTLE environment, to gain a deep understanding of the issue, the impact on rural communities, the solutions currently in place, and the opportunities and benefits presented in improving the situation for the everyday lives of rural communities in Uganda.
Following our literature research, we spent a further 2 weeks in Jinja, Uganda, and the surrounding rural communities. It’s this time that the facts and figures start to come to life.
For instance, witnessing women and children carrying 30kg of water from the well every day for the health of their families highlights the effort daily required, for something as fundamental to a healthy life as clean water. It personalises the fact these women and children are using their time, which could be spent in education, or employment. Realising this effort can sometimes be too much of a burden, and cause communities to collect from closer, but contaminated water sources drives home the realisation that contaminated water leads to diarrhoea, accounting for the deaths of 16% of children under 5.
Realising the average wage is less than $USD2/day (PPP of $USD1740/year/person), not for one year, but a lifetime, indeed for generations, and experiencing the state of national infrastructure such as roading, health centres, and personal housing, makes you more deeply consider how aid might help or hinder. While finance is a key constraint, helicopter drops of money may create good news headlines, but are likely to be short term in nature, possibly “misdirected to other beneficiaries”, and be ultimately unsustainable. The importance of solutions which fit into the economic and social context are made more apparent, and bring to light personal and subconscious bias and judgements.
The 2 week trip provides many more learning opportunities than I initially expected. Opportunities for personal growth are abundant, and appear in areas that I wasn’t first aware of, indeed at times even ready for. Experiential learning of management consultancy in this context provided opportunities to understand the process of management consulting better, but also to realise the personal motivation and enthusiasm created when working on projects which align with personal values. Further, to feel like skills being learnt during University Business Studies can be applied for the direct benefit of people’s health, and well-being.
The opportunity provided through the Westminster MBA Social Entrepreneurship module is rare, one which I’ve found provides as much benefit to the student, as it does to the client charity and their beneficiaries. During my time in Uganda, I wrote a brief Blog. Images are also on available Instagram: ashpetherick with the tag #MBAvisitsUganda Twitter: @ashpetherick
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