Last Friday I was privileged to take part in an uplifting show of creativity and analytic brio by five competing teams of MBA students. They came to Washington DC at the invitation of the University of Maryland Robert H Smith School of Business’ Center for International Business Education and Research. The Smith School is a member of GBSN’s Executive Board. Each of the teams – ranging from three to five students – had ten minutes to present recommendations based on a highly complex case, followed by ten minutes of questions and answers with the jury of five, of which I was a member.
The case focused on the question: “Do private enterprises and market practices have a place in solving malnutrition?” GBSN has been asked by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (http://www.gainhealth.org/), a major international nonprofit development organization, to harness its worldwide network of 70 leading business schools in order to research the issue in five environments where GAIN is active: Ivory Coast, Kenya, South Africa, and India (Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan). Student teams from the Tuck School of Business (at Dartmouth) fanned out to the four countries and produced the underpinnings of the case, which was written by Nancy Brandwein and Amanda Bullogh.
The student teams were asked what they would recommend to GAIN management.
The competing student teams had to master the enormous complexity of each of the five environments, and try at the same time to come up with recommendations that make sense across specific situations. They did a marvelous job. I was really thrilled and hugely impressed by all of the team presentations, and the jury had a very hard time deciding which team would receive the first and second prizes.
The winner was one of the two “home teams” of the Smith School. Like the other teams, they presented an excellent framework, which GAIN can use in order to enhance nutritional outcomes. In my opinion, the winning team conveyed a “real world awareness” which went beyond generic conceptual frameworks, and that is why I gave them my vote. The winners of the second prize, amazingly, had flown to Washington DC all the way from Seattle (University of Washington). But all the team presentations were impressive.
I came out of this very well-organized event, feeling very happy, because I had seen once again how highly-motivated MBA students can make a real difference in tackling some of the most intractable problems in international development, among which infant malnutrition surely ranks very high.
Congratulations to the students and to the organizers!
Guy Pfeffermann is the Founder & CEO of the Global Business School Network