Making an impact – not just talking the talk

A few weeks ago I read a column about another (very well-known) business school, which announced with great fanfare how they are globalising: they will send their entire class of MBA students on a week-long visit to far flung countries and continents, during which the students will tour companies, watching presentations and discussing with local managers.


All our students undertake at least one project, and our MBAs do two projects with companies over the one year of their studies: one with local start-ups in the Cambridge entrepreneurial environment and one five-week project anywhere in the world.  This isn’t industrial tourism but real engagement with real impact…  Maybe we haven’t publicly talked about this enough in the past.  Let me give you a few examples.

One project was with Camfed International, a Cambridge-based international NGO dedicated to eradicating poverty in rural Africa through the education of girls and young women. Camfed has (with the University of Cambridge and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women initiative) reached 434 young women with an experiential eight-month training programme designed to build the capacity and confidence of these women in rural Zambia and Zimbabwe by equipping them with business, management, social entrepreneurial and IT skills that they can apply in their local communities. The student team proposed an appropriate methodology to develop technology learning platforms in order to promote young women’s leadership and entrepreneurship in Africa, extending access to women living in some of the remotest communities.

A senior Camfed manager comments, “I would like to thank the team – they quickly developed an understanding of the challenges specific to the context they were exploring as well as the scale and value of the opportunity. The recommendations are highly tailored to the unique needs of Camfed’s clients, relevant, timely and valuable, and we look forward to exploring next steps to put them into practice.”

In other words, our students aren’t merely touring companies; they are producing tangible results – having an impact.

The second team I want to present to you travelled in Israel and Palestine to work with a well-known North American software company, creating a roadmap for developing the company’s developer network in Palestine, and to investigate the funding models for promising start-ups that might emerge from this network.

“The team did a fantastic job,” says the business development director of the software company.  “They hit the ground running with many meetings in London the first week. Then they headed out to the Levant to dig into the meat – they were very flexible and adapted quickly to our unconventional and unstructured demands. Their output is incredibly valuable and has saved us months of time. Furthermore, the team was just delightful to work with and had such productive teamwork.”

That is impact.

The third team travelled to the Pacific Northwest of the US to work with a ballet company whose aim is to set new standards for artistic excellence and creativity.  The Cambridge student team created a forecasting tool to help identify production mixes that could consistently deliver sustainable financial contributions.

The CFO of the ballet company is grateful.  “This project will serve as a good resource as a long-term strategic tool for the organisation. The Cambridge team’s recommendations were well thought through and took into consideration the organisation’s culture.  The budget tool created provides a simple model of the existing organisation, enabling experimentation with various programming mixes to potentially streamline the budgeting process.

That is impact.

The fourth team stayed close to home, in London.  This team evaluated the opportunity, and developed recommendations and strategies, to maximise the potential of the Olympic Park site post the Olympic Games.

A senior project manager of Events for London describes the outcome as follows.  “The team proved to be excellent ambassadors for us; they were able to get a very good understanding of the key issues across a broad spectrum of stakeholders in a short space of time. Their recommendations were well articulated and very well received by a wide range of interested stakeholders. The Mayor of London’s Marketing Director sat in on their final presentation and was really impressed. We will ensure that their recommendations are considered as part of the London 2012 legacy.”

That is impact.

I mentored one MBA project myself: the team did an outstanding job for an industrial company in Germany, developing a set of recommendations to better purchase custom-made parts for the company’s project-based business.  The team succeeded in identifying, and recommending improvements for, supply chain limitations that the company had not articulated on its own.  I was proud to be involved with this team (they know who they are); the only reason I’m not telling you about this project is because I don’t want to seem to be favouring my own mentees.

These five projects delivered value across four continents.  The strategy of Cambridge Judge Business School is not “globalisation”- we are already global, our students come from 40 different countries.  Education at Cambridge Judge is about transformation and impact.  Let’s spread the word.

Student projects

Student consultancy projects are a fantastic way for MBA, MPhil and MFin students to bridge theory and practice and acquire new business skills. We would  like to thank those alumni who have helped secure projects for our current classes. If you are interested in sponsoring a student project, you can find out more on the School’s website.

4 Responses

  1. David Goldman

    I truly believed in this school. They developed good leaders. They provide professionalism in every aspect. A well respected school.

  2. Joe Ellison

    That’s right: Making an impact especially to the indigenous is business with a heart. What is globalizing if you only go touring? That’s merely a show and nothing in it really.

  3. Kat

    The idea of working with faculty from a respected school instead of any old “consultant” is one more businesses need to look into. There are definitive advantages to taking the time to truly understand and build a solid plan for the future, instead of tossing a few reports around and then forgetting them.

  4. John

    What a great hands on experience for MBA students. I took my classes online and so was never able to be involved to a certain degree. This looks like a win-win for both the students and the businesses they assist.

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