Business Can Do Amazing Things!
As MBAs Without Borders (MWB)
continues to bring better business to developing countries, I have launched a new blog, forum, etc to share the behind the
scenes, successes and struggles that are the everyday world of MBAs
Without Borders. The Blog can be viewed at: http://www.mbaswithoutborders.org/category/PBlog
I do not claim to be an expert in international development, and so
what I will share and discuss is simply my opinions which are based on
my experience over the past 2 years, 7 month and 8 days of building MWB.
MWB was created out of the idea that business can do amazing things.
Without getting into the business jargon that consumes the insides of
Forbes, The Economist, Canadian Business…I will leave it at
that…Business can do amazing things!
When we first started MWB, we were heavily criticized.
At first we were told that what we were doing in terms of ‘bringing
better business to the developing world’ was not charitable. More
specifically “how can helping other organizations and businesses make
money be considered charitable” was the exact question that was asked
of our organization.
Sure enough, we knew we were right…we had to be, but in the end
leveraging that a precedent had been set in Canada already is what
really helped prove us right, legally at least. CESO (Canadian
Executive Service Organization, for example, who brings retired
Canadian executives overseas, has had their charitable status for some
time now, in addition to $8M in grants from CIDA (Canadian
International Development Agency) and $2M from INAC. Though MWB is very
different things then CESO, the idea of helping develop businesses
internationally with volunteers was basically similar.
Once that issue was squashed, next we were hearing “what can MBAs
really do?” In our full page story in the National Post in January of
2005, though a noble cause, MBA ‘experts’, such as McGill Professor
Henry Mintzberg questioned what value our MBA volunteers could really
bring to businesses in developing countries. In addition, I actually
received what some might call ‘hate mail,’ which were a few
hand-written letters stating that the idea of MWB was just fueling the
exploitation of developing countries.
The shots kept coming and coming and so here’s what we did in response…stayed quiet.
I invited, and still do, all those that who criticized (and supported)
MWB to signup to our newsletter and let them know I looked forward to
their continued interest as we move forward. To be honest, at the time
I also wasn’t so sure I was right about the idea of MBAs Without
Borders because simply I didn’t know enough about the field of
international development. I still don’t, as mentioned earlier, but what I did know and still
believe is the idea that business can do amazing things and some of
those amazing things can be done by sharing, not helping, businesss (for-profit and not-for-profit) in developing
So 2 years plus went on and we are here today. Our business (and yes
I say business, as opposed to not-for-profit) model has changed in that
short period and all for the better of course. We are a registered
charitable not-for-profit organization in Canada and registering as we
speak for our 501c3 charitable status in the USA but I emphasize
business, because we take a hard look at our model and treat it like a
I’m not looking for a profit for myself, our Board or MWB at all,
but I am looking for a good annual, if not quarterly return on our
investment. Personally, I’ve put everything I have into MWB, including
over $25,000 and over 2,000 'volutunteer' hours to date; I’ve been doing MWB
full-time (officially) since September and yet to take in an
income…it’s tough I won’t lie. Each month of seeing red is a challenge.
I’m not independently wealthy…I’m independently broke but I believe
in this. I believe MBAs wants to make a difference and they do. I
believe business can do amazing things! We’ve had over 2,000 MBAs from
Wharton to DeGroote to Cape Town to Melbourne apply and go on our projects in
Agriculture, Health, Finance, Income-Generation and Climate Change so
far; we have over 2,500 members join our direct network and our website
gets over 25,000 monthly visitors!
Our MBAs have helped women that were beaten and raped during the
genocide in Rwanda develop business skills that will help bring new
income to them and their families. Our MBAs have worked in Nigeria,
Sierra Leone and now Pakistan to help bring long-lasting Malaria nets
to over 2 million people in those countries. We have taught new finance
and business skills to hospital staff in Haiti, to locals in Vietnam,
Poland and Tanzania. We’ve helped a local micro-finance institution
engage more local women and increase its client base from 300-3,000 in
less than a year and we are currently helping develop the technical
skills of coffee growers in Rwanda and carpet makers in Cambodia.
We’re officially over two years old, but we really started September
of last year. With 1 project in 2005, 10 in 2006, we hoped for 20
projects this year but it looks like we’re going to hit 25 (at least).
We are continuing to grow and be innovative…with our partner, The
Incubator Group, we are developing an online social network that will
bring better business to developing countries via CIDER, our online
solution. Just recently, we have also begun working with our partners
around the world to understand how we can build up small scale business
centers that provide basic business skills to entrepreneurs in
Some great many more things are coming for MBAs Without Borders, our
MBAs and of course our business partners in developing
countries…why….because business can do amazing things!
For more information on MBAs Without Borders, visit: www.mbaswithoutborders.org