Lessons in development
Monday, March 3, 2008
To judge by their activities, one might think some MBA students at Cornell’s Johnson School in the state of New York were pursuing a degree in international development. Their projects range from water purification technologies for poor African communities to a sustainable tourism initiative in Croatia.
Students are required to apply social, economic and environmental conditions to their business development plans. And they are not doing this from a classroom. In teams of four per project, they have travelled to such places as India and Senegal to oversee the implementation of their ideas.
The activities of the Cornell students are part of a growing body of MBA coursework focused on the “base of the pyramid” business strategy. Known as BoP, the idea is espoused by influential US-based academics CK Prahalad and Stuart Hart, who argue that companies can help eradicate poverty by providing goods and services for the 4bn people who live on less than $2 a day.
For many participants, the attraction of the Cornell course was getting out of the classroom and into the field. Melissa McEwen, a Cornell MBA graduate, last year spent part of her time in Croatia evaluating how a resort project might?play a role in?sustaining the culture, economy and ecology of the island of Kalamota.