The Do-good Generation

It takes a village: UBC students share their business smarts with local youth in Nairobi, Kenya Not everyone entering an MBA program is lured by the promise of big bucks. Increasingly, MBA students say they want to use the power of business to make the world a better place.

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It takes a village: UBC students share their business smarts with local youth in Nairobi, Kenya

Not everyone entering an MBA program is lured by the promise of big bucks. Increasingly, MBA students say they want to use the power of business to make the world a better place.

At UBC the Sauder School of Business’s Social Entrepreneurship 101 (SE101) program, headed by faculty adviser Nancy Langton, aims to make a difference internationally. In 2009 students went to Nairobi, Kenya, to teach local youth entrepreneurial skills and how to build a business. Student participant Les Robertson says the hands-on instruction will outlast any handouts: “This is neither a hand-out nor simply just business management/entrepreneurship skills; this is a hand-up. These are life management skills, and this creates economic opportunity internationally.”

By sharing what they’ve learned from their MBA programs, the SE101 participants “empowered the Kenyan students with knowledge that they can use to start to build a better future,” adds Kirby Leong, a past participant and current SE101 program co-ordinator.

The University of Victoria’s MBA program also offers students the chance to apply what they’ve learned within an international setting. Mike Valente, assistant professor in business and sustainability, teaches courses on doing good within the community. One of the four strategy pillars of the UVic MBA program, he says, is sustainability, which encompasses social and ecological issues. “So the program has started to build sustainability and social responsibility into [students’] projects as part of the curriculum.” Valente involves his students in an international field trip every year, and in 2009 20 students went to Brazil to help a local company that wants to bring the acai berry to international markets, while still involving the local community in sourcing the berry. The students were there to help advise the company on how to make their business model work.

But not everyone with an MBA has an international focus. Tony Lapointe, executive director of the Mission Community Services Society in Mission, B.C., is making a difference closer to home. While Lapointe was doing community work before completing an MBA at Trinity Western University in Langley, he now has a greater understanding of the business tools that are fundamental to any business, for-profit or not. “There were things for me that were relatively new and significant, such as finance and knowing how to apply the financial tools, or how you market a not-for-profit organization,” he says.

So whether you’re travelling the world to teach disadvantaged youth entrepreneurial skills, helping a company compete globally or staying close to home and running a not-for-profit organization, there are MBA programs out there that can teach you more than how to boost the bottom line.