Meet the Startups in Area 31: Emzingo

Escrito el 12 marzo 2014 por entrepreneurship en emprender

Author: Daniel Pulaski

I just couldn’t find it. What was that job, experience, or opportunity, which would provide me an opportunity to leverage the experiences of my past with my passions to use business principles for good? And then it hit me, square between the eyes: at IE Business School, in the middle of my course work, from former IE students who had the crazy idea that leadership in business needed to change, because business (and its people) were changing. I had studied at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, volunteered for two years in the southern most city of Peru, worked in curriculum and program management in Madrid, and then I found myself in Johannesburg, South Africa, on the NexGen Fellowship, run by Emzingo, consulting for various social enterprises, entrepreneurs, or non-profits. It was precisely the intersection between business and society which all made sense!

I have now been working for Emzingo since graduating from IE Business School in December of 2010. Since then, I have managed over 100 students through 8 leadership programs, expanded our presence to Emzingo’s second site (Lima, Peru) and directly managed over 25 projects helping social entrepreneurs and non-profits in emerging markets.

How is your topic advancing social innovation, especially at IE?

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The NexGen Fellowship serves as an example of connecting innovative thought at IE, which is taught within four walls, with innovative action in emerging, dynamic, and ever-changing markets abroad. Once our participants return to IE, they use what they have learned back in the classroom and within their work/study groups, which provides a multiplier effect for learning. Richer students provide richer conversations/discussions, and richer learning opportunities.

Furthermore, participants host a session at IE (which will take place this Thursday, March 13th at 5:30pm) where they talk through their experiences and learning from the NexGen Fellowship. This provides a platform for students to «share» their personal and professional development with other students, professors, and administrators. It inspires further conversations and permeates throughout the student body.

One example is how IE has capitalized on the program offering. This school uses our program offering precisely as an example of social innovation within the business school model, differentiating itself among other schools when recruiting perspective students.

Please describe your flag-ship program, the NexGen Fellowship:

The NexGen Fellowship is a leadership development program, which works through social impact consultancy. It takes current graduate school students, in the middle of their studies, out of the classroom environment and into the real-life environment, in an emerging market.

Students spend up to 8 weeks embedded within an organization, tackling specific issues or difficulties, proposing recommendations, and providing implementation plans. They see exactly how business is done in these emerging countries, by living it, not studying it. But to provide context, part of the program design offers academic session, after-hours, around cultural (the BBBEE codes in South Africa), societal (HIV/AIDS in the workplace), or economic norms (informality and social inclusion) which directly affect these organizations.

Fellows are also paired with mentors in-country, who have been or are management or development consultants, serial or social entrepreneurs, academics, or have experience in the public sector. These mentors provide insights, models, and advice around doing business in the country in which our students find themselves in, which directly has influenced project outcomes/results.

Additionally, each student is individually paired to an executive coach, who helps co-create a personal development plan for the time our students are in-country. Many times, our students discover passions, motivations, goals, or even have better clarity over career changes, due to the relationship they build with their coaches.

This holistic approach truly transforms our participants and inspires them to use business for good.

What results have you experienced with this model?

Since June 2010, Emzingo has run 10 NexGen Fellowship programs and managed over 70 projects. We’ve directly partnered with over 40 organizations in South Africa and Peru, while 126 students have participated in our program from 7 different graduate schools, both in North America and Europe.

We’ve provided over 1,600 learning, coaching, and mentoring hours to our participants, and in return, our participants have provided over 23,000 consulting hours to social entrepreneurs, enterprises, or non-profits.  Over 50% of our consulting projects have worked with social enterprises/entrepreneurs, including Ashoka and Endeavor entrepreneurs. or entrepreneurship training institutions, including the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship. Our participants have helped in providing valuable capacity building which has allowed our social entrepreneurs to amplify their impact.

Topics which we have focused on include but are not limited to strategic planning, business plans, alumni engagement/recruitment, branding/marketing strategy, finance/legal, organization structure/process/capacity, fundraising/income/business development.

Please share anecdotal evidence of impact (including social impact and/or impact on students):

This reflection is from one of our recent fellows: «The Emzingo Experience was one of the best parts of my MBA at IE Business School. I can definitely say it was a life changing experience… it allowed me to rediscover my passion for Social Work… I am not afraid to say that I want to work for an NGO

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or think about starting a Social Business in the future. After IE I researched and applied for jobs that would allow me to work in something where I will be able to help people and to generate social change.” This student went on to work as a a Social Business Consultant at Grameen Creative Lab in Colombia and now is looking to establish an Impact HUB in Caracas, Venezuela.

Our field partners, such as Vincent Joyner, CEO and Founder of Zazida Centre for Entrepreneurship, in Johannesburg, have also been positively impacted: “Excellent programme organisation, brillant people, very professional. Keep up the good work!” or Caroline Mbi-Njifo, former MD, Engender Health SA, “What you

[Emzingo Fellows] achieved in 6 weeks is simply incredible!” Thulani Madondo, founder of Kliptown Youth Program, went on to be nominated a CNN Global Hero.

What is your vision for the long term impact of your innovation?

We feel like we’re just getting started and look to expand our program offering in a significant way. We are set to host over 4,000 participants by 2016 and positively impact over 180 NGOs, non-profits, and social enterprises/entrepreneurs. This increase in participants will directly affect over 85,000 community members.

Our flagship program is our NexGen Fellowship but we are currently expanding our academic offering with shorter-form experiential programs called Impact Learning Treks, focused around social entrepreneurship, impact investing, corporate social responsibility, and social innovation. Additionally, we are entering the corporate leadership space and look to offer a variety of programs tailored to company needs. Finally, we have launched advisory services, recognizing the need for skills-based support and technical assistance in not only social businesses but also NGOs and non-profits.

In its current form, is your Innovation ready to scale or be replicated?

Yes, our Emzingo NexGen Fellowship program is ready to be scaled and replicated. We have consolidated our program in South Africa (we’ve been running it now for over 3 years), and have already successfully replicated it in Peru. We have expanded our relationship from one client, IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, to seven business schools between Europe and North America. We have seen a true desire from business school students and administrators to expand program offerings to include outside-of-the-classroom, experiential learning opportunities. This experiential piece, coupled with the social impact component of consulting for social enterprises/entrepreneurs and NGOs or non-profits, is very much in demand. Students want in-the-field experience and those organizations in the field need technical assistance to help better manage limited resources; with access to international funding in decline, the professionalization and better utilization of already stretched assets is necessary. Students play a crucial role in this.

Please describe how you see your innovation scaling and/or being replicated in the future:

In the past three years, our focus (for various reasons) has been on the European business school market. We have successfully scaled the NexGen Fellowship to include five top academic institutions. But in our last program over June/July 2013, we included two North American schools and subsequently have seen a massive opportunity for growth. We are currently focusing our scaling on the North American market, due to market size but also an ever-growing emphasis to include social impact experiences within program offerings. With an increase in the volume of students, we see a need to open a further three international sites to host students in our program. We are now piloting Brazil as a third site, and will look to develop sites in India and Southeast Asia. This expansion will give us a truly global perspective which we can then provide to our students.

How has your model evolved? What lessons have you learned?

We began the NexGen Fellowship program in June 2010, as a pilot program, with nine brave MBA students who trusted in the “idea” of a leadership development program which works through social-impact consulting projects. In all honesty, neither the students nor the founders fully understood what they were getting themselves into! But at the end of that very first program, the students were sold. They knew that this experience offered them something well beyond a traditional MBA. They were able to successfully implement their knowledge and skills in an environment completely unknown to them, grow personally and professionally through the various leadership sessions and workshops, and better understand the responsibility that business leaders have in contributing beyond the financial bottom line. Of course, there were hiccups on the way, but through consistent feedback from our students, field partners, subject-matter experts, etc., we incorporated this feedback into each subsequent program, which in turn has helped us develop an experience that improves each time we run it.

Furthermore, we have recognized a need for shorter-form programs which students are able to experience during one to two week academic breaks. We acknowledged, by listening to students and academic institutions, that we could complement our NexGen Fellowship offering with a short-course format which highlights academic enrichment, social impact, and immersion in an intense 10 day period. Students who participate in the program are exposed to social innovation, corporate social responsibility, impact investing, micro finance, and social entrepreneurship, all the while experiencing different and many times conflicting realities, in emerging markets. We successfully launched a pilot program in September 2013, offering Peruvian graduate students, from a top business school in Lima, an impact experience in South Africa. We are very proud of this “south-to-south” movement and are looking to further impact experiences between Peru, South Africa, and Brazil.

This focus on shorter engagement with students, the increased movement of students north-to-south and opportunities for south-to-south learning, and our NexGen Fellowship which keeps on improving over time, has only come through listening to our participants, challenging our own assumptions, and recognizing opportunities for growth.

What advice would you give other potential social entrepreneurs?

I think it’s important to remember the “why”, in other words, why you are doing what you are doing. Stay true to your principles, and maintain your values, but also keep your head up (and not in the sand). This way you stay true to your mission but also react to market needs/demands.

Another thing to remember is that social entrepreneurs have the added challenge of moving beyond simple profits/losses, while they also take into account social/environmental impact. Be prepared for this and keep in mind that you are in this for the long term.  Short and medium term results will be very hard to achieve. Resilience is key, and surrounding yourself with a passionate team and support network is one of the most important keys for success.


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