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Making MBAs Responsible Leaders

ESMT’s Social impact Club, formed in 2010, has been busy working with social enterprises and charities from Berlin to Afghanistan

In 2010, ESMT MBA students founded the Social Impact Club to promote the idea of social entrepreneurship and support various humanitarian initiatives.

In this interview, Julia Millard and Oliver Hasse, respectively 2011 and 2010 presidents of the club, explain why students at ESMT decided to found the club, describe the various activities they organize, and anticipate some of the projects they have in store for the future.

Why did you decide to found the ESMT Social Impact Club?
: Around half way through the MBA programme in 2010, one of our professors approached the class to help him support the reconstruction of a school in Haiti, which was destroyed in the earthquake in January 2010. A group of students got together and tried to work out ways to help on this issue.

The project gained momentum and we wanted to continue and expand the activities. The students involved decided that the best platform to carry on their initiatives was a student club at ESMT.

The school itself has been very supportive from the beginning. Partly, because this initiative is very much in line with the School’s goal of developing pragmatic, goal-oriented, yet socially aware leaders.

What is the main objective of the club?
: In line with the idea of responsible leadership, which is a major focus of ESMT, the Club's members seek to promote the idea of social entrepreneurship through awareness-raising and supplying pro-bono consulting services to social businesses and start-ups.

Additionally, we engage in fundraising activities to support third party humanitarian initiatives. For instance, projects currently underway include advising the social entrepreneurs at X-runner, a start-up aiming to improve the sanitary conditions in urban slums, to secure financing; supporting the reconstruction of the Haitian school; and raising funds for a children's aid organization in Berlin (Kindernothilfe).

How many members do you have?
: There are active members, like current MBA students, and passive members, such as alumni and faculty. Approximately a fourth of the current MBA class have joined the Club and most of last year's founding members remain loyal to the Club.

In total, we have now around 25 paying members, which is a great success given that the Club was founded in late 2010. The current MBA class has also started outreach activities to recruit members from MBA and EMBA programmes of previous years.

What do members get out of it?
: The main concern of the Club is of course not what the members get out of it, but what those that we are trying to help get out of it.
However, I think there are a number of ways students can benefit from being involved in the Club's activities: it offers a unique opportunity to apply their newly-acquired skills in real-life consulting projects, engage with the local community in Berlin and, more importantly, put the principles of responsible leadership into action.

What kind of activities do you organize?
: We focus our efforts on three main areas: consulting, fundraising, and volunteering.
So far this year, we've already raised €1000 for Kindernothilfe and are planning to hold a fundraising concert in the fall to raise additional money for the organization.

In addition, one of our main objectives for this year is to become more involved in the local community of Berlin. For example, we’re about to partner with a mentoring organization that offers a language exchange between high school and MBA students.

What was the last event you organized?
: The last event we organized was a fundraiser for Kindernothilfe. We held an auction at ESMT, for which students, faculty, and staff donated various services that were then auctioned off. The services ranged from a Night at the Opera (offered by a student who sings opera) to a cosy Italian dinner for two (prepared by a student from Italy) to the use of a luxury apartment in Dublin for a long weekend (offered by our MBA Director).

Due to the generous support of those who attended the fundraiser, as well as those who donated their services, we raised roughly €1000 for two specific projects at Kindernothilfe. One helps to promote children's rights in Guatemala and the other supports an initiative to provide school children in Afghanistan with English books.

And what are you planning for the future?
I am currently preparing a conference on corporate responsibility scheduled for the second half of 2011.

In due course, I would also hope to see that the Club acquires a consulting job for a non-profit organisation as a practice project. Practice projects are the 10-week consulting engagements that comprise a significant part of the latter half of the ESMT MBA-programme, in terms of time, grades and experience.

Do you have contacts with other ESMT students club?
: While building up the Club, we have actively sought support from the Alumni association. ESMT is a young school with a relatively small student population (around 40 per year), so there were not many Clubs with overlapping interests.

Julia: We've recently partnered with the Entrepreneurship Club at ESMT to bring Ashoka on campus to speak with current MBA students and other social entrepreneurs about what Ashoka does and where they see the future of social entrepreneurship (Ashoka is a leading association of the world’s entrepreneurs).

And with other universities’ clubs?
: We are in the process of establishing ourselves to become a member of Net Impact, the international non-profit organisation that promotes the idea of social business. Through this network, the Club would have easy access to the large network of student clubs of Net Impact. 

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