For my not-for-profit project on the Full-time MBA, I worked with a company called Hope and Homes South Africa. This charity is committed to ending institutional care for children. It is believed that children raised in orphanages are often severely disadvantaged later in life so Hope and Homes are fighting to remove the need for orphanages across South Africa.
For this project, we were put in groups before we even met each other. Our group included me from the UK, and then representation from India, Peru, China and Saudi Arabia. Having such a diverse team was beneficial to both the client and for our own learning. Each of us was thrown in the deep end with the project as we have a mixed bag of skills and working and cultural backgrounds. Having different ways of working and communicating took a lot of getting used to, but after working with each other for a short time we learned each other’s strengths and styles of work, so we were able to position ourselves to deliver the best possible result for the client. I personally found I learnt a lot from working with people who were not used to a UK style of work.
The objective for our project was investigating the suitability for Hope and Homes South Africa to develop a new type of fundraising called impact bonds. We had to address what effect entering a bond would have on the structure and culture of the company. Essentially impact bonds are a method of funding that ties investment to results, meaning that should the charity achieve certain pre-agreed results investors would be repaid their money.
I really enjoyed working on this project as I genuinely felt we had made a difference to the charity. We provided work that will hopefully benefit them in the future which they wouldn’t have had the time or ability to do themselves. The biggest learning point for me was the need to quickly understand what the client wanted and begin working in that direction. Starting a project with limited knowledge of the industry you are working in can be tough, you need to stay focused, it is really important to keep the value of the client in mind, focussing on your pre-defined goal.
One of the biggest challenges for me working in such a diverse group for the first time was communication. Language is a particular challenge when working in a diverse group, not because of the lack of English skills in the team but more because different words can mean different things to different people and different cultures have very different ways of saying things. This took a lot of getting used to and I am still learning and adding to this skill every day on the MBA.
The best thing about working in the group was the sense of achievement we had. Finally, finishing our report and receiving feedback from our supervisor that we had done a good job was an excellent collective feeling which gave more gratification than any solo project. On the whole I found the project helped me to develop my communication skills for my future career.
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