FT MBA Challenge – advising on long-term growth
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The Financial Times has partnered with the Global Fund for Children for its second MBA Challenge, in which nine teams of business school students will each advise a different children’s charity on long-term strategy.
For the fourth stage of the challenge, the teams must recommend ways for the charities to achieve long-term growth.
What is the first step when advising on long-term growth?
Taking stock of resources such as rates and sources of income is the first thing, says Katherine Koh, a member of the 3continents4children team, which is advising Pazapa, a charity in Haiti. Factors that affect the charity’s ability to raise funds, such as being able to show financial controls, are also crucial to future viability, she says. As the only body in its region that supports children with disabilities through services and small business loans, Pazapa wants to increase its fundraising in the US to secure its future.
Ms Koh says the team has also advised building local links to encourage more participation by the wider community.
Is long-term success always about growth? Chinmoy Mandal notes that it is important to remember the dangers of expanding too quickly. He is a member of the Ignition team, which is advising Dream a Dream in Bangalore. For this charity, he notes, funding and resources – whether financial or human – have been relatively easy to access. “But in the rush to scale things they should not lose their way,” he says. The charity is keen to develop a communications and branding strategy and hire more staff to operate its sports and creative arts camps for children and youth.
What are the main challenges?
For Elma Heidemann, part of a team helping a charity in Laos, the main danger is being tempted to move on to secondary issues before achieving the primary objectives. “You can’t walk before you learn to crawl,” she says. The charity she is working with, for example, is keen to build a learning centre to help improve the reading skills of children. “It could be a real boost for the local community but the concern is whether they will have enough trained staff,” she says.
How important are partnerships with other organisations?
For Big Brother Mouse, Ms Heidemann’s charity, partnerships with Laos Airlines and Laos Telecom would be ideal as a way to publicise the charity’s works, but she believes any organisation should proceed with care when considering such deals. “These [involve] high, aspirational goals and you would need to demonstrate you [have the resources to] commit to them.”
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