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Need help on an impact investing question? Work with Duke MBA students this year

Posted By Carrie Gonnella, The Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) at Duke, Thursday, July 19, 2018
Updated: Thursday, July 19, 2018

The CASE i3 Consulting Practicum (CASE i3CP) offers your organization the opportunity to engage with a team of carefully selected MBA students from Duke University on an impact investing question you are currently addressing.  You benefit from the passion, fresh perspective, independence, and technical expertise our students bring to the CASE i3CP.  Our students benefit from the opportunity to apply their academic learning to an of-the-moment issue in the impact investing space.

How it works:  We select 5 to 7 impact investing-related projects annually and match each client with a select team of Duke University Fuqua School of Business MBA students.  Teams spend on average 400 person-hours researching, analyzing, and making actionable recommendations that they incorporate into client deliverables.  Teams work remotely with you and are directly supervised by Cathy Clark, Duke faculty member and Director of CASE i3.

Previous clients and projects:  We're proud to have a 100% client satisfaction rate over the last 3 years.  Some of our 30+ previous clients include Calvert Impact Capital, World Economic Forum, Investors' Circle, SJF Ventures, Mercy Corps, Big Path Capital, and more.  You can read a Q&A with one of last year's clients, Quantified Ventures, here.  Some of our past projects have related to investment landscaping, impact assessment, product formation, and deal and industry diligence.

Final student deliverables remain confidential to the client, but a few of our clients have already gone public with the work our students did for them.  You can find a blog post by SJF Ventures here and from Investors' Circle's PCC fund here.

We're thrilled with the responses we've received from clients:  

  • “The CASE i3 Team was a dream to work with.  They were curious, diligent, and rigorous in their research and analysis – always ensuring that the work would be helpful and relevant to our organization in the long run.” – Calvert Impact Capital
  •  “We benefited greatly from the CASE i3 team’s diverse skill set and self-directed approach in analyzing opportunities for expansion.”  – Mercy Corps Social Venture Fund

How to apply:  Applications are open until August 31, 2018 to work with our MBA students over the 2018-2019 academic year.  To find more information on the work timeline and the online application, click here.  Email Carrie Gonnella at carrie.gonnella@duke.edu with any questions.

Tags:  Access to Finance  capacity development  education  finance  impact investing  impact investment  MBA  mentoring 

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Pulling Together to Beat the Middlemen

Posted By Kathryn Ernst, Center for Advancement of Sustainable Enterprise at Colorado State University, Monday, October 13, 2014
 

10/13/14 - This post is written by Armand Tossou, a Fulbright scholar from Benin who is an MBA Candidate in the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program at Colorado State University. Armand and his co-founders Aaron and Leana are starting a social venture that will support rural farmers in Nicaragua through increased access to financing and agricultural technologies.

“United we stand, divided we fall” is an old saying which holds true in most smallholder farmers’ daily experience. From lack of technical skills or affordable financing, to increasingly unpredictable climatic cycles, farmers face many challenges. And yet, what of those who navigate this labyrinth only to find that they cannot market their produce profitably at the end of the harvest season? This is typically where middlemen step in and provide a crucial service by purchasing the produce, but often at extortionate rates. In recent field work with my Growing Capital venture we were exploring an affordable financial solution for low income farmers by providing income producing agricultural assets - such as irrigation systems or greenhouses - on a lease to purchase basis. I had a chance to learn from the smallholder farmers of Nicaragua and observe their adaptations to this market challenge.

The stereotypical smallholder farmer

In the small community of San Ramón - a municipality in the Matagalpa department - Don Isael lives alone on his farm in a tiny mud house. He ekes out a living on a two manzana (roughly 1.2 acres) plot of land by growing various crops throughout the year. He can only sell three quarters of the harvest through middlemen or at San Ramon’s market square. Lacking credit from the formal financial system, Don Isael resorts to usurers for loans each season in order to pay for necessities such as seeds and fertilizers. These loans of 2,000 - 3,000 cordobas (approximately $80 - $120 USD) bear interest rates as high as 15% a month.  Don Isael’s challenges are representative of a large percentage of farmers in this region of Nicaragua. Even simple tools to ease the burden, such as a bicycle, are out of reach. In Don Iseal’s own words, “I cannot afford the repair cost when it breaks down.”

A bright spot just a mile away

A couple of steps away, Don Cidar owns a six manzana (roughly 3.5 acres) farm. The contrast is shocking; not only does he own cattle, but in the luxury of their higher quality home Don Cidar enjoys TV with his family. Unlike Don Isael, Don Cidar grows high value perishables such as tomatoes and sweet peppers in three micro-tunnels equipped with irrigation. He supplies two high-end supermarkets located in the capital of the department of Matagalpa. His success is no mystery, and Don Cidar owes it to his affiliation to the UCA San Ramón: a farmers’ cooperative which provides multiple benefits to its members, including credit for agricultural production, technical assistance and, above all, marketing. Through affiliation with the cooperative, Don Cidar and other farmers have solved the distribution puzzle and hence get a fairer price for their produce. Don Cidar’s immediate goal is to expand his business by acquiring more micro-tunnels.

The most uplifting case of all

Of the various cooperatives which I was fortunate to visit during my time in Nicaragua, the success of COPROEXNIC clearly stands above the rest. Incorporated in 1995, it has grown into a 3,000 member organization, and is Nicaragua’s largest exporter of sesame and sole exporter of organic cotton. By selling on the international market under the Fair Trade label, farmers in this network get more for their crops.  The benefits of pulling together into collectively owned organizations such as COPROEXNIC are obvious for smallholder farmers. By selling as larger groups, they not only achieve the huge volume of crops required to enter major commercial contracts, but also avoid getting stuck in the middleman-supported extortionate loan cycle, and increase their bargaining power.

In summary, it is no wonder that the recent Rockefeller Foundation initiative’s report on Reducing Global Food Waste and Spoilage highlights bulking and group marketing in the top 10 potential solutions to help smallholders escape the middleman trap, and thereby better reap the fruits of their efforts. The implementation of this solution however calls for innovative mechanisms to help farmers like Don Isael, who are too impoverished to afford the entrance fees and periodic membership fees required by cooperatives. While that task might look daunting, Growing Capital is committed to giving it a shot.

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Tags:  access to finance  field work  mba  Microfinance  nicaragua 

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TEM Lab Consulting Field Updates

Posted By Thunderbird School of Global Management, Friday, February 28, 2014

The Thunderbird Emerging Markets Laboratory (TEM Lab) currently has three consulting teams in the field in Myanmar, Thailand, and Washington DC.  We at Thunderbird invite you to check out these exciting consulting project experiences via the team blogs below!  Each blog page has more information about the specific project, and here is the TEM Lab homepage: http://emergingmarketslab.thunderbird.edu/

In Myanmar, where the Lab consulting team is identifying potential suppliers for Libbey Glass, they are learning and reporting on practical methods for triangulating information in the high-context-culture marketplace. 

In Washington DC, working for ANDE member WEConnect International and funded by the ExxonMobil Foundation, the two most most recent blogs have been thoughtful entries about formalizing organizational structure in a start-up, and the importance of supplier diversity.

In Bangkok, Thailand, our team is working for the award winning start-up Wedu, which is planning to introduce student loan products for young female leaders in South East Asia.  The team traveled to Cambodia to meet with some of Wedu’s first customers, and a few entries down the page the team reports about the most Tbird activity of all: catching up with alums in the city! 

TEM Lab is the flagship consulting program at the Thunderbird School of Global Management.  Teams of our top-tier MBA students consult for SGBs, Foundations, NGOs, Governments, and MNCs around the world through five-week full-time engagements.  The Lab is a great way for organizations to access global talent in a cost effective way.  Take a look at the website and contact us at Charles.reeves@thunderbird.edu if you are interested in becoming a client. 

Tags:  capacity development  consulting  MBA  Myanmar  Thailand  Thunderbird 

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