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Four SOM students traveled to Bihar, India to work with their partner organization, i-Saksham.

Global Social Entrepreneurship in Action: Two stories of partnering with social enterprises in India

SOM and Jackson students presented at the Social Impact Lab on their work with Goonj and i-Saksham, two social enterprises seeking to disrupt current systems in India to improve the lives of those living at the bottom of the pyramid.

From my perspective, the Global Social Entrepreneurship (GSE) course is a standout example of how Yale SOM strives to be the MBA program most integrated with its home university, the most distinctively global U.S. business school, and the best source of elevated leaders for all sectors and regions. Each year, graduate students from across Yale University have the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real world challenges currently facing social enterprises in emerging markets.

GSE is a semester-long course that pairs student groups with social enterprises in countries such as India, South Africa, Indonesia and Ghana. Students have an opportunity to participate in the Spring GSE course, which rotates countries each year, or the Fall GSE course, which partners exclusively with organizations across India. 

In March 2018, two of the five student groups from the GSE India course presented on their work at Social Impact Lab. Each group spent a half semester working remotely with their partner organization and then spent two weeks in India seeing their organization’s programming first-hand, conducting research, and meeting key stakeholders.

Vicki van der Westhuizen (SOM MAM ’18), Diwura Oladepo (SOM MAM ’18), Allan Wie (SOM MAM ’18), and Beth Goldberg (Jackson MA/SOM MBA ’18), traveled to Bihar in Northern India. Bihar has the lowest per capita income and the lowest literacy rate in India. The team’s partner organization, i-Saksham, seeks to address both issues.

i-Saksham provides quality primary education and skills to children and youth across Bihar. The three-year-old organization has reached almost 8,000 students so far through its community educator program. i-Saksham partnered with the Yale GSE team to build out the organization’s monitoring and evaluation framework and determine what aspects of its model were working well and what components needed strengthening.

The team from Yale conducted research to assess and catalog models of supplementary education from around the world and participated in onsite visits to observe differences between i-Saksham-trained tutors and non-i-Saksham tutors. The findings from the literature and onsite research informed their recommendations, in particular a framework they developed for Monitoring and Evaluation.

In contrast to i-Saksham, which is still a relatively young organization, the second GSE team that presented had partnered with Goonj, a veteran social enterprise with more than 18 years of experience working in 22 states across India. Tabish Azeem (Jackson MA ‘19), Alexia Gangotena (SOM MBA ’18) and Boatemaa Manu-Antwi (SOM MAM ’18) developed a feasibility assessment framework to help adapt the Goonj model to other countries.

Goonj seeks to address the basic, but often ignored, needs of rural communities across India, such as a lack of clothing. Goonj upcycles material from urban areas and transforms it into family kits that contain blankets, clothing, sanitary pads, and other resources that rural communities lack. The Yale GSE team worked with Goonj to explore how the program could be adapted and launched in other countries.  

The team developed benchmarks for successful scale-up, including a strong mission and vision, standardized operations, deep community engagement, extensive partnerships, explicit monitoring and evaluation frameworks, and clear funding/cost figures. They also provided Goonj with an easy to use framework to assess where such adaptations might be most successful.

By Gillian Leitch, MBA ’19