Digital for Impact – Week 3: How did Digital for Impact come about in the first place?

By Lara Chambers, Senior Manager, Experiential Learning

Lara is a Senior Manager within London Business School’s Experiential Learning Team. Lara specialises in global experiential learning, having led Global Business Experiences to South Africa, India, Peru and Myanmar in a pre-Covid world. Since the pandemic, Lara has led the Digital for Impact pilot course from idea to implementation and is passionate about LBS continuing to have a responsible, sustainable, social global impact even whilst travel remains limited. Lara previously worked as a management consultant for Deloitte, specialising in organisational transformation. She is also a fully qualified translator and TEFL teacher.

To follow the series so far, read the first week’s installment and the second week’s installment, both written by Giri Kesavan, an MBA currently taking the programme.

Digital for Impact came about in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Global travel was halted, national lockdowns were being imposed and governments were balancing both economic and health concerns. Yet small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) across the world were striving to adapt to their unprecedented new circumstances, continuing to operate and trying to survive this new crisis. SMEs, particularly those in developing and emerging markets, represent the backbone of local economies. These businesses are vehicles for accelerating economic growth and generating employment, foreign exchange and tax revenues. Under normal circumstances, SMEs face unique challenges which can limit their full potential, challenges which are now exacerbated by the pandemic.

The Experiential Learning Team, together with Professors Rajesh Chandy and Costas Markides, decided to set up the Digital for Impact elective as a way to continue to connect our students with this unique ecosystem of business, to apply their learning in a global setting (whilst restrictions on travel remain) and to have a positive impact on clients. Having run in-person consulting courses with similar businesses in a variety of locations, the Experiential Learning Team were best placed to take this format online to create an experiential learning opportunity which is not limited by geography, travel or time constraints. Additionally, this was an opportunity to take what we have learned pre-pandemic and apply it in a post-pandemic world.

We teamed up with Grow Movement, led by an LBS alum Chris Coghlan, to explore the possibilities of remote consulting for businesses in these areas. Grow Movement have run a very successful platform connecting volunteer consultants with business owners in Africa on a one-to-one basis for remote consulting since 2009. Digital for Impact was a unique chance for LBS and Grow to try team-based consulting in the same format. Through Grow we sourced a longlist of potential client businesses across Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria through an application and interview process. This longlist was made up of enterprises from coffee entrepreneurs to tech start-ups. The variety of businesses involved is what makes this course such a unique learning experience for students.  

We invited applications from students across Sloan, EMBA and MBA cohorts and now have nine mixed-cohort teams in the pilot course, comprised of students who submitted impressive applications with a huge variety of experiences. Whilst in-person meetings are not currently possible, groups have been meeting online and experiencing a unique opportunity to network with peers who they might never have otherwise been connected with!

As a staff and faculty team we have been using this pilot course as an opportunity to try new things. New ways of connecting online, new ways of encouraging networking, new ways of project management, new guest speakers and new ways of collaborating with our colleagues across continents. The online format of this course makes it a great opportunity to connect with speakers and colleagues across the world in a way that would have been impossible in-person. As the programme continues, we are developing and tailoring the course content and structure. This helps us to make sure what we deliver is responsive to the issues our students and clients are facing, with the aim of providing a tailored and unique learning experience for everyone. We have no doubt that what we learn from delivering Digital for Impact will influence our future Experiential Learning opportunities and even our future teaching engagements.

We are excited to see the outcomes of our first Digital for Impact course as it progresses. In particular, we are eager to see how the groups and clients fare when engaging with each other remotely, we are keen to see what learnings our students will take away from the experience and apply to other parts of their professional and personal lives and we are looking forward to seeing what impact our student groups will make on their client businesses in the future. Watch this blog each week for regular updates as we continue!

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