When registering for a class at Emory’s Goizueta Business School, it is easy to picture yourself spending mornings and afternoons hauling a bag up and over the steep street toward the infamous B-School archway and settling into a lecture, hopeful that you will receive tools to become a successful business leader, financial manager or accountant. Less sought after, though, is the social enterprise aspect of business that is becoming more important to a sustainable modern economy.
BUS344, at first glance, appears to merely be one of those class name codes so often associated with OPUS and its late-night defeats. However, the class — BUS344: Social Enterprise in Nicaragua — is part of a larger picture at Emory: Social Enterprise @ Goizueta, a program that works with a variety of organizations to combine business insight with market-inspired solutions for durable social impacts.
The class is comprised of a group of six deeply passionate students in partnership with the Nicaragua Community Health Connection, an organization that helps isolated communities create strong, dependable and sustainable networks of support. It accomplishes this by investing in social capital, countering poverty in isolation and stimulating leadership.
The class also works with the coffee community Los Robles, a group of over 2,100 people located in the Northern Nicaraguan state of Jinotega. The goal of this collaboration is to support the creation of the community’s first health clinic, which is not only an essential component — and right — of every community worldwide, but is crucial for the lifestyle of the members of the community.
Because of the region’s severe poverty, the population’s diet lacks diversity — they eat rice and beans for almost every meal — making them prone to malnutrition. As a coffee community, lots of the inhabitants work in the fields to cultivate and pick coffee beans, work that contributes to injuries and accidents being some of the biggest causes of medical ailments.
In an attempt to keep the class small, it is reserved for juniors. It focuses on the adversity the Los Robles community faces in regards to poverty and health, and teaches students about the immediate needs for adequate medical care and how to approach the different aspects of creating health infrastructures. The students learn the value of networks and community on large scales to further influence and add to the larger picture of economic growth. The class will conclude with a trip to Nicaragua from May 8 to 17, when they will visit the clinic and learn about the country’s vibrant culture beyond the classroom.
Despite the admirable intentions of the cause, it is not without adversity. When asked what the greatest challenge was for this project, B-school junior Ryan Sacher responded,
“Raising awareness, definitely. You can share this campaign with your friends and really encourage them to donate. This is something that’s really hard to do, making sure people really know what we’re doing.”
The class created an Indiegogo page, which is a campaign platform that is used for raising not only the funds but also the awareness needed regarding different ideas, charities and businesses. The class aims to raise $3,000 in order to fund the construction of the clinic, provide the necessary supplies and have the necessary salaries in place for the workers. All donations go directly to the clinic.
To incite larger donations, the class set up incentives to support its culture. With a five dollar donation, you can receive an album of the photos of the trip and see how your donation has helped contribute to building the clinic. For $50, you will receive a bag of Farmers to 40 coffee, which donates 40 percent of the price to the coffee farmers — far more than fair trade. For a $250 donation, you will get an authentic Nicaraguan hammock hand woven by the organization Centro Social Tio Antonio, which seeks to provide education, health resources and economic opportunities to the people in need.
“You know, we’re business students,” Sacher said. “We’re mostly involved in accounting and marketing all day every day so this class really opens you up to some of the facts that are affecting us and people outside of our normal circles.”
While ending poverty is one of the motivating factors of the program, it is not the principle focus of the partnership. Sacher stressed how this class is not about “guilt-tripping” or exposing how poor certain communities are. In his opinion, the objective is not to receive donations through pity of the present, but through belief in a better future.
— Caroline Ciric, Contributing Writer