For many of us - indeed perhaps most of us at this school - education is something that is easily taken for granted. However, in many places around the world this is not yet the case and that is something that Veerle Limbos and her 7 EMBA colleagues understand only too clearly. Through their community project MAKTABA (Swahili for ‘library’), they have committed themselves to providing a library for a small school in Nungwi.
This small village is located in the north of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania, an area where the contrast between the crowds of tourists and the impoverished local population is thrown into stark relief. It accommodates some 2200 pupils in a school building which fails to meet even their most basic needs. To address the school’s three most pressing requirements (a staff room, a decent examination space and a library) 8 AMS students have joined forces. They have been engaged in fundraising for several months now, an often difficult task. Fundraising activities have included selling products to raise money for the project, and finding donors kind enough to contribute either money or books.
Interaction with the local community
Veerle says: “The project has taken up more time than we expected, but it’s a great experience. We have put a really effective team together: everyone has taken on a role based on their own interests and talent, which means every position has been filled quickly.” The team’s hard work is about to pay off: in May, they will go and spend 10 days living and working in the community to build the library. Living as part of the community itself is important since the Executive MBA program requires the participants to engage directly with those groups who often find themselves least capable of challenging unrestricted development activities.
“The project has taken up more time than we expected, but it’s a great experience."
The locals are also involved with the design of the library. For its design, they enlisted the assistance of architects collective C-re-a.i.d. This North-Tanzanian non-profit organization combines modern and vernacular techniques to design sustainable construction projects that work in harmony with people and their environment. Their philosophy is that poor living conditions exacerbate poverty and illness, something they wish to combat with the aid of their sustainable projects. All of which is also in keeping with our Masters’ students aims.
Socially responsible entrepreneurship
This social project forms a marked contrast to recent local developments, in which financial and business stakeholders have focused narrowly on profit to the detriment of other factors. At AMS we are highly aware of the influence that managers have on society, hence the keen focus on socially responsible entrepreneurship in this EMBA. Through this community project we wish to instil in our students a broader awareness of the world around us.
The EMBA students’ motto is simple but powerful: “Knowledge and development are the key to a better life.” This library is much more than a school building: it will serve as knowledge center for the school as well as for the village and as such will provide great added value for the whole community. It is a place where both practical and academic knowledge can be acquired, and may also be a source of architectural inspiration for a new local building tradition. As a result, the project has far-reaching consequences and will continue to positively influence the community well into the future. This is an urgently-needed new building tradition since traditional construction methods are being pushed aside by the new regulations in Tanzania. Innovative materials and processes (such as for example the use of filled cloth bags) should eventually replace the traditional construction methods.
"Socially responsible entrepreneurship is much needed in the business world at the moment. Our experience will have a big influence on our personal development and that of our families."
These kind of social community projects are a powerful means of enabling future business leaders to gain a comprehensive and well-rounded perspective on the potential consequences of their decisions within the broader society. Says Limbos: “Socially responsible entrepreneurship is much needed in the business world at the moment. Our experience will have a big influence on our personal development and that of our families. And of course, we’ll take this experience with us into our jobs and we’ll be more mindful of socially responsible entrepreneurship. It would be great if we could continue this over the longer term with, for example, the support of future EMBA generations.”
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