Happy new year from the Barefoot MBA! 2017 marked our tenth anniversary, an important milestone to reflect on how far we’ve come in a decade. (See below.)
It gives us great joy to know the Barefoot MBA is now nearly self-sustaining. It gives us almost as much joy to know how it’s being used. Please continue to let us know how you’ve used or hope to use our materials. We welcome your stories, your photos and your feedback.
This week marks the tenth anniversary of our first Barefoot MBA pilot.
A lot can change in ten years – progress, priorities, partnerships. And a lot can stay the same. In addition we still need help, especially with this site, partnership ideas and adaptation opportunities.
Here’s what’s changed:
Progress: When we boarded a plane to Bangkok to pilot the Barefoot MBA with the Population and Community Development Association (PDA) a decade ago, we were hopeful for what we could do for one organization in a summer. Our pilot of a few lessons that July gave PDA the tools it needed to roll out the entire curriculum to multiple sites across Thailand. That paved the way for other organizations to follow, in at least a dozen countries around the world. Our website has received traffic from another two dozen countries.
Partnerships: We are grateful to PDA for the success of the Barefoot MBA. If not for its leadership, inspiration and willingness to take a risk on a pair of business school students, we would not have such a strong early foundation to prove ourselves to the partners that followed.
Priorities: Our priority remains making basic business education freely available to anyone, anywhere. But the way we have done that has shifted, from our high-touch, on-the-ground approach to a more passive one. Instead of being constrained by our availability to physically be on the ground to adapt the Barefoot MBA (which we are still happy to do), we have solidified a model that lets organizations adapt the materials themselves while we support them from afar if necessary. Our first independent adaptation happened within 18 months of our pilot. We reached self-sufficiency 6 years ago, and it is perhaps our proudest achievement.
Here’s what hasn’t: Principles. We created the Barefoot MBA because we saw a need for freely available basic business education for even the smallest-scale entrepreneurs. We have sustained it because we see what a difference it makes. Ten years later, and in mostly hands-off mode, we still get new requests. And we still find a way to work with any prospective partner who is true to our principles. That has meant turning down offers to monetize our work – and we are OK with that.
And here’s the other thing that hasn’t changed: We are still looking for help. Not with the materials – those, mercifully, are well tested. But we would be grateful for assistance with:
Web development: Our blog-turned-website is also approaching its tenth anniversary and could use a simple refresh by a talented and creative developer.
Partnership ideas: We are always seeking new partners, domestically and abroad. In general, our partners have been organizations (generally but not always nonprofits) with proven infrastructure and a community eager to learn basic business but lacking the tools to do so. These organizations adapt the Barefoot MBA, with our guidance as necessary and desired, and maintain our spirit of making basic business education freely available to their clients.
Adaptation opportunities: In addition to additional partner organizations, we welcome introductions to volunteers interested in working with partners to adapt and share the Barefoot MBA.
We are grateful to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, particularly its Service Learning Program and Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, and the dozens of individuals and organizations that launched us a decade ago and continue to support our mission. We look forward to sharing the next ten years with you.
Happy new year! Ten years ago this week the seed for the Barefoot MBA was planted. Though our updates to have been less frequent, our mission continues. As always, we welcome updates on how you’ve used or hope to use our materials.
Stanford students spent part of their winter break teaching basic business lessons inspired by the Barefoot MBA, thanks to the program that initially supported us. Through Stanford’s Service Learning Program and ThinkImpact, which provides experiential learning opportunities in rural Africa, a team of 18 students traveled to the Coast region of Kenya to immerse themselves in local culture and learn about social entrepreneurship.
One student wrote:
For many of us, the major highlight of the trip was the two-day homestay within the Kaloleni community. We lived in small groups alongside community members to immerse ourselves in their day-to-day lives. We slept in thatched huts with mud walls and floors, sharing close living quarters with family members and farm animals alike. We carried water on our heads and ate local food that we prepared alongside the village women. We actively engaged with the community members, learning about their lives, small businesses, hopes and challenges. This experience culminated in a two-day service project in which we worked with community entrepreneurs to brainstorm creative ways in which they could grow their businesses. Many of us were surprised to find that we were able to offer insights into their businesses, and we were encouraged by the depth of relationships fostered between our two groups and within the community members themselves.
Entrepreneurs worked alongside the team in Kenya, as pictured below. We hope to post more details soon.
The Barefoot MBA has become part of the community at the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), Thailand’s largest NGO and our original partner. Lauren, a student on a Stanford trip there in late December / early January, shared a brief update. The Barefoot MBA is being used in 148 villages total, including as part of the Village Development Program in 71 villages and in school-based programs in 5 (growing to 13). Teachers at the Bamboo School, PDA’s high-performing school, are trained to implement it as well. Mechai Viravaidya, the founder of PDA and our inspiration, has prioritized education and improving conditions for the very poor. And the Barefoot MBA has become integrated in PDA’s overview presentation, so even those who are interested in PDA for other reasons still get a glimpse of our work.
Happy new year. This January update is our fifth since the Barefoot MBA became an idea to teach basic business to anyone, anywhere. That idea quickly became a curriculum, and that curriculum continues to touch every inhabited continent. Thanks largely to our partner organizations, we’ve reached tens of thousands of participants. And our numbers continue to grow.
We also reiterate our plea to you, our readers, for two things:
Website redesign and relaunch: Our blog-turned-website was adequate in the Barefoot MBA’s infancy, but a well-designed, robust site could help expand our reach
Adaptation and translation assistance: Our curriculum can go only as far as it’s understood, which for now means locations that can leverage existing adaptations. Spending a few days in local markets should generate enough information for a new adaptation, and fluency in local language means translation should take no more than a few hours
If you’d like to help, or know someone who might, please comment on this post or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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