Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Social enterprises - spreading, slowly but surely

"Diana! Just wanted to send you a quick update… As you might remember, the Cambodia trip inspired me to use some time after the MBA to “do good” (by whatever yardstick that could be measured…) So I kept in touch with Mahboob… and I am now in the Philippines working on for a social enterprise that Mahboob started here. It’s a small hotel with the aim of benefiting the community and limiting the environmental impact of the tourism in this area. Interestingly enough, I get motivated much more by the latter for some reason. So today for example, we discussed hot to implement recycling (instead of just burning all the trash, incl the plastic bottles). Also, I’d like to install solar water heaters, maybe even solar electricity so that we don’t have to rely on the diesel generator (only very limited grid electricity here). Anyway, thanks again for organizing the Cambodia trip, you see it’s multiplying!

I got this email from one of the MBA students from the INSEAD program in France. Marcus is a young German man who also spent some time at the INSEAD campus in Singapore. Like the other INSEAD students I hosted, Marcus is very intelligent and polite. He works as a consultant for McKinsey's in Germany.

It was funny, the first time I met the group at dinner I told them I had hesitated about being their social enterprise tour guide, because I've met so many MBAs in my time in Singapore. They were all the same - ambitious and careeristic - which is the reason they bother to pursue an MBA in the first place, because they believe the MBA will help them earn more money in their jobs. Their primary aim in life was to make millions so they can retire at 40. I have very little in common with people like these. I especially despise investment bankers, Wall Street types that I consider parasites. I am obviously not alone in thinking this.

(I have to confess, though, at one time I myself considered getting an MBA. I was moving on up, as they say. And to reach the next step in my career an MBA would have been useful in understanding the wheeler dealer world of mergers and acquisitions, scenario planning, different types of (creative?) accounting etc - basically corporate finance for large corporations. In the end I decided against it after a discussion with my super Australian boss Quentin. He convinced me if I wanted a corporate career I should go for the MBA. But if, like him, I planned to be an entrepreneur, don't bother with the MBA - use the time and money to gain experience instead, through the school of hard knocks. Which is what I did, as did Quentin, who now runs his own successful magazine Australian Traveller).

So it was refreshing meeting the international students from INSEAD. They did explain to me that while many MBAs are as I describe, they are different. This group had elected a module on social entrepreneurship which means they do care about society and the social good. I was impressed that some had already volunteered their time on social projects.

I am so glad I accepted the job (I did get paid for being their tour guide) because I got to know some very bright young people from all over the world who will make a difference to society. I like to think the one week we spent together in Cambodia contributed to this. :)


feddabonn said...

...would like to hear more of your learning from running a social enterprise. for someone with very little business acumen, the whole thing can be quite confusing!

Diana Saw said...

hey feddadonn, it's confusing for me too - i have made so many mistakes, some costly, but that's part of the learning process. i should write more about it, but to be honest, i am less interested in business than i am in life in general. which is why my blog posts are usually about observations about life and less about Bloom. i'll try to write more about Bloom in 2010! Happy new year lah.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin