WDI-Sponsored MAP Teams Begin Field Work

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Kerry Shields worked in the healthcare industry before coming to U-M’s Ross School of Business for her MBA and has plans to return to it after graduation. So she was eager to find a MAP (Multidisciplinary Action Project) in a different industry, and was ecstatic when she learned she was part of the WDI-sponsored MBA student team working with the Relationship Coffee Institute and Sustainable Harvest in Rwanda.

Members of the ITC Ltd. MAP team talks about their project prior to traveling to India.

The Relationship Coffee Institute (RCI) is a non­profit, public benefit corporation – or, B Corp – working to increase social and economic opportunity for smallholder commodity farmers and their families. Its partner, Sustainable Harvest, is one of the largest importers of fair trade specialty coffee in the U.S.

“What this company is trying to do is important and innovative and I can learn from that,” she said. “Hopefully we will have had an impact at the end of the project and get a better understanding how a private company can help alleviate poverty.”

The MAP in Rwanda is one of eight student projects organized and sponsored by WDI. MAP is an action-based learning course offered at Ross for MBA students who receive guidance from their faculty advisors. Each project requires analytical rigor, critical thinking, and teamwork. Sponsors receive top-notch deliverables and data-driven recommendations from the team of students.

After learning about their projects and conducting research in the classroom for several weeks, the students then spend three to four weeks working alongside their project sponsors in the field.

Sylvia Jimenez will work on a WDI-sponsored MAP team for CARE, a non-profit organization seeking to use business approaches to address social issues.

“I’m looking forward to getting out of my comfort zone and doing something different than I have done before,” she said. “I think I’ll learn a lot about me as a team player, and learn about my teammates and what their strengths are.”

Ted London, vice president of WDI’s Scaling Impact Initiative, is one of the faculty advisors on the Sustainable Harvest and CARE MAPs as well as two others. Before the teams traveled to their destinations for on-the-ground work, he brought them together for a special WDI-focused session to get to know each other better before they left and to touch on some of the key issues the teams will face in the field.

He discussed what it takes to conduct good interviews, particularly in a base of the pyramid (BoP) market context, emphasizing that the goal of these interviews is to develop data-driven recommendations. Among other things, he also told the students to approach people they meet and interview with respect and humility to maximize the depth and quality of the data collected during the interview.

“You are not only there as expert problem-solvers, but also as experts in learning and listening,” he said. “Only by collaborating and co-creating can we build solutions that really work.”

London said his MAP projects allow students to take what they learned in the classroom and apply it in a BoP context.

“For students interested in working in this space as a career, it is an amazing opportunity,” he said. “These MAPs open students’ eyes to this part of the world and to this scale of enterprise and impact. They’re part of the minority seeing how the majority of the world conducts business.”

WDI and its partners get value from the experience as well, London said. Seven of the eight MAP projects are with partners that have long-term relationships with WDI.

“By leveraging MAP and the great skills of the Ross students, we’re providing resources and expertise to our partners to help them solve the problems they’re facing,” London said. “And it’s a way for us to collaborate with partners in the field, apply our knowledge, and learn what are the next-generation tools we need to think about in the future.”

Here is a summary of each MAP project:

Aravind Eye Care System – India

Advised By: Paul Clyde, WDI and Ross School of Business; Peter Lenk, Ross School of Business

MAP Team: Jackie Barnum, Katie Redman, Alex Kravitz, Matt Tafoya

Aravind Eye Care System (AECS) has five tertiary care centers, six secondary care centers, six community clinics, and 54 primary eye care centers across the Tamil Nadu state in India. Now AECS is expanding, opening tertiary hospitals in Chennai and Tirupathi in the next couple of years, and there are also plans to expand the services/facilities in the existing hospital units.

The student team will customize and test at two to three AECS facilities an existing process model that will measure performance of each unit and is understandable to everyone in the organization.


Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) – India

Advised By: Ted London, WDI and Ross School of Business; Jane Dutton, Ross School of Business

MAP Team: Karina Cabanillas, David Chang, Takashi Takizawa, Sylvia Jimenez

CARE has been working in India for over 65 years, focusing on ending poverty and social injustice. Its overall goal is the empowerment of women and girls from poor and marginalized communities leading to improvement in their lives and livelihoods.

Most smallholder farmers, a vast majority of whom are women, have limited access to quality and affordable agriculture input, services, finance and technologies. The student team will develop a profitable and socially inclusive business plan that CARE can execute in 2016 that facilitates access for smallholder farmers to inputs and related services. This should be a commercially viable and financially sustainable approach that avoids donor dependency through the development of an agricultural input supply social enterprise in India.


Sustainable Harvest & Relationship Coffee Institute – United States

Advised By: Ted London, WDI and Ross School of Business; Ravi Anupindi, WDI and Ross School of Business

MAP Team: Stacey Nathan, Whitney Augustine, Erdem Eray, Grant Cowherd

Sustainable Harvest of Portland, Ore. is an importer of high quality, specialty grade coffees from smallholder farmers from 15 countries around the world. In 2012, Sustainable Harvest formed a nonprofit organization, the Relationship Coffee Institute (RCI), to help propagate its business model and advance farmer training. In fall 2015, in conjunction with RCI and 4,000 women farmers in Rwanda, Sustainable Harvest launched Question Coffee, which represents its fundamental goal to empower coffee farmers and foster sustainable supply chains. It is Sustainable Harvest’s first B Corp certified product throughout the entire value chain, meaning it’s a for-profit entity that includes positive impacts on society, workers, and the environment. Net proceeds from Question Coffee go to farmer training, which contributes to better quality, improved yields and increased income and wellbeing for coffee farmers at the base of the pyramid.

The student team will conduct research to identify Question Coffee’s value proposition to consumers, resulting in several specific, actionable recommendations on branding and marketing strategies. The team also will devise several recommendations and strategies for greater market penetration.


Relationship Coffee Institute (in partnership with Sustainable Harvest) – Rwanda

Advised By: Ted London, WDI and the Ross School of Business; Jane Dutton, Ross School of Business

MAP Team: Courtney Landy, Aaron Whallon, Juan Marino, Kerry Shields

For this project, the student team will test and evaluate the value of B Corp certification to see if it could improve the lives of smallholder farmers in Rwanda, and how it could be scaled or applied to other commodities.


Zemen Bank – Ethiopia

Advised By: Paul Clyde, WDI and Ross School of Business; Bob Dittmar, Ross School of Business

MAP Team: Dana Yerace, Max Jacobson, Florence Noel, Nicholas Mencher

Zemen is a commercial bank located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Its vision is to bring new dynamism to the financial sector and the banking business in Ethiopia. It is interested in serving small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Using a banking scheme in which Ethiopians living in the U.S. could put a hold on some monetary amount in their bank account, Zemen would then access the account for a low interest loan for Ethiopian citizens starting or expanding a small business. The hold on the U.S. bank would be reduced as the loan is paid back.

The student team will develop the business case for diaspora SME loans and assess the prospects for scaling the program to a level that would interest Zemen Bank. If the scheme were deemed viable, then the team would formulate a plan for executing the program.


Imperial Health Sciences (IHS) – South Africa

Advised By: Paul Clyde, WDI and Ross School of Business; Ravi Anupindi, WDI and Ross School of Business

MAP Team: Amit Patel, Jennifer Paxton, Anuja Mehta, Aric Adams

IHS provides supply chain solutions to the public and private pharmaceutical markets in Africa. IHS and the Imperial Logistics group have adopted the Unjani project as its Corporate Social Responsibility project. Unjani aims to establish a network of nurse-owned franchise clinics in historically underserved communities across South Africa. It has 19 operating clinics with plans to add 25 more by May. The group will take over an independent, failing clinic.

The student team will assess the change in the failing clinic’s success level after instituting the processes, controls, training, and marketing of the Unjani franchise network. Examining the operational and environmental factors of the clinic, along with some financial analysis, will allow IHS to better understand why this clinic failed. That will help IHS further develop the Unjani concept and ensure successful clinics in the future.


ITC Ltd. – India

Advised By: Ted London, WDI and Ross School of Business; Venkatram Ramaswany, Ross School of Business

MAP Team: Nishant Agrawal, Kee Cho, Arun Prakash, Dave Teebagy

ITC is a major diversified Indian conglomerate. ITC’s e-Choupal initiative is enabling Indian agriculture to enhance its competitiveness by empowering Indian farmers through the power of the Internet. The initiative facilitates the two-way flow of goods and services in and out of villages, and describes itself as the largest Internet-based intervention in rural India by a corporate entity.

The student team will help ITC design the next version of e-Choupal. The team will deliver a report exploring how the first three versions of e-Choupal have created value and where further opportunities for value creation may exist. The team also will look into how other models of rural farmer engagement are being deployed in other developing countries, identify the various stakeholders impacted, and highlight how the proposed model creates value for them.


Aparajitha Foundation – India

Advised By: Paul Clyde, WDI and Ross School of Business; Jim Walsh, Ross School of Business

MAP Team: Jamyle Michael, Holly Price, Aaron Steiner, Meghan Sheehan

The Aparajitha Foundation is an arm of the Aparajitha Group. It is committed to the cause of creating transformational change in adolescents by using audiovisual technology to deliver life skills training to economically disadvantaged children in India’s Tamil Nadu state.

The MAP team will develop a complete business plan for entrepreneurship education, training and development. The model should be scalable so that it can be used across the country in the future.

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