AT ESMT BERLIN in Germany, part of our mission is to “develop entrepreneurial
leaders who think globally and act responsibly.” But if we want
our business leaders to act ethically, we must do more than lecture
students on business ethics or have them role-play possible reactions
to moral dilemmas. We need to engage students in projects with real
social and societal impact so they learn to consider the consequences
of their actions and be mindful of social challenges.
To underline our belief that with managerial power comes responsibility,
ESMT Berlin launched our Responsible Leaders Fellowship
in 2013. The fellowship, which is available to every participant in our
MBA and master’s in management (MIM) programs, allows graduates
to volunteer pro-bono for up to six months in a social impact organization
in emerging areas of the world. Most projects so far have been
based in Africa and Latin America, where our graduates work with
entrepreneurs, NGOs, or educational institutions.
To ensure that all interested graduates
have access to the program, ESMT
funds the travel, insurance, and a basic
monthly stipend to cover all expenses
such as food and accommodation. Money
from the school is supplemented by
private donors and the Friends of ESMT,
a registered charity group that supports
the school’s social projects.
Since the program began, ESMT has
worked with a number of regular partner
organizations. These include streetfootballworld,
a football and education event
organizer for disadvantaged children;
TSIBA, an institute of higher education
in South Africa that serves students
from Cape Town townships, which are
racially segregated areas on the periphery
of larger cities; Welthungerhilfe,
a German capacity-building NGO involved
in ensuring food security, among
other objectives; and Barefoot College,
an Indian NGO focusing on solar electrification
in rural areas located across
Participants also can secure their own
projects by reaching out to organizations
that are compatible with their interests.
This year, for example, five fellowship
participants sought out their own partner
organizations in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana,
and Ecuador. In addition, one fellow
is helping build a company that provides
rural villages in Uganda with affordable,
easy-to-access clean energy products for
the home. Another is coaching entrepreneurs
at a South African not-for-profit
tertiary education institution that offers
a degree in business administration at
little to no cost to students. Another
MBA graduate has helped integrate
sustainability into a Brazilian social
business that develops social entrepreneurship
and digital competence
through virtual learning platforms.
ESMT Berlin graduate Samantha Barlow works with low-income children in Accra as part of her fellowship
with the African Health Innovation Centre. The Centre partners with organizations such as Achievers
Ghana to improve education and life outcomes for girls specifically. Barlow led a Startup Pitch
Competition for participants between the ages of 11 and 16.
Fellows all negotiate contracts with
their host organizations, outlining what
the graduates will bring to the project.
The associate dean of programs and the
treasurer of Friends of ESMT both sign
off on the contracts. Upon completing
the program, fellows create reports that
include details about the project and
a description of the impact that their
skills and knowledge had on the organization.
These reports allow individuals
to reflect on the time they spent on the
projects, the way their skills can be deployed,
and how leadership and business
knowledge can have a positive impact on
While many graduates have job, family,
and financial considerations that
prevent them from taking six months
out of their lives to volunteer, the program
has remained popular. Forty graduates
have completed fellowships, and
not one application has been turned
down by the school.
Many students cite the fellowship
as one of their reasons for choosing
to pursue an MBA or MIM at ESMT.
Ethney Kibet Kiprop, a Kenyan native
who earned his full-time MBA in 2018,
just completed his work with a community-
based organization in Uganda. Because
of the leadership skills he learned
in the fellowship program, he says, he
felt prepared “not only to run a scalable,
profitable venture, but also to encourage
the youth I worked with to believe they
too can run businesses, get MBAs, and
still give back.”
We find that tomorrow’s leaders
deem such experiences to be as important
as high salaries or career advancement.
They don’t just want to learn vital
business and management skills. They
want to leave their marks on the world.
As business schools, we have a responsibility
to help our students do just that.
We must ensure they will take responsible
stands on ethical, environmental,
and humanitarian issues when they
assume leadership roles.
Nick Barniville is associate dean of degree
programs at ESMT Berlin in Germany.
This article originally appear in BizEd's November/December print issue. Please send questions, comments, or letters to the editor to [email protected].
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