Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The experience of a lifetime

Students with a group of women entrepreneurs in the RMI.

By Emory Zink
Second-Year MBA 

When we began work on behalf of SPBD, none of the Kelley MBA South Pacific Business Deployment Team realized the true challenge of open questions and fieldwork in the Pacific islands.

With three members studying the potential for a microfinance loan market in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and two other members auditing SPBD’s existing microfinance operations in Fiji, communication, particularly through Skype, was critical. Geographically, we were 1,850 miles apart, and from a project perspective, our focal assignments couldn’t have been more different. The RMI team was imagining the non-existent; the Fiji team was critiquing the already operational.

Clear and relevant communication is emphasized again and again in our business studies, and yet, when our two groups returned to synthesize our research, we needed to not just show-and-tell, but also to make connections between our data sets and observations. 

The real value that we could provide to Greg Casagrande and to SPBD came from the dialogue generated in comparing the two field projects. We knew that we would eventually produce a report that not only explored the microfinance environment of the RMI but also leveraged knowledge of SPBD’s past successes and tweaked those operations to continue its mission of providing financial assistance in areas previously underserved or even completely ignored.

This process is, of course, much harder than it sounds. The hours spent describing eventually led to hours spent analyzing and ultimately produced hours of generating unique insights. Our final recommendations were gathered into a report, which we had the privilege of sharing with Greg Casagrande in person. 

There is nothing quite like presenting from-the-ground-up research on a topic that you have grown passionate about to a keenly engaged audience. Traveling to the Pacific and reframing my view of the world, collaborating with colleagues whom I might not otherwise have known, and using the analytical acumen that I’ve developed over the last year are really the most rewarding experiences that I could ask from any business venture, let alone a practicum in a business school setting. 

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