Immersive journeys to help leaders make more impact in the world.

Eyes Wide Open

December 29th 2012 22:12

Erinne Browne is a second year MBA student at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. She has a background in organizational strategy and human resources and has worked with numerous social organisations including Habitat for Humanity.

Looking for my place in social enterprise
Upon the start of this journey, I knew that I wanted to work in the social enterprise sector but didn’t know where. I came not only to learn about innovation taking place in India to improve the livelihoods of individuals at the base of the pyramid; but also to see where I fit into this story of making a difference in poverty alleviation. During the kick-off of our journey, I was primed by the Journeys for Change team to approach this experience with an open mind and to be aware of moments in the journey when I felt inspired and energized. These, they told me, would give me hints for my future. 
Impressed by revenue & replicability
On our first day, we visited Industree Crafts and SELCO. Industree improves the livelihoods of rural artisans and other rural workers by distributing and marketing their products to the mass market. SELCO provides solar lighting systems to the poor, which gives them additional hours of productivity in their homes, to run their small businesses, and to further their education. I was inspired by the way these organizations are providing value to the poor while generating revenue. I was also impressed that their solutions are being replicated throughout India and in other regions worldwide. Entrepreneurs, governments, and NGOs are learning from and collaborating with the leaders of Industree and SELCO to leverage the unique insights of these impressive organisations.
Probing for success factors
The idea of scaling a business or replicating a business model is particularly interesting to me as I have seen so many great ideas from entrepreneurs fail to grow due to lack of resources, or grow with a diminished impact on the population they were meant to serve. What type of leader and team does it take to create an organization that can scale or replicate? To generate profits, help the poor, and serve the highest number of people?
Focus on slow growth
The leaders of both Industree and SELCO are focused on slow growth, which is contrary to what other companies that make a profit typically strive to do. Their strategy is to make change the right way, ensuring that their models work before pushing for additional revenue opportunities. 
Hints of a possible future
Approaching this journey like a sponge to soak in everything, seek more information, and reflect on my own reactions to what I see will make this a meaningful experience. I'm already becoming really interested in incubating market-based solutions for the poor, working across geographic boundaries to share solutions that are modified for the local culture, and collaborating across industries. I am learning a lot, not just about the social enterprise space, but also about myself as I hone in on the right career opportunities for me to use my skills and my MBA to contribute to society.