The MBA class for 2017 from the Rhodes Business School, visited the Assumption Development Centre (ADC) as part of the Service Learning Program. The service learning program is a process with 3 phases done at Joza.
The 1st phase is orientation or getting to know each other. Students are oriented to the different ADC partners both parties get to know each other, students gain an understanding of businesses, and businesses share their business journey and vision. The second phase is determining opportunities for business growth, the challenges that each business has and how the business can be supported. This is done in conjunction with the ADC business partners as a diagnostic assessment of business needs so as to develop a training and development support programme. The latter forms part of the third phase of this process. The next phase is for students to design a program that will benefit the ADC business partners and modified to meet the current conditions.
During the MBA teaching block in May, four businesses from Joza supported by the ADC were visited. Each business was allocated a group of MBA students where a one-on –one interaction occurred. This meant site visits, show case of business and allowing business to embrace and celebrate significant successes. Service learning expose MBA students to realities of businesses in Joza.
This collaboration benefits both, where students were exposed to realities faced by businesses, township economy whereas businesses benefits through created solutions and opportunities beyond survival. Because the service learning program is directly aimed to benefit ADC partners, MBA students get an opportunity to be exposed to local issues and create local solutions.
The opportunity to experience complexities faced by township entrepreneurs and startups help challenge MBA class to move from classroom setting to practical solutions. Both the ADC businesses and the students are encouraged to work hand-in-hand whilst, embracing and celebrating significant successes for each milestone, acknowledge resource limitation and creativity when operating a business.
Through this the MBA students as thought leaders get opportunities beyond learning to experience and internalise robust and non- conventional approaches that aim to address not only business or economic issues but include environment perspective and social injustice issues that directly impede on human.
Benefits for the four businesses were diverse and individualised based on the different needs. The four groups visited the following businesses. The first business was an entrepreneur with interests in sewing. It was discovered that his entrepreneurial savvy moves beyond one trade and thus need to be nurtured to formalise the registration of the business. The second business visited was a Laundromat that looks at marketing and expansion opportunities. Students were highly impressed with the growth of the entrepreneurs and the business over the last few months since their last visit (i.e. getting to know each other). Progress made includes securing a business loan from the municipality, and exploring opportunities to use sustainable methods for managing water (e.g. harvesting rainwater).
These creative initiative towards improving business sustainability were some of the learning that the students gained. The third business visited required assistance in the registration of an NGO that caters for the preventative need of the community was one of the business that benefited. As a socially focused business students are challenged to explore their conventional thinking of business with social impact. Opportunities for registration, alignment and compliance with the correct structures are some of the assistance highlighted. The final business visited was a co-operative that highlighted business skills as gaps to manage some of the daily operations. These included operational capacity, funding, governance and administrative issues. Learnings for students included appreciating opportunities that the informal economy has when creativity, passion and people oriented commitment are present.