A Summer of Social Internship

MBA students apply their business skills to benefit the world

04/08/2015 Barcelona

Unicef / Stock photo © journalturk
Eight MBAs have opted for social internship with international bodies this Summer / Photo: Stock photo © journalturk

The summer break isn’t a stop signal for IESE MBA students. Some are developing their own projects as part of the Entrepreneurship Experience while others are putting their skills into practice on international corporate internships. But eight IESE students have chosen to follow a third option: social internships to benefit non-profit organizations.

"I have been given so much and I wanted to give back," says Mariano Torrente, who is one of four IESE students spending the summer with UNICEF in Geneva, Nairobi and Harare.

This desire to use the insights and abilities they are developing on the MBA to achieve positive change is a common motivation among students opting for social internships.

Canadian William Maize wanted "to do something meaningful with my internship," and Marie Graver from the US, who is working for the International Red Cross in Geneva, says, "I felt I could make a difference in the world by working on a project that could have a positive global impact."

A Natural Fit with NGOs

IESE’s strong relationships with some of the world’s most important Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Inter Governmental Organizations (IGOs) give its students the opportunity to choose from a broad range of experiences across different regions.

In addition to the MBA participants on internships with UNICEF and the International Red Cross, one student is pursuing an internship in Germany with the UN World Food Program and another with IDEV in Peru.

Professor Yih-teen Lee, who is mentoring an IESE student taking part in an internship with UNICEF in Geneva, explains, "There is a natural fit in values and sense of mission between the two organizations. Some students naturally feel attracted by the possibility of making concrete impact on the society through such internships."

"The social internship with UNICEF started from our partnership with them for the Management Development Program, starting last September," says Lee. "The program for the first cohort was a huge success so UNICEF was happy to expand the scope of collaboration with IESE, including offering positions for internship."

Benefits for Participants, Organizations ... and the World

Alanna MacTavish Khalil, UNICEF regional manager in Private Sector Engagement in Nairobi, mentors the two IESE MBA students on internships there.

Khalil is impressed by the high caliber of the students, who "bring great value, particularly critical thinking and analysis skills, to UNICEF work."

At a time when many NGOs and IGOs face dramatic funding cuts, the pressure is on to do more with less, she says. The business skills that MBA students bring are useful tools to boost performance and efficiency. As Yohei Nakahara, who is with UNICEF in Nairobi, points out, "If international organizations perform more effectively, we can help more people."

Marie Graver agrees and adds, "The cases we read about in class at IESE are very relevant to the issues that companies are currently facing, and we can use our knowledge to find solutions to these problems."

Her business and communication skills are currently being put to use on a pilot program to insure and train millions of UNICEF volunteers around the world, as well as promoting an online learning platform to provide training.

Other students are helping develop a diaspora engagement strategy at UNICEF Zimbabwe, and supporting new strategies in the Private Fundraising and Partnerships Division of UNICEF Geneva.

Yohei Nakahara has learned that the skill set of IESE MBA students can be transferred to the non-profit sector, and is particularly useful for improving the "internal organizational structure and work process." This ability to apply the lessons of the MBA to bring benefits to society is one of Nakahara’s career objectives.

"We should use our skills to change the world," he says.