January 28, 2013 12:11 am

The 2013 MBA challenge

Ghana Challenging Heights School, Winneba, Ghana©Rosie Hallam

High ambitions: a school in Ghana run by Challenging Heights, an organisation working to protect children from trafficking

When James Kofi Annan was a child, he was trafficked to work in the Ghanaian fishing industry. Today, aged 38, he runs Challenging Heights, a community organisation that works to save other children suffering the same fate. In Haiti, Daniel Tillias has set up a sports and education programme, Sakala, to combat gang violence. In Senegal, Issa Kouyaté provides food, healthcare and education to child beggars on the streets of Saint Louis through Maison de la Gare, an organisation originally based in a railway station.

The organisations have all received support from the Global Fund for Children, the Financial Times’ seasonal appeal partner. But this, as with all the groups supported by GFC, is not enough to ensure their long-term sustainability.

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GFC joins forces with 50 community-based organisations every year, providing grants and training to improve their visibility and develop their work. The organisations are taught how to tap into networks and overcome obstacles that hinder their progress. For every £1 GFC invests, £7 from other funders follows and after five to seven years the organisations’ budgets ­triple. Thousands of children in remote and impoverished communities are given life-changing opportunities.

However, the organisations often sacrifice long-term financial security and planning to meet children’s urgent needs. To survive, they must find ways to ensure continuity, by building partnerships and fundraising and ensuring they are not wholly reliant on a small pool of sponsors. Every year, a small number receive a sustainability award of $25,000-$40,000 but they still need support investing this to achieve long-term growth. To address this using input from future business leaders, the FT and GFC are launching a challenge for MBA students.

The challenge: to develop recommendations for a community-based organisation working with vulnerable or young children, focusing on long-term sustainability.

The challenge is open to teams of three to eight students, of which at least one must be studying at a university or business school in Europe, a second in the Americas and a third in Asia or Africa. At least one participant in each team must be studying for an MBA at the point of registration.

Registered teams will be assigned to a GFC partner organisation and will tackle entrenched problems in difficult economic and social environments, working with grassroots leaders to find solutions. They will be asked to provide analysis and ultimately advise how to help improve the sustainability of the organisation.

Winners will be chosen for their ability to take account of local conditions, the quality of their revenue and non-revenue generating ideas, and the collaboration with their partner.

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The deadline for registration is March 1 2013 and the challenge runs until November. For more information, including details of how to enter, visit: www.ft.com/mba-challenge2013

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