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Creating marketing plans for Afghan artisans, enhancing nutrition in African food and developing healthcare in the Middle East are not traditional MBA summer jobs. Business school students, however, are increasingly interested in careers where they can “have an impact”, spurring organisations in the public and private sectors to provide internship opportunities.
“The increase in interest is a combination of the crisis on Wall Street in recent years and MBAs having an interest in development situations where they can see the impact of what they are doing,” says Elam Muchira, who is responsible for MBA recruitment at the International Finance Corporation in Washington.
Mr Muchira says MBA internship applications to the IFC, the private sector investment arm of the World Bank, increased to 1,300 this year, up from 1,100 in the same period of 2013. In addition, postgraduate job applications more than doubled to 2,600 in 2014 from 1,200 the year before.
Orla Mc Gouran, co-president of the Net Impact Club at London Business School, says her group is one of the fastest growing on campus. The LBS chapter of Net Impact, the non-profit organisation that supports social and environmental causes, has 1,945 members, a 77 per cent rise from 2010.
Ms Mc Gouran previously worked for corporations in marketing and development. “I wanted an MBA to do something different and look at how to increase access to healthcare in places such as Africa and the Middle East,” she says. This summer she will work as an intern on Healthbox’s Social Innovators Programme in London, focusing on social enterprises in the healthcare technology sector.
Christine Driscoll Goulay, associate director of Insead’s Social Entrepreneurship Initiative, says there has been a noticeable increase in MBAs wanting internships in social entrepreneurship and impact investing.
Many of the “doing good” internships are on a voluntary basis, however, making them difficult for MBA students bearing large business school debt to consider. To help students who want impact-related internships Insead has launched a social stipend programme, sponsored by student clubs, the development office and alumni.
Shoshana Stewart, chief executive of Turquoise Mountain charity, plans to hire her first MBA intern because of a newly developed donor sponsorship with LBS. Her organisation works to revive Afghanistan’s traditional crafts. “I need business expertise to try to scale up the Afghan craft industry, increase sales in the next five years and build a strategic sales and marketing plan,” she says.
However, when moving between the international public sector and the commercial world, MBAs have to make a cultural adjustment. Martyn Dicker, director of human resources at Fairtrade Foundation, the charity that helps disadvantaged producers in developing countries, says interns have to learn how to be more innovative without access to the same technology that they would have in the private sector.
“MBAs need to see how collaborative this sector is,” he says. “They have to speak to people and genuinely understand them and not gather official data on a computer and think that is enough.”
Internships are valuable recruiting opportunities for organisations. Accenture, the global management consulting company, finds its not-for-profit wing, Accenture Development Partnerships, attracts many MBAs.
It also offers ADP secondment work to employees during their ongoing employment. “We are overwhelmed with demand,” says Louise James, managing director at ADP. “They really want a career with social impact and economic impact and they believe in the role the private sector has to play in access to electricity or healthcare, education and other international development issues.”