Barefoot MBA


2017

Happy new year! Ten years ago this week the seed for the Barefoot MBA was planted. Though our updates to have been less frequent, our mission continues. As always, we welcome updates on how you’ve used or hope to use our materials.

If you’d like to help, or know someone who might, please e-mail us at info@barefootmba.org. You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.



Fifth anniversary

Five years ago this week we piloted the Barefoot MBA with villagers near Lamplaimat, Thailand. The world has seen plenty of progress since then: Five Nobel Peace Prize winners. Two new countries. The birth of the world’s seven billionth baby. The Barefoot MBA has seen plenty of progress since then too: eight published adaptations in five languages. Reaching every inhabited continent. A thriving tool, largely without our direct support. We can’t promise to become the next Nobel Laureates or reach all seven billion people in all 195 countries, but five years of progress in basic business education is a pretty good start.

The Barefoot MBA is a tool we created in 2007 to teach basic business to anyone, anywhere through a collection of modular, adaptable lessons. After a successful pilot that summer, we started spreading the Barefoot MBA. We continue to run it as a labor of love.

In five years, we’ve supported adaptations and implementations in nine countries: Cambodia, Guatemala, Kenya, Nicaragua, Philippines, Rwanda, Thailand, Uganda and the United States. In addition, we’ve heard about adaptations and implementations in India, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda. Adaptations are underway in at least three other countries. And that’s just what we know about. We regularly hear anecdotes of others spreading the word about, if not also using, our open-source tool. The nature of our work makes an exact number impossible to pinpoint, but we know we have reached several tens of thousands of people around the world.

We’ve presented to leaders in social entrepreneurship. We’ve been covered by local and national media. The founder of the Thai NGO that incubated our pilot even mentioned us in his TED talk (starting around 10:45).

Our social media efforts on Facebook (become a fan!) and Twitter (become a follower!) continue to expand our reach. Our blog-turned-website continues to get hits from every inhabited continent, and we continue to update it with anecdotes and adaptations.

We look forward to more progress in the next five years.



Fourth anniversary

Four years ago this month we first piloted the Barefoot MBA. Since then we’ve expanded from 1 country to 12 (that we know of), 2 creators to countless partners and volunteers. We’ve reached people on every inhabited continent, including thousands of participants. Some of their stories are below; many don’t reach us. And we’re still serious about our lofty-sounding goal to reach anyone, anywhere.

So we begin our fifth year not with another recap of how far we’ve come but with a plea to you, our readers, for two things:

  1. Website redesign and relaunch: Our blog-turned-website was adequate in the Barefoot MBA’s infancy, but a well-designed, robust site could help expand our reach
  2. Adaptation and translation assistance: Our curriculum can go only as far as it’s understood, which for now means locations that can leverage existing adaptations. Spending a few days in local markets should generate enough information for a new adaptation, and fluency in local language means translation should take no more than a few hours

If you’d like to help, or know someone who might, please comment on this post or e-mail us at info@barefootmba.org.

And if you haven’t already, feel free to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

We look forward to another productive year ahead!



2010 in review
January 1, 2011, 7:40 am
Filed under: Africa, Asia, Blog, India, Kenya, Latin America, Malawi, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, Thailand, Uganda

Four years ago this week we conceived of the Barefoot MBA idea, determined to create a workable curriculum for the Thai social enterprise that inspired our work and wondering aloud what our creation would look like in Africa, where we saw indisputable need but no opportunity to make it there.

In 2010, we made it – to no fewer than seven African countries. In Kenya and Rwanda this summer, Katherine ran workshops with two partner organizations, Maker Faire Africa and Gardens for Health International. (The latter loosely translated Barefoot MBA into the local language as rwiyemeza mikimo w’ikirenga utagira n’inkweto, which literally means a master good entrepreneur with no shoes on.) Other organizations adapted the Barefoot MBA in Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda, and at least two more are working with it in southern Africa.

We also made it to Nicaragua, where volunteers ran a four-week workshop, and to another site in India.

The lion’s share of these new partnerships sought us out, not the other way around.

In addition, we continue to hear encouraging reports from existing partners. For example, a Philippine partner rolled out the Barefoot MBA to up to 21,590 clients by August, a year after our train-the-trainers workshop and pilot. That’s a staggering number, especially in the wake of the country’s devastating typhoons.

Oh, and the Thai social entrepreneur who inspired the Barefoot MBA four years ago this week? He mentions us in his TED talk (starting around 10:45).

Our social media efforts on Facebook (become a fan!) and Twitter continue to expand our reach. Our blog-turned-website continues to get hits from every inhabited continent, and we continue to update it with anecdotes and adaptations. We continue to hear of others using the Barefoot MBA around the world and look forward to more stories and success in 2011.

Happy new year!



Malawi: Adaptation and first lessons
July 30, 2010, 12:00 pm
Filed under: Africa, Blog, Malawi

A microenterprise program in Malawi is using the Barefoot MBA for a two-part training session. A group at St. Gabriel’s Hospital Namitete adapted all the lessons to teach some 100 community healthcare workers and HIV support groups and translated at least six into Chichewa, the local language. Jasper, an intern for the hospital, is keeping a blog about his experience.

Jasper writes that the Barefoot MBA is immediately applicable to “teaching entrepreneurship in low-resource settings such as ours” and applauds its simplicity and comprehensiveness. He also details how the constraints his group faces makes the Barefoot MBA an ideal solution:

1. Despite the fact that we had conducted field research visiting the various HIV support groups, we still do not fully understand how much our students do and do not know. The flexibility and comprehensiveness of Barefoot MBA allows our HIV support group liaison (Angela) and community healthcare volunteer liaison (Alexander) to select the appropriate lessons based on their experiences with both groups.
2. Although we know that our students will have a primary-education background, we’re not exactly sure what that entails. The follow-up questions that Barefoot MBA has after each story demonstrating a concept gradually increase in difficulty, and this ensures that we can cater to the learning ability of all of our students.
3. It is a burden for HIV support group members and community healthcare volunteers to travel long distances to attend trainings at the hospital. Therefore, we are limited to 2 sessions that are 3 hours each. The flexibility and simplicity of each Barefoot MBA lesson allows it to easily stand on its own or in combinations. For example, if community healthcare volunteers need to come for a medical-related training at the hospital, a Barefoot MBA lesson could also be easily and quickly implemented at the end of the training.

First Malawian lessons

First Malawian lessons

At the first training sessions, which taught and reinforced basic business concepts, students embraced the lessons by repeating the stories, which Jasper writes is typical of the Malawian learning style. Students engaged in energetic discussion about the stories and topics. The next session will focus on implementing the concepts they learned at the first session. It will be taught in conjunction with receipt of a loan, which typically proves difficult because of logistical complications and stringent training and planning requirements. Jasper and his team hope the Barefoot MBA-based trainings help overcome the latter set of barriers and help their students receive and responsibly manage capital for their small businesses.

Upon completion of their training sessions, Jasper and his team plan to make their Barefoot MBA adaptation available to everyone. We plan to post it to this site when they do.