Barefoot MBA


Expansion in Rwanda
February 2, 2011, 10:42 am
Filed under: Africa, Blog, Rwanda

Gardens for Health, our partner in Rwanda, reports that the Barefoot MBA has reached more than 500 individuals in its 13 cooperatives. GHI is growing in Rwanda, and we look forward to the Barefoot MBA’s growth with it.

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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!



Rwanda update and adaptation
November 9, 2010, 9:25 am
Filed under: Africa, Blog, Rwanda

Gardens for Health International has introduced two Barefoot MBA lessons to new cooperatives. Feedback has been “excellent” so far, Julie writes.

GHI’s Barefoot MBA adaptation is now posted on the curriculum page.



Rwanda: Field teaching and farewell, but only for now
September 2, 2010, 11:48 pm
Filed under: Africa, Blog, Rwanda

ATOP A HILL NEAR NDERA, Rwanda — The members of the Komara cooperative arrived at today’s Barefoot MBA workshop by foot, some walking more than three hours to arrive at the health center we used as a classroom. They’d been asking for basic business training for a long time.

After Sunday’s brief introduction, the field officers took turns teaching the lessons they’d been practicing at Gardens for Health (GHI) headquarters. Each field officer was more energetic than the one before, electrifying the room like dynamic preachers. In the back of the room, wishing I understood Kinyarwanda, I wondered to myself whether they were teaching something else entirely.

No, said those who understand both languages. The field officers taught profit, saving and investing using our stories and local examples. They facilitated the interactive investing activity. The cooperative members participated politely. They wanted more.

Once again the activity was the highlight. They learned from the stories, they said, but putting theory into practice right away prompted them to commit to doing things differently: One said he would focus on profit, not just revenue. Another said she would save at least some of his earnings instead of spending it all. A third said she would spend at least some of her income on something that predictably increases in value.

And once again I found myself pleasantly surprised at how broadly applicable our tool is. Scott and I hadn’t heard of GHI when we created the Barefoot MBA, yet with relatively minor preparation the two became excellent fits for each other.

My biggest regret today is that we didn’t make time for more. As we left (or, more accurately, tried to leave), cooperative members articulated more lessons they’d like to learn, each of which the Barefoot MBA addresses. Over time GHI plans to teach in the field the 10 lessons the field officers learned. GHI also has committed to translating all 16 lessons, which we’ll post so others can pick and choose those most appropriate to their audiences.

I leave Rwanda confident in GHI’s ability to follow through on its commitments and then some. I look forward to strengthening our partnership.

We’ve already been invited back.



Rwanda: Ready to teach the cooperatives
September 1, 2010, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Africa, Blog, Rwanda

NDERA, Rwanda – The field officers spent a full day training today to prepare for their pilot sessions at the cooperative tomorrow.

Today we used two trainers. Evas, who helped Sunday translate the Barefoot MBA and has experience running other trainings locally, this morning taught the remaining four lessons that will become part of Gardens for Health’s adaptation. Sunday rejoined the group after lunch to guide the field officers through practice teaching the three lessons they’ll teach to the cooperative tomorrow.

The field officers worked together to make the profit, saving and investing lessons as relevant as possible and then practiced teaching to each other.

We started with the stories. They understood. They engaged.

Then we moved onto the interactive exercise that reinforced the lessons, especially investing. That wasn’t quite as smooth. Instead of encouraging interaction by leading the group through the activity, the field officer re-explained the concept of investing using a table that showed increases in value over time. We used the opportunity to underscore the importance of involving participants: The activity engaged the field officers and reinforced the lesson, and we hope it serves a similar purpose for the cooperative members.



Rwanda: Meeting cooperatives
August 31, 2010, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Africa, Blog, Rwanda

IN A VALLEY NEAR NDERA, Rwanda – The cooperatives we visited today exemplify the situations we envisioned when creating the Barefoot MBA.

More than three years ago, in the comfort of the Stanford campus, we had visions of meeting with groups so far off the beaten path we had no option but to use nature as furniture and shade.

Today, we twice hiked into the valley to meet cooperatives whose most substantive structure is a rabbit hutch. At the first, we walked through an extensive cabbage farm while Modeste, GHI’s first local employee, talked to cooperative leaders about a succession plan for their recently deceased president. At the second, we sat beneath banana trees as Modeste interviewed members of a cooperative applying to formalize its relationship with GHI. At one point, Modeste asked cooperative members what they wanted to learn. Their first response? Business.

On Thursday we’ll return to the first cooperative, where the field officers we’ve been training at GHI headquarters will practice what they’ve been learning.



Rwanda: Cooperative in the valley
August 31, 2010, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Africa, Blog, Rwanda