Barefoot MBA


Tenth anniversary

This week marks the tenth anniversary of our first Barefoot MBA pilot.

A lot can change in ten years – progress, priorities, partnerships. And a lot can stay the same. In addition we still need help, especially with this site, partnership ideas and adaptation opportunities.

Here’s what’s changed:

  • Progress: When we boarded a plane to Bangkok to pilot the Barefoot MBA with the Population and Community Development Association (PDA) a decade ago, we were hopeful for what we could do for one organization in a summer. Our pilot of a few lessons that July gave PDA the tools it needed to roll out the entire curriculum to multiple sites across Thailand. That paved the way for other organizations to follow, in at least a dozen countries around the world. Our website has received traffic from another two dozen countries.
  • Partnerships: We are grateful to PDA for the success of the Barefoot MBA. If not for its leadership, inspiration and willingness to take a risk on a pair of business school students, we would not have such a strong early foundation to prove ourselves to the partners that followed.
  • Priorities: Our priority remains making basic business education freely available to anyone, anywhere. But the way we have done that has shifted, from our high-touch, on-the-ground approach to a more passive one. Instead of being constrained by our availability to physically be on the ground to adapt the Barefoot MBA (which we are still happy to do), we have solidified a model that lets organizations adapt the materials themselves while we support them from afar if necessary. Our first independent adaptation happened within 18 months of our pilot. We reached self-sufficiency 6 years ago, and it is perhaps our proudest achievement.

Here’s what hasn’t: Principles. We created the Barefoot MBA because we saw a need for freely available basic business education for even the smallest-scale entrepreneurs. We have sustained it because we see what a difference it makes. Ten years later, and in mostly hands-off mode, we still get new requests. And we still find a way to work with any prospective partner who is true to our principles. That has meant turning down offers to monetize our work – and we are OK with that.

And here’s the other thing that hasn’t changed: We are still looking for help. Not with the materials – those, mercifully, are well tested. But we would be grateful for assistance with:

  • Web development: Our blog-turned-website is also approaching its tenth anniversary and could use a simple refresh by a talented and creative developer.
  • Partnership ideas: We are always seeking new partners, domestically and abroad. In general, our partners have been organizations (generally but not always nonprofits) with proven infrastructure and a community eager to learn basic business but lacking the tools to do so. These organizations adapt the Barefoot MBA, with our guidance as necessary and desired, and maintain our spirit of making basic business education freely available to their clients.
  • Adaptation opportunities: In addition to additional partner organizations, we welcome introductions to volunteers interested in working with partners to adapt and share the Barefoot MBA.

We are grateful to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, particularly its Service Learning Program and Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, and the dozens of individuals and organizations that launched us a decade ago and continue to support our mission. We look forward to sharing the next ten years with you.

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.

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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!



Staggering growth in the Philippines
December 16, 2010, 11:09 am
Filed under: Blog, Philippines

Our partner in the Philippines, the Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation (NWTF), reports tremendous progress. From March to August, it rolled out the Barefoot MBA to up to 21,590 clients, about half of whom have attended at least two modified modules in their centers. NWTF plans additional roll out next year.

It’s hard to believe that barely a year earlier we introduced the Barefoot MBA to the Philippines. When we arrived, everyone in the Philippines who’d heard of the Barefoot MBA fit in a single classroom. By the time we left, we’d brought the Barefoot MBA to a small village. Reaching the equivalent population of a small city is staggering, and we are grateful to NWTF for its efforts.



More progress in the Philippines: “The program is working!”
July 21, 2010, 12:00 am
Filed under: Asia, Blog, Philippines

Our partners in the Philippines, the Global Initiative to Advance Entrepreneurship (GIVE) and the Inner-City Development Corporation (ICDC), report that the Barefoot MBA has reached 1,700 microloan recipients — and that 40% of those have increased their savings. They extol the modular nature of the Barefoot MBA as critical to their progress, especially as circumstances changed when strong typhoons hit the Philippines shortly after we left:

Many of the Filipinos who receive microloans had to empty any savings they had in the wake of last winter’s typhoons. With huge sections of Manila damaged or destroyed, residents often had to spend everything they had to get food, water, and shelter for their families.

Because savings accounts looked so depleted, ICDC tailored the Barefoot MBA lessons toward helping loan recipients save money. One of the benefits of the program is that it is modular, so MFIs can tailor the training they offer to the specific needs of the community they’re in. This flexibility makes the Barefoot MBA ideal for a number of situations because it can be relevant to all of them.

In case you’re wondering, the program is working! 40% of the 1700 people trained this year have increased their savings. With this kind of response, ICDC and GIVE are excited about what could happen when they start teaching the other modules in the program, probably sometime this winter.

We’re thrilled by the progress our partners are making and look forward to even more.