Barefoot MBA

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.


Third anniversary

This month marks the third anniversary of our first pilot — and an opportunity to summarize and share our progress in the last year:

  • Completed adaptations: We’ve worked with partners in the Philippines and Rhode Island to adapt the Barefoot MBA and develop multi-day workshops. In both places, the Barefoot MBA has extended beyond the original training group: In the Philippines alone, it’s on track to exceed 3,000 recipients
  • Adaptations in progress: We’re working with partners in Kenya, Nigeria, Nicaragua and India to adapt the Barefoot MBA to local specifications. In addition, a partner from our Philippines workshop hopes to run a similar training in Cambodia
  • Expert advice: We regularly share advice and input for complementary work. This winter, our input was included in a Columbia Business School team’s report on mobile learning for Frogtek
  • New partnerships: We are exploring partnerships in China, Rwanda and a U.S.-based organization that works on three continents. We are eager for new partnerships, especially in geographies we have not yet touched
  • Press coverage: The Brown Daily Herald covered the Barefoot MBA’s partnership in Rhode Island. Echoing Green and a Brown newsletter profiled Katherine’s Barefoot MBA experience
  • Videos: We’ve (finally!) posted videos that the Stanford GSB created when the Barefoot MBA was in its infancy

As always, that’s just what we know. Our social media efforts on Facebook (become a fan!) and Twitter have expanded our reach to new people and places. Our blog-turned-website continues to get hits from every inhabited continent, and we continue to hear second- and third-hand of others adapting the Barefoot MBA to their needs.

We look forward to another year of progress ahead — and, as always, to your continued support and feedback.

Update from the Philippines
June 11, 2010, 4:40 am
Filed under: Asia, Blog, Cambodia, Philippines

We caught up with one of our partners in the Philippines, the Global Initiative to adVance Entrepreneurship (GIVE), which shared progress there and in Cambodia.

Urban Entrepreneurship Center

In the Philippines, GIVE and the Inner City Development Corporation (ICDC), one of the participating organizations in last year’s train-the-trainers workshop, have set up an entrepreneurship center in Manila that provides, among other things, Barefoot MBA lessons. The center is set up as a co-op, with a membership cost of $20 payable via microloan. Of the borrowers, 40% are single mothers; the co-op provides child care.

Zeny, one of our participants in the Philippines, is leading the charge for ICDC, which so far has trained more than 1,700 borrowers with the Barefoot MBA. She has noticed increased savings rates among participants, and GIVE is helping to collect supporting data. Zeny recently traveled to France, where she met with donors and shared the benefits of the Barefoot MBA.

GIVE sees a need for a similar center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In addition to looking into making that a reality, it hopes to run a training this fall similar to what we ran in the Philippines last summer.

We are encouraged by our partners’ progress in the Philippines and Cambodia and look forward to more to come.

2009 in review
January 1, 2010, 11:08 am
Filed under: Asia, Blog, Cambodia, Guatemala, India, Latin America, Philippines, Rhode Island, Thailand

Three years ago this week, the Barefoot MBA began as but an idea. Since then we’ve come a long way.

2009 in review:

And in the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, some for the Barefoot MBA:

  • Expand to other countries and continents, notably Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East
  • Solidify presence in existing geographies, including the United States
  • Update our website (we’re trying! can you help?)
  • Measure results of existing adaptations, especially in Thailand and the Philippines

Happy new year!

In the field: Teaching villagers
August 29, 2009, 7:42 am
Filed under: Blog, Philippines
Teaching the Barefoot MBA to villagers

Teaching the Barefoot MBA to villagers

E.B. MAGALONA – Thursday’s ‘wow’ was premature. Friday’s field teaching in a small fishing village here demonstrated how far we’ve come in ways we couldn’t have dreamed of even a week ago.

Participants spent Thursday evening and Friday morning preparing the lessons they’d teach to villagers. Some drew pictures. Some wrote out simple math. Some tweaked content, replacing drought with typhoon to make a lesson relevant in a place that would not exist without fish farming.

E.B. Magalona, a fishing village in Negros

E.B. Magalona, a fishing village in Negros

And then we were off. We drove north of Silay through unpaved roads amid fields of sugar cane, arriving in this fishing village just in time for the loan officer’s weekly meeting. We gathered in a small hut as NWTF officers checked the progress of borrowers’ repayment, introduced our group, and eventually gave control to our participants.

We split into 4 groups of 10 to 15 villagers each. In those groups, something magical happened. In the native dialect, our participants patiently explained why they came. Villagers sat with rapt attention as they learned about debt, interest and saving. These were not necessarily new concepts, but presenting them in new light made them easier to grasp – and motivated the villagers to run better businesses, they said. Villagers understood the stories. The examples were immediately relevant to their lives. Asked what could have been better, they grinned. “Nothing.”

Teaching the Barefoot MBA to villagers

Teaching the Barefoot MBA to villagers

Our participants taught lessons we built in a paradigm they hadn’t heard of before Monday, yet their body language suggested comfort usually acquired over months or years. They left empowered to teach additional lessons to their own clients in the months, weeks and even days ahead. They walked away from the week energized by the difference they made for their borrowers just as we walk away energized by the difference we made for them.


Fourth day in Bacolod: Teaching and gratitude
August 27, 2009, 9:24 pm
Filed under: Blog, Philippines
Teaching the Barefoot MBA

Teaching the Barefoot MBA

BACOLOD CITY – We spent our last day in the classroom doing another round of practice teaching as a last hurrah before visiting a local NWTF center to teach three lessons to borrowers.

We’ve been purposefully nimble in structure the week, and today was no exception. Yesterday, participants told us they wanted more practice teaching. Today, after each small group presented once to half the participants, we divided the entire group into quarters, allowing each participant to practice teaching alone. Some used visuals. Some wrote out simple math. Some made skits. Everyone took a turn. Even the shiest participants taught, using small groups of supportive peers to overcome what in some cases was intense fear of public speaking.

Teaching the Barefoot MBA
Teaching the Barefoot MBA

We roamed as participants taught, but they so clearly demonstrated command of what they’d learned that it didn’t take long for us to essentially blend into the scenery. Participants took turns facilitating what their peers learned from each lesson, a role we’d played until now. Some took the final learning wrap up a step farther, synthesizing what they’d learned overall, not just from individual lessons. We’re excited to watch them in action tomorrow as they teach NWTF’s clients in a nearby town and look forward to reports of progress in their own communities later.

Teaching the Barefoot MBA
Teaching the Barefoot MBA

We concluded our classroom teaching with a lesson on measurement, discussing what participants can and already do track and how those metrics might change over time. The participant whose center we’re visiting tomorrow will start tracking right away; the others must wait until they get home. We look forward to meaningful, measured progress from all.

Our final review this afternoon quickly turned into a session of heartfelt gratitude, with participants sharing glowing testimonials that public relations professionals could only dream of. One called the Barefoot MBA a master’s degree less the formalities of a university degree. Another committed to implementing it with her entire training department. A third pulled us aside and quietly assured us that the Barefoot MBA was a critical solution for poor people – and that she’d already started sharing it with her counterparts at other organizations.


Third day in Bacolod: Teaching begins
August 26, 2009, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Blog, Philippines
Barefoot MBA group - Philippines

Barefoot MBA group - Philippines

BACOLOD CITY – The excitement in the room today was palpable as participants became teachers of the Barefoot MBA for the first time.

They eased into teaching, first by getting comfortable standing in front of a room during the daily morning review of what we’ve learned so far. Some didn’t need to acclimate: asked to teach others what they’d learned, they put on a lively skit mimicking a local newscast. Smiles turned to giggles turned to laughs as participants demonstrated how much they’d internalized the workshop so far.

With energy levels high, participants articulated how to keep their students engaged: stand up, make eye contact, apply lessons to students’ lives, smile. (This is, after all, known as the city of smiles.) After a couple role plays as students while we taught lessons from the Barefoot MBA, participants were eager to take center stage again.

Participants spent the afternoon preparing to teach in small groups the lessons they adapted yesterday, which last night we retyped and augmented with discussion questions. With props, games and pizzazz, groups taught their fellow participants about production and price and competition. Though their lessons were identical in some cases, pedagogies differed, underscoring the Barefoot MBA’s flexibility and adaptability – and reminding us how far we’ve come. Students articulated what they learned: know your audience, make them comfortable, be prepared, be flexible, don’t be distracted by details, practice. Practice, practice, practice.

Tomorrow we’ll continue to practice teaching, giving students as many opportunities as possible to practice what they’ve been learning before heading into the field on Friday to teach some of NWTF’s borrowers.