Barefoot MBA


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!

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Final class in Nicaragua
October 1, 2010, 5:09 am
Filed under: Blog, Latin America, Nicaragua

Nicaragua class

After four weeks of classes, the first Barefoot MBA course in Nicaragua wrapped up with great success. Amy-Ruth and Enrique write:

The last week of the course was great fun. We did a 2 part class of Profits and Planning-Recording. There were a few keen learners in this and you could hear the clogs turning in their heads! At one point Marco, who I was sitting next to and is a 63 year old ex-farmer turned café owner, said ‘yo entiendo’ meaning, ‘I understand’. That was something pretty cool I thought. He was trying to work out that, if he makes a 300% profit on the ingredients of his drinks then why isn’t he a millionaire by now… The class were put to the task of working this out and answers started flying our way ‘because he has to pay rent’ was one response ‘because you need to have electricity to keep ice frozen’ was another response and they kept coming until we had filled the board. Profit became something different for everybody I think.

In the class of Planning and Recording the students were a bit apprehensive. Some struggle to read and write and I think that the idea of recording anything on paper is a bit scary to some. The examples made it easy to see the value in it but it was when Enrique put a real example on the board of the sewing ladies and things fell into place. You know that there’s real interest when Silvia asked if she could please have a piece of paper so she could copy the example. That is the first time I have heard that here! I said we can do better than that and I presented everyone with their very own records book! Not the most exciting gift in the world but you should have seen their faces, it was classic! I think that it is not the value of the book, as that is only about $1, but it is the value of what they now know they can do with it that is worth so much.

Thank you very much to the Barefoot MBA team of Katherine and Scott for your help and your support. When we were looking at developing some sort of business course, the idea was just daunting! Then we came across your program and we have been excited about it ever since. Thank you again.

The Nicaragua adaptation is on our curriculum page. Amy-Ruth and Enrique also shared the application form they distributed to prospective participants.

Silvia receives certificate of completion

Silvia receives certificate of completion



Progress in Nicaragua
August 20, 2010, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Blog, Latin America, Nicaragua

Our partner in Nicaragua, Casas de la Esperanza, held another Barefoot MBA class last night. Amy-Ruth writes:

The group used lots of local examples which was great and captured everyones interest. Things like the cost of producing ‘fresco’, of making a pair of ‘pantalones’, creating ‘anillos’ and selling mobile phone top-ups. Having a good activity is key to everyone learning and enjoying themselves.

As we are going on further everyone is coming out of their shells a lot more, feeling comfortable with each other and with us too. One of the real benefits that we could see is that the members of the class will feel comfortable to ask the other members, in the future, for business help or advice.

We have also found that the more active we can keep everyone, the better. Nicaraguans are very expressive people and, although the group isn’t great with understanding the numbers side of business they love to act out situations. In the class we try and incorporate the hard figures of business while also adding a big element of activity and team work.

Note the children in the background of the photo below. As Amy-Ruth says, “here you can’t have a class without the kids coming too!” We look forward to more updates soon.



First Nicaraguan class today
July 29, 2010, 12:00 pm
Filed under: Blog, Latin America, Nicaragua

Our partner in Nicaragua, Casas de la Esperanza, holds its first class today. Amy-Ruth and her team narrowed the curriculum to eight lessons, which we plan to post along with photos after the class. Amy-Ruth expects about 10 students from a range of backgrounds, including a 60-year-old with a very basic education who sells chicken and a 17-year-old who wants to be a tour guide.



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.



Nicaraguan adaptation
July 8, 2010, 9:47 pm
Filed under: Blog, Nicaragua

The Barefoot MBA has made it to another new country, Nicaragua, where a volunteer at Casas de la Esperanza is adapting it for cafe owners, seamstresses, taxi drivers and other entrepreneurs in and near Granada. The volunteer, Amy-Ruth, hopes the Barefoot MBA boosts students’ understanding and confidence to sustain their businesses. She is starting her adaptation based on the Guatemalan version of the Barefoot MBA and plans to run a workshop this summer. We look forward to updates then and along the way.



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!