“……suddenly, ideas that were flat on paper stood on their feet.”
Although I’ve traveled to many other cities around the world, Rio de Janeiro still ranks as one of the most beautiful of them all. Surrounded by mountains, the city also sits by the Atlantic Ocean so it enjoys the multitudes of benefits of both a seaside city and mountain villages.
We began our study at Pontifical Catholic University (PUCI) of Rio de Janeiro for our social entrepreneurship course with USD Professor Patricia Marquez. The campus felt more like a tropical rain forest, with lush greens draping over winding pathways that led to the business school building. Some Brazilian students joined our course, and offered their unique perspectives in discussions, occasionally translating for local guest speakers. Here we dove into a rich world of ideas and inspirations behind a variety of social enterprises – a socially responsible and high fashion sneaker company, a sports organization that fuels the desire for change from within for the homeless, and a drug company that values patients more than its own bottom line. Then we visited local favelas (Brazilian slums) that had started their own business to make a change, and suddenly ideas that were flat on paper stood on their feet. Some of then danced and sang, like in the case of AfroReggae; some of them dazzled and flashed, like in the case of Mulleres de Salgares. The hidden hero here was the Genesis Institute, a social enterprise incubator in collaborations with PUCI. They had consulted and trained many social entrepreneurs in the area, many with little more than a desire to break free from poverty and a very large and hungry family ready to help. The stories we learned from these cases not only gave us frameworks to develop the seed of our own ideas, they also sparked a fire of motivation in our bellies.
Our consulting work exercised a different side of me. Our clients were enthusiastic experts when it came to their products and services – an innovative technology services company breaking ground into the mobile market. They looked to us to help strategize and investigate certain new market opportunities. For two intensive days we gathered and prioritized their requirements within the team, and externally with the client. Through open and honest discussions, we earned the clients’ trust and respect while digging deeper into the “why” rather than fixating on the “what”. This experience enabled us to not only provide the analysis and research accurately matching requirements but also those beyond the surface discussions. The Brazilian team members provided rich insights, local contacts and research resources while we, the US half performed in-depth financial analysis and additional global perspectives.
All work and no play would have made us dull. We enjoyed our downtime wandering deep into the Favelas and climbing high above the peaks of Corcovado and Sugar Loaf mountains. The pristine beaches at Ipanema became our home away from home while our global experience and market understanding skyrocketed through our shared experiences. Incredibly, we gained a world of friendship, top-notch learning and market value through this single month long trip.
Submitted by Tina D’Amore, a second-year IMBA student