A business education from most formal business schools prepares one well for a life in the corporate world. Several thousand Wharton graduates who have gone on to achieve big successes in their professional lives can attest to that fact. At the same time, the context in which we learn is quite removed from traditional rural business enterprises. As such, the lessons don’t translate well if one were to use them to teach business skills to rural entrepreneurs. Wharton Social Impact is unique in how it inspires Wharton students and alumni to create products and services that benefit the developing world but it is still a few steps removed from imparting relevant business education to those rural entrepreneurs directly.
Given this current state of affairs, what happens when you combine the vision of a seasoned social activist, the business knowledge of several individuals from varying corporate backgrounds, and dedication and exposure to empowerment through a deep commitment on their part to volunteering to change the lives of thousands? The result is an amazingly innovative initiative called Training Resources for Enabling Enterprises Society (TREES). I have had the honor of watching this initiative grow over the past couple of years because several of my colleagues from Asha for Education are intimately involved in this effort.
Their unique training program, called Certificate in Rural Enterprise Administration and Management (CREAM), offers 30 days of classes spread over six months during which basic business skills are taught through appropriate examples in local languages as well as English. They have successfully conducted training programs in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan and Jharkhand and are currently in the process of hosting Business Viability classes at the Timbaktu Collective in Andhra Pradesh. The faculty instrumental in the success of this program are working professionals from different business backgrounds with several years of expertise in their areas of specialization.
Hats off to you, Richa, Ranjeet, Ram, Pankaj and others who are transforming the way business skills can be taught in the context of a rural enterprise. As the recent JP Morgan report noted, impact investing as an asset class is set to grow rapidly in the coming decade, and efforts like this are a perfect example of how investment dollars can be directed towards initiatives with a real social return, and a longer-term financial return as well. It would be wonderful if Wharton and other schools with a global reach can repackage and contextualize their curriculum in a similar fashion to accelerate rural enterprise creation and growth in developing economies.
TREES is expanding its faculty pool and looking for professionals based in India who are interested in teaching and can commit a week for teaching and travel to rural areas. The group is also interested in developing MBA-style case studies about real situations from rural businesses TREES has encountered to be used as teaching aids in classroom discussions. If you are interested please contact me for more information.
You can also follow them on their Facebook page.