Our Plan for Long Term Impact on the Tanzanian Economy and Local Students
By Jeremy Boles
Irish Student Consulting Group was set up in October of 2014 with the aim of benefiting the Irish economy by helping SMEs (Small-Medium Enterprises) grow while simultaneously increasing the skills of third level students.
Since then, ISCG has helped five Irish SMEs answer their most challenging strategic questions; what will the future of my industry look like in 10 years? How should we enter this new line of business? How can we structure our team more efficiently? The results have been overwhelming; increased exports, jobs created, clarity on the future.
The leadership team responsible for scaling ISCG from one university, UCD, to a national organisation with additional branches in TCD and UCC (with two more planned to open in September) decided to do a project further afield this summer with the aim of leveraging our consulting skillset to help the developing world. We initially thought we could do a project for a large NGO, but as we thought about it we realised international NGOs do not need advice from western students; they could really benefit from the advice of a local group. The more we thought, discussed and researched it the more we realised a local student consulting group could have a really long term and sustainable impact on a developing economy. The pro bono student consulting model ISCG has developed is a win-win all around; SMEs grow and make more jobs for the economy, and students refine their skills to the point of starting a really impactful career.
Since February, six ISCG members have been focused on defining, refining, and realising this vision. We wanted to ensure that our work could lead to local students having continuous impact so we chose a model to teach the students in a practical manner; by completing a client project together. After researching a number of locations and choosing Tanzania based on the economic outlook, quality of the university, and safety factors we focused on three pillars of implemention: students partnerships, clients, and corporate sponsorship. We have now secured commitment from several local students to work with us, confirmed a project with a solar energy provider in Tanzania, and are talking to several large corporates about sponsorship in addition to donations from our Irish clients.
On the 20th of June, four UCD and Trinity students will be flying to Dar es Salaam equipped with daily workshops and teaching plans. There we will meet the local students and together we will work with the client to solve one of their most pressing issues.
Throughout the course of the project we will impart our knowledge to the local students, with the hope that they will be equipped to run the Tanzanian Student Consulting Group. We will maintain regular contact, but ultimately the continuance of the work is decidable by the local group.
This is a sustainable and empowering model; we have designed it such that it is not a group of westerners coming in and telling locals what to do. It is about us showing them what we do, and offering them all the support we can. The psychology of the project is not to provide aid, but to provide empowerment, teaching consulting skills as opposed to giving a fish.
With the resources and teaching we provide to our student counterparts in Dar es Salaam we hope that they will continue carrying out projects with local SMEs when we have returned home. If they are as excited about the idea as we were when ISCG started, they will surely grow as quick. Perhaps next year we will meet them again in a different country to create a another consulting group together.