The name Community Connect highlights two things that I think are crucially missing within the University environment: a realization that we are part of a greater local community outside of the university walls, and a lack of connections that take full advantage of this community phenomenon. What many fail to see is that there is a great benefit in reaching out to others, creating mutually beneficial relationships, and collectively making everyone reach greater heights. These relationships are powerful. Not only can community members leverage one another, but it is a recipe for creating social change. But how can we do this? Let’s start with something called Community Connect.
So…what is Community Connect?
Community Connect is a consulting program that gives students an opportunity to experience the power of community and see firsthand the accomplishments that are possible when people work together. Students are put in teams and assigned an organizational problem that requires them to use their knowledge from classes, think critically, and come up with solutions that will help the given organization.
We want to empower students to realize that they already have the skills and knowledge to create meaningful impact by giving them this unique experience. It is open to ALL students, meaning yes – an English major can have experience in business consulting. We acknowledge that everyone has unique knowledge and perspective to contribute and specifically encourage teams to be cross-disciplinary in order to promote broad and creative thinking. For any student, this is a perfect way to finally make connections with what you are reading in your textbooks and the challenges out there in the real world.
There are great partners to help students realize this:
- Local social entrepreneurs or non-profits that can benefit from having a fresh student perspective on their organizations’ challenges
- MBA students that are willing and wanting to give guidance on fundamental business concepts
- Educational organizations like SoJo (mysosjo.com that want to teach students about creating social impact
Why are these groups not already connecting? We want to bring everyone together and start making these “win-win-win” connections happen. How it works is social impact organizations (such as non-profits, research organizations, or social entrepreneurs) chose a specific challenge they are facing and want students to help them with. We select teams of undergraduates and assigned each an MBA mentor to help with the business side of the organizational challenge. They then have 4 months to come up with a creative solution to the problem and present it to the organization.
Okay so let’s summarize up to here: undergraduate students are gaining real-life problem solving experience, MBA students are gaining mentorship and consulting experience, and organizations in the community are getting free help from our school’s top students. Great way to make use of your community, right? But wait, there’s more – social change is happening! On one hand, social organizations are now achieving more and doing more good in the community. On the other, we are getting students to see the satisfaction gained when you have a social impact and inspiring them to continue being socially innovative after the program.
Really, it’s a simple mission – connect with community and learn to problem solve, together. It’s a simple habit that will equip our students to eventually (and hopefully!) solve some of our world’s toughest challenges.