37 MBA students

Project: Social enterprise Soul of Africa

Collaborators: 11 designers

Guest speakers: Inderpaul Johar of architecture practice 00, Les Wynn from Xerox, Engine service design

During a one-day workshop, 37 MBA students who took the elective worked with 11 designers from different disciplines to help frame and tackle some of the current challenges facing Soul of Africa, which employs women hand-stitching shoes which are sold internationally, with the profits going back to support AIDS-affected communities in South Africa.

The aim of the event was to bring together the ways of problem framing and solving typically used by MBAs with designers from different disciplines, to help Soul of Africa engage with some of the challenges it is faced with. From Soul of Africa, we were joined by co-founder Lance Clark, Galahad Clark of Terraplana, Franziska Amaral, and Martin Foley. Soul of Africa was originally started with £30,000 and has raised over $2m which has been invested into South African communities affected by AIDS. Women handstitch shoes which are then shipped to the UK and US, and sold in major retail outlets such as Clarks and Next.

Mixed teams worked on strategy, operations, marketing and design combining creative and analytical approaches to generate recommendations for Soul of Africa.

The MBA students then carried on working on the project as part of their assessed work. Their documents were shared with Soul of Africa, who may take some of the ideas forward.

The designers – selected from an open call to participate to which over 75 people responded – were from backgrounds in textiles and fashion, graphics, industrial design, design management, interaction design. They were:  Titi Abiola, Stephanie Chen, Jason Coop, Rachel Manning, Dejan Mitrovic, Kathryn Moores, Olive Ntkula, Lars Rosengren, Pammi Sinha, Tom Tobia and Rachel Turner.
To help facilitate the day, several colleagues and others helped including: Marc Ventresca, university lecturer in innovation at the school; Sarabajaya Kumar, Skoll Centre for Social Entpreneurship; Trudi Lang, DPhil candidate, InSIS; Meng Zhao, DPhil candidate; Caroline Norman, Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, course leader MA Design Management; and Hermeet Gill, MBA alumnus who did my elective last year. We also heard from by Pamela Hartigan, director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entpreneurship. I’m grateful for their support and for our internal admin team for making this happen.