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GBSN Program Spotlight: A Broader Definition of Business

The Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) published a blog by Amanda Bullough & Marti J. van Liere, which highlights a recent GBSN Program with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN).

A Broader Definition of Business

Business education should include lessons from market-based approaches to international development goals in developing countries

In a global economy, it makes good business sense to invest in sustainable development. Business students who understand this have the potential to become the world’s future business leaders. However, if one were to ask the typical business school graduate how to tackle development goals or what mechanisms work best, he or she probably wouldn’t be able to answer thoughtfully.

That’s a problem. If business school graduates can’t think critically about creating lasting, large-scale social change through market-oriented, inclusive business models, how can they be effective contributors to an increasingly inclusive economy? How will they navigate the necessary partnershipsÑworking with different players that have varying special interests, whether companies, NGOs, communities, or government entitiesÑto address international development goals?

A few organizations and business schools have embraced this idea, and their experiences are worth considering. The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) is an example. GAIN is an international organization that launched at the UN General Assembly in 2002 to tackle human suffering caused by malnutrition through efforts to improve access to high-quality, affordable, fortified foods and supplements for children older than six months, and for pregnant and lactating women. Malnutrition has a direct relationship with physical and mental growth and development of children, and therefore impacts school performance, adult productivity, and ultimately the economic development of a countryÑenough reasons for a business student or a business leader to take an interest in nutrition, as it impacts their bottom line.

Seven years since the start of the GAIN Maternal Infant Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN) program (directed by one of the authors), a comprehensive picture of the success and effectiveness of the different GAIN business models is starting to emerge. To create that picture, GAIN engaged the Global Business School Network (GBSN), a nonprofit that aims to improve the pool of management and leadership talent for the developing world, to perform an assessment of five of its projects, located in Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya and South Africa, and the Indian States of Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan. These projects aim to increase the availability and accessibility of affordable, high-quality, nutritious diets for children aged between 6-24 months in low-income households.

GBSN engaged MBA students from Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, along with faculty mentors, to review the assumptions on which the business cases were built, to determine which investments were most strategic, and which investments across the value chain resulted in improved implementation.

Twenty-five students gained consulting and real-world experience in reaching low-income consumers with low-cost, high-quality products. Subsequently, GAIN worked with GBSN to develop a teaching case that would help students understand the challenges of market-based approaches to nutrition for consumers at the base of the income pyramid, and allow students to walk in the shoes of GAIN directors.

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