Over the past several months, as COVID-19 laid waste to the world, our alumni volunteers have been more active than ever. One great example of an active community and mutual value creation is CEAS Brazil, a Together project aimed at helping farmers’ associations develop organic cocoa. Thanks to the initiative of an alumni team made up of RobertoBallester (PMD ‘12) and Alberto Guasch (Lic&MBA ‘78), the project kicked off in June 2020 – remotely, since we were in the middle of a pandemic – and has advanced satisfactorily over the last few months. After Esade Alumni publicised the experience on social media, a new member joined the team: Sandra Roca (EMBA ‘21), who has lived in Salvador de Bahia for 15 years and is able to interact with the CAES social organisation in person, thereby greatly enriching the relationship.
Esade Alumni Social also works to generate a productive economy in developing countries, with Esade graduates actively contributing to projects in Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil. These international consulting activities are known as the Together project, as they are managed in coordination with the Esade University Development Service (SUD).
The goal is to help small local companies become profitable for the benefit of local residents and communities, via a work formula that involves interaction between senior alumni and current students.
The first step is a three-week consulting trip. During this site visit, alumni identify actions for students in the SUD programme to carry out during their two-month internships. But in the case of CEAS Brazil, after the excitement of having been selected for the project and setting dates to visit the country, the trip had to be cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. “It was a huge disappointment because we had already organised everything to get to know the country,” Alberto Guasch explained. “But we gave it some thought and decided that the people we were targeting had an important need. They are asking for our support, and we saw a way to help them remotely.”
The project is going ahead thanks to a collective effort
Alberto and Roberto have worked tirelessly over the last 10 months to define the scope of the project. This was initially quite challenging, since they had not been able to travel to the site. Despite this, they made a proposal that CEAS and the farmers accepted, and the first stage – product development – is now nearing completion. “We have made a lot of progress in getting to know the people, the value proposition and the methodology, so that we can pass our learning and knowledge along to all of the associations involved in the project,” commented Alberto.
“Making an effort to collaborate online seemed like the right thing to do,” commented Roberto. “The trip would have allowed us to get to know the environment first-hand, but the follow-up would have been done remotely in any case. CEAS is the social organisation that facilitates all contact with the farmers and acts as our translator and liaison.”
The addition of Sandra Roca to the team was a great move. Since she speaks fluent Portuguese, she is able to ensure that information is conveyed properly. “In addition to being an Esade graduate, she is located on the ground, she understands social projects and she is familiar with the rhythms of the environment,” added Roberto. “This makes her a valuable addition to the team.”
The experience has been a real luxury for the entire team. They are grateful that the Esade SUD and Esade Alumni have provided the opportunity to participate in international projects that allow alumni to discover far-off places that are completely different from their everyday lives.
“The possibility of learning and directly helping with a project that Esade is collaborating on is very exciting for me,” explained Sandra. “In addition, the implementation of this project will allow for the social, economic and environmental development of all the people who participate in it, as well as their communities.”
“In the pro bono consulting projects, the teams are larger. In this case, since there are only three of us, there are some things that we are not able to control. But we have to push ahead anyway, so the experience is very enriching,” commented Roberto.
According to Alberto, since Together’s international volunteering projects focus on the productive economy, the volunteers’ recommendations are likely to be implemented and have a noticeable impact – which is extremely gratifying.