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What are Booth Social Impact’s key initiatives?

Rory: The way we’re organized in BSI, we have two major workstreams. The first is for BSI Consulting projects and the second is a Group Philanthropy Initiative (GPI), a giving circle where student donations are pooled into a grant fund that we award to a worthy nonprofit in the Chicagoland area. GPI is an opportunity to exercise principles of social investment that we learn about extracurricularly, and Consulting is an opportunity to bring lessons from the classroom to bear on the real-life problems that nonprofits face.

How have you shifted to continue supporting students virtually?

Rory: We ran a series of signature events over the past academic year, and of course all events in Spring Quarter were online. Before COVID, we hosted a panel on how to measure social impact. We discussed what success looks like for nonprofits when you’re not measuring revenue or shareholder value. 

We also hosted a virtual nonprofit financials workshop in collaboration with the Rustandy Center, where we answered questions like, ‘how do you read the financials document for a nonprofit? What are the red flags you should look for when considering a philanthropic investment?’ We expected 50 people to show up for a workshop in person, and were surprised to have 85 students attend online. The moderator came from Fiscal Management Associates, a consultancy focused on helping nonprofits with financial planning. She had experience in online programming so she placed us in smaller Zoom breakout rooms to discuss key issues. 

One thing we learned during our remote learning quarter was to take advantage of the valuable hour between 5 and 6 pm on weekday evenings, when students used to be commuting to class or heading home after work. By taking advantage of this time period, students who have class later in the evening can still participate.

Akhila Iruku, Evening MBA Student

"The great thing about both GPI and BSI is that we don't depend on physical activities...between GPI and BSI Consulting, we’re creating small pockets of a network within a bigger Booth community. It’s a really valuable thing to have, when you aren't seeing people between classes or interacting face to face. Also, one silver lining is that we have Weekend, Evening and Executive MBA students on our BSI teams, and with quarantine it has actually been easier for us all to work together."

 

— Akhila Iruku, Evening MBA student

Tell us more about BSI Consulting

Akhila: BSI Consulting is actually a quarterly initiative, so every three months we select three to five new nonprofits that we're working with in the Chicago community and pair them with 45 MBA students, along with an external consulting coach. We’ve now had two virtual consulting kickoffs and have had great success this past Spring with completely virtual projects. While the external consulting coaches usually travel for work and have very limited time to spend with our students, now that they are not travelling, they’ve had more time to spend with the team.

Rory: We’ve even opened up consulting to Executive MBA students, which is a new dynamic for us and has been great.

Akhila: This past Spring quarter, we had our first ever Consulting and Project Management Workshop which featured a set of panelists who are consultants at firms including Accenture, West Monroe Partners, and the Partnership for Public Service. We had a great turnout from BSI members and the broader Booth community to learn not only how to apply consulting and projectment fundamentals to a BSI project, but to any consulting type role that may come up with Lab Classes, internships, and in their current work. 

How is BSI connecting the community at this time? What has it been like for you personally?

Akhila: The great thing about both GPI and BSI is that we don't depend on physical activities. We mostly depend on conversations or discussing research that students are doing on the side. Obviously it’s great for us to meet in person, but we think that between GPI and BSI Consulting, we’re creating small pockets of a network within a bigger Booth community. It’s a really valuable thing to have, when you aren't seeing people between classes or interacting face to face. Also, one silver lining is that we have Weekend, Evening and Executive MBA students on our BSI teams, and with quarantine it has actually been easier for us all to work together.

Rory: For me personally, one benefit of Zoom has been the chat functionality. I’ve been texting more with my classmates than ever before, sending them little notes after class.

Akhila: You weren’t able to see other people’s thoughts during class because people would raise their hands, so having the chat functionality and messaging on Slack to see what’s on everyone’s minds, has been really fascinating. I have also had a couple of virtual happy hours after class with a smaller group of people that I like that are in class together. So that's been fun to keep seeing people's faces. 

Rory: I feel that the online format helps Weekend students engage in evening activities and vice versa, and that’s been a really positive development.

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