May 8, 2019Print | PDF
Not-for-profit organizations allocate most of their precious fundraising dollars to where they’ll do the most direct good. Business consulting is a luxury many go without. But like every other business, non-profits need to grow and succeed. To do this, they need solid business advice.
Students at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics are closing this resource gap, providing social enterprises with pro bono management and strategy consulting. During a 12-week practicum course, five social enterprises with a real-world business problem receive top-notch advice from a team of business students who are mentored by a professional management consultant. The projects are real and immersive, unleashing the power of collaboration and hands-on learning.
“Students work with real clients and give back. It’s a unique way to do good and build important career skills and a network,” says Srin Sridharan (BBA and BMath ’14), course instructor and partner at Waypoint Investment Partners. Sridharan developed the course in partnership with the Lazaridis School after noticing a significant resource gap when he first started working in the consulting industry.
“We’re teaching students about management consulting and how to provide strategic advice, while also creating value for social enterprises,” says Sridharan.
The business problems non-profits are looking to solve are complex. The analysis and recommendations students provide deliver valuable insights and actions these organizations can implement to grow and create greater social value.
“Consulting is far more valuable than we give it credit for. And it’s one thing social enterprises can’t afford to pay for. So as consultants, we have a responsibility to donate our skills,” says Sridharan.
Through the practicum course, Laurier students have provided the following pro bono professional consulting services to a number of social enterprises:
“It’s important for people who have the resources and experience to take time and give back to social enterprises,” says Samantha Sells, a fourth-year Laurier student who completed the practicum last year. “Because at the end of the day, those are really the issues we should all be looking to solve.”
Not only is the practicum course a chance for students to do good, it also provides valuable real-world learning experiences outside of the classroom.
“We take frameworks and holistic thinking learned in class and apply them to a real problem a client faces,” says Sells.
Students learn to deliver presentations, meet one-on-one with clients and distill complex analysis. Learning beyond the lecture hall, students complete the course with sought-after skills:
The practicum doesn’t just give students academic credit for doing good. Many students benefit from networking opportunities the practicum provides. Many students have received direct exposure to the consulting world as a result of the practicum, and have since started careers with the management consulting firms who mentor them through the course — including Sells, who is starting full time in the fall at The Boston Consulting Group.
“There’s a real career case for doing this, in terms of building your network,” says Sridharan.
Long after they get their final grade, many students continue to consult for clients, free of charge.
“Students care about the causes and continue to work for the organizations pro bono, beyond the practicum,” says Sridharan.
Laurier students are known to make a meaningful impact on the community and this practicum course helps them do it.
“It’s important for me to have a higher purpose in the work I’m doing” says Sells. “Consulting is a great path to set myself up to make a meaningful impact, where my time and education will make a difference.”
The course, Management Consulting Practicum, is offered every spring to approximately 30 students. Students apply and select social enterprises. Student interested in the 2020 spring semester practicum, or social enterprises in need of advice on business challenges, can contact Srin Sridharan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for information about a practicum project showcase to be held in Toronto in August 2019.
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