Q. How did the MBAid programme come about?
A. With our MBA students learning about business, we felt we could use their energies to do some good, and work with an NGO rather than do a case study which is a paper exercise. Also, we did it for the students themselves to enable them to understand what’s happening on the ground and for leaders to understand the real issues that people face in South Africa. Henley wants to create a new generation of leaders who are connected. We can’t have executives who are living in a silo and don’t know what’s going on around them.

Q. When was the MBAid network established?
A. We initially started about five years ago. The aim was to ensure that all executives on our MBA programme did projects with NGOs. It has now been extended to other Henley programmes. We have worked with about 260 NGOs and have provided hundreds of millions of rands of free consultancy. We also offer bursaries and scholarships, particularly for African women, who we have supported to become coaches. We are trying to focus our energies on something useful, rather than live in ivory towers.

Q. How many MBA students and executives have participated in this initiative?
A. Several thousand.

Q. Do the NGOs come from all sectors or do you focus on particular sectors?
A. We focus on all types of NGOs. We also provide scholarships to suitable people involved in NGOs. We have Goodness Hlope and Evette Fransman who received MBA scholarships. They are both working to reduce teen pregnancy and HIV transmission amongst schoolgirls. We support their initiatives. It’s extraordinary, our students and executives get as much or even more out of it than the NGOs. It changes the students and execs. They come out with a broader and more empathetic vision of life.

Q. Take us through the mechanics of the programme?
A. We take a client such as Discovery, Eskom or Denel and their executives and senior managers are given a project, with a range of NGOs to choose from. They discuss the NGOs needs and over a period of months try to help that NGO, through aspects such as their overall strategy, fundraising strategy, people strategy or business model. The students get really close to the NGOs, working in an action learning way which is deeply reflective and must produce outcomes. It is not a paper exercise.

Q. How long do they spend with each NGO?
A. It varies. When the UK international MBAs come to SA, they work for a month or two beforehand and will work for about seven or eight days in Cape Town with their assigned NGO. With local students we have projects that vary from two to six months.

Q. How long is the MBA programme?
A. The Henley MBA is very interesting. It is the only international MBA accredited in South Africa and we are a top 1% business school in the world. Our students generally have a family, a job, and their average age is 38 years old. We have a 30 month flexible MBA designed to fit into and be applied to work.  We’ve also initiated what we call a Family Friendly process. Why should studies damage their families when they do an MBA? Surely education should be smart enough to not allow this.

Q. At what point do the MBAs go onto the MBAid initiative?
A. It’s more than just the MBA students. All our executive and open programmes do similar programmes. Typically, they will do it towards the end of the MBA. A lot of the MBA students, 70% black and 42% women, are very engaged in trying to make some social contributions during the MBA. So they are actually pushing to have more of this work integrated into their programmes.

Q. Do people get credits for this?
A. It’s not credit bearing per se. However, the course they do it in is credit bearing. Our other programmes, that include the MBAid process, are the Post Grad Diploma (PGDip) which is a new programme that allows people to get the level 8 qualification and then go on to do the MBA with a discount or rebate.

Our MAP programme for up-and-coming managers and our Foundations for New Managers programme, as well as several customised programmes, include the MBAid initiative. We find it so empowering and life changing. All our staff get involved as well. We are working with a school in Soweto where we run a chocolate manufacturing process as part of one of our executive education courses. The chocolates are then given to the school and they hand it out as incentives or sell it.

Q. What is Henley’s philosophy on education?
A. Our philosophy is ‘We build the people who build the businesses that build Africa’. What’s the point of a business school that is going to create an elite who are disengaged? If business school education is any good, then everyone should do it because they will run better businesses. We try to build confidence in people. We try to make people come out feeling engaged and motivated, wanting to change the world or the environment in which they live.