A unique partnership at St. Francis Xavier University is creating a bridge for Gerald Schwartz School of Business students into Coady Institute thanks to the efforts of Dr. Brad Long, the John T. Sears Chair in Corporate Social Responsibility in the Schwartz School, and Yogesh Ghore, Senior Program Staff at Coady.
Dr. Long has just hired the first cohort of three students through the new Sears Internships in Social Enterprise Program, made possible through funding from the endowed chair position he holds.
The Sears Interns—they include Victoria Morley, who graduates in May with a BBA honours degree in enterprise systems; Derin Derici, a fourth year BBA student taking an advanced major in marketing, minor in economics; and Nicolas Coyle, a fourth year student, taking a BBA advanced major in finance, minor in economics—will work on three separate virtual projects alongside Dr. Long, Mr. Ghore, Eric Smith and several other Coady team members, and the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India.
“The idea was for business students to be able to become involved with learning opportunities available through Coady, and I took that as an invitation to consider a broad range of possibilities. Conversations with Yogesh led to the idea of summer student internships – paid summer jobs doing research and/or working on projects that introduce Schwartz students to Coady people, partners, and development approaches,” Dr. Long says.
Coady is currently collaborating on a project with the SEWA to enhance women farmers’ access to agricultural markets in India with the objective of improving their income and wellbeing. This project is funded by the Government of Canada’s Fund for Innovation and Transformation (FIT). Coady’s role in this project is to develop and test tools with women farmers to identify capacity building needs. Two of the students will work on this project:
- Producer-led value chain mapping of salt and fresh vegetables with women farmers in Gujrat, India. This project will include mapping the value chains from sourcing of agricultural inputs to production, harvesting, aggregation, processing, wholesale, distribution and retailing to local and distant markets.
- A model dashboard development for the farmers. A key component of the FIT project is developing a ‘model dashboard’ for farmers that helps them learn, make informed decisions and track progress. This component includes identification of the key performance indicators, the method, tools and frequency of data collection, data storage, and analysis. Working with the SEWA grassroots implementation team, the student will assess the need of such a dashboard, its feasibility, and technical requirements.
The third project is Reimagining human capital from the perspective of women, workers, and union members, and the intersectionality of all three. Mr. Ghore says the current framing of human capital used by the World Bank and multilaterals focus on health and education as key components, linking investments in them to economic returns and productivity gains. This research aims to understand, expand and enliven the concept of human capital and influence its subsequent application.
The students are excited for the opportunity.
“I believe that the work SEWA does to mobilize and empower women in India is important, and a very worthy cause that I would love to contribute to. As an enterprise systems student, I have had the opportunity to work with data over the last four years and understand that data can be used as an asset and a means to create impactful change. This project intersects both my passion for making impactful change, as well as my desire to gain some rich short-term work experience,” Ms. Morley says.
Mr. Coyle says the recent farmers protest across India has brought to his attention the economic difficulties faced by female farmers. “My goal in taking on this project is to facilitate the empowerment of these women by increasing their margins after identifying steps and technologies in the value chain which could be improved upon, ensuring that they’re not invisible in the process by increasing the awareness of their value to themselves and other stakeholders. The Sears Internship provides me the opportunity to improve the lives of rural female farmers in Gujarat; giving these farmers the information they need will help increase their economic welfare. As we all know, investing in women not only adds to their quality of life, but uplifts their communities as well.”
Ms. Derici says she believes without hesitation that the future of the human capital depends on perspective of women, workers and union members. “I am confident that my skills and my passion for empowering women in workforce are a good match for the position.”
“What is exciting is that we will be connecting the StFX students with grassroots women leaders from SEWA to become part of the recovery and shape rebuilding of the rural economy—in other words, building it better! In a unique way, this partnership between Coady and the Schwartz School of Business allows different initiatives/programs within StFX to come together in way that creates new value and a win-win for all.”
Great Learning Opportunity
“These projects will be a great learning opportunity for the students as well as for the women farmers and entrepreneurs in rural India making a real difference in their livelihoods,” Mr. Ghore says.
“The students will get to work on real life issues such as identifying barriers for women’s access to markets, credit and technology. They not only get to learn about the issues and challenges, but they will get to apply their newly learned knowledge and skills in finance, enterprise systems and marketing to address them. This will be a chance to apply the concepts they have learned in the class into real life enterprises that women run in an emerging market context. They will also get to interact with youth in India and share ideas, perspectives and solutions with them.”
He says as the communities respond to the pandemic, it is opening up opportunities to look at problems differently and bring in innovations such as the use of digital technology. “What is exciting is that we will be connecting the StFX students with grassroots women leaders from SEWA to become part of the recovery and shape rebuilding of the rural economy—in other words, building it better! In a unique way, this partnership between Coady and the Schwartz School of Business allows different initiatives/programs within StFX to come together in way that creates new value and a win-win for all.”
Dr. Long says these projects are part of the broader vision of social responsibility – students will be able to use tools learned in the business school, from data management to cost analysis to research and beyond and apply them in ways that generate positive social impact.
“They will also be immersed in a non-corporate organization – a grassroots, member-based social enterprise – and so they will learn to appreciate the plurality of ways that we can organize ourselves and create more sustainable and just futures.”
The partnership resulted from conversations between Dr. Long, who leads work in ethics, leadership and responsible management, and Mr. Ghore, who leads the Inclusive Economies area at Coady.
As part of his role at Coady, Mr. Ghore works closely with SEWA. As part of initial meetings, he shared initiatives Coady had with SEWA on women’s economic empowerment, innovation and entrepreneurship. In consultation with SEWA, he proposed initial ideas and then Dr. Long and he worked together and came up with four projects that were supposed to take StFX students to India in summer 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and they had to cancel all plans.
Dr. Long says at that time, he was only planning to hire one student and select one project. Since he didn’t use any funding from last year, it allows him to hire more students this summer.
The two worked out a plan for the students to work with SEWA remotely on the three projects.
The John T. Sears Chair in Corporate Social Responsibility is funded by John and Adrienne Peacock, both StFX graduates. Ten per cent of funds generated from this chair go towards supporting Schwartz School students who participate in projects or programming offered through Coady. This is intended to facilitate student participation in community enterprise or community development programming within Coady. The Peacocks have maintained a strong connection to their alma mater. Mr. Peacock is now StFX Chancellor and previously served on the Coady Institute Advisory Committee. Mrs. Peacock has served on the StFX Board of Governors. Both have been a part of fundraising campaigns for the university.
SEWA is one of the world’s largest member-based organizations with over 1.9 million women members working in the informal sector across 18 states in India. SEWA organizes and empowers women, helping them to earn a living and making visible their individual labour or small enterprises. SEWA has been a partner with Coady International Institute for over 40 years in the co-creation of knowledge about social enterprises and asset-based community development. StFX awarded SEWA’s founder Ela Bhatt, an honorary doctorate in 1999.