Making an Impact Through Experiential Learning – Experiences from the Institute of Management Technology (Part 1)

img-20170111-wa0007Business schools around the world are exploring a range of experiential learning opportunities for students across their programmes. At the Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad (IMTG) experiential learning has become not only a key part of the MBA programme, but a mandatory one. Staff coordinate projects on the ground with NGOs and government agencies for 450+ students a year. The aim of this course is to enable the students to imbibe the ethos of sustainability, social responsibility and distributive justice and realise ‘contribution’ as a value through hands-on execution of live social projects.

I spoke with Dr Kasturi Das, Faculty-In-Charge of Sustainability and Social Responsibility at the Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad (IMTG) about this course.

Introduce the ‘I’m the Change Initiative’

The ‘I’M The Change Initiative’ is IMTG’s initiative on Sustainability and Social Responsibility that was launched on October 1, 2016, on the eve of father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday (which is October 2). The Initiative is inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s vision “Be the change you want to see in the world”. The initiative includes a mandatory 3-credit experiential learning course on Sustainability and Social Responsibility (SSR Course) for the first year students of IMTG’s flagship two year full time MBA programme, as well as a Talk Series called “I’m The Change”.

How it came about?

Last year, under the leadership of Dr Atish Chattopadhyay, IMTG underwent a comprehensive review of its programme architecture and curriculum. The overhaul was aimed at achieving the alignment of the curriculum with the Institute’s vision of contributing to the development of business and society through grooming leaders who are innovative, can execute effectively, and are socially responsible. The I’M The Change Initiative on Sustainability and Social Responsibility is an offshoot of this entire exercise and has been conceived in alignment with the overarching three-pronged focus of IMTG on ‘innovation’, ‘execution’ and ‘social responsibility’.

What are the key features of the programme and how does it work?

The SSR course is a full-fledged 3-credit course, which each of our 450 odd first year students have to compulsorily complete. The course has its well-specified objectives, desired learning outcomes, requirements to be fulfilled, as well as a multi-dimensional evaluation structure. So, it is not like ‘volunteering’ for social work, nor is it ‘optional’ for the students. The course is predominantly an ‘experiential learning’ course, with only a few in-door sessions. The main focus of the pedagogy is on the ‘doing’ component (i.e. Execution of a social project as a member of a team with ample scope for acting innovatively).

The vision underlying the course is on the ‘being’ component, i.e. to help inculcate values, attitudes, and beliefs that form a manager’s world views and professional identities. Our objective is to allow students an experiential appreciation of social contexts and challenges at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ – people who are unlike oneself. The endeavour is to make students think about their responsibilities to the community and wider society and the environment looking beyond their narrowly-focused private interests alone, thereby helping them to become better corporate citizens going forward.

Students, working in groups, identify a particular social challenge to be addressed and zero in on a specific area with a potential for making a meaningful contribution to society by applying their knowledge, skills, aptitudes and innovation. With the identified objective in view, each students’ group (comprising six students) proposes an ‘Implementation Plan’ with concrete deliverables and implement it on the ground .

The evaluation structure is multi-dimensional and innovative. It includes evaluation by self, by partner organization, and by faculty. Faculty evaluation is based on submission and presentation of the Implementation Plan, as well as final outputs in the form of ‘white paper’.Another unique feature is that it is getting administered through direct involvement of a students’ committee, called the Community Outreach & Social Projects (COSP) Committee.

What are the social projects focused on?

This is really a ‘glocal’ model. The live social projects that our students are undertaking are in alignment with the overarching sustainable development goals and the 2030 Agenda (i.e. global). However, the social projects are embedded in the Indian context (i.e. local). First, the social projects are in tune with the development frameworks and policies adopted by the Government of India, including on SDGs and CSR. Second, the social projects are aimed at addressing, at least to the extent possible, some of the crucial challenges confronting the under-privileged communities in India, much of which are case and context-specific.

The social projects are aimed at making a contribution to the lives of the underprivileged in a range of areas including education; women empowerment; marketing/market linkages development for products produced by the communities; skill development (including soft skills); distribution of free medical equipment and winter garments among old destitute; development of life skills among  children through games and play; awareness generation on health and sanitation, child sexual abuse; financial literacy; recycling of waste papers; welfare of rag pickers community old destitutes, special children and so on. etc.

(Part 2 tomorrow)


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