Written by: Christine Pearson, Ph.D., Professor of Global Leadership at Thunderbird School of Global Management
Education is a flickering hot button for microenterprise experts and lenders today. Too many assistance efforts have failed in the past because well-meaning investors provided money, technology and other resources to beneficiaries who were ill-equipped to use them effectively. All too often, recipients were incapable of boosting their businesses from barely surviving to thriving.
Thunderbird for Good is leading the way to put sound custom-targeted business knowledge into the minds and hands of micro-entrepreneurs around the world, and we’re using broad business expertise, cross-cultural savvy and innovative methodologies to do so. Last week, I had the privilege of presenting a prime example of our approach, the Salta Project, at the Foromic (http://foromic.org/) Conference on “Unlocking Entrepreneurs: Toward Innovative Solutions” in Bridgetown, Barbados.
Thunderbird for Good has the educational lead for the Salta Project, a program for 100,000 female entrepreneurs of small businesses throughout Peru. Our objective is to educate participants to enhance their businesses and make the leap (“salta” in Spanish) to the next level of income and success – for their families, their communities and themselves.
So, how do you translate graduate business school curriculum into useful information for female micro-entrepreneurs in the developing world? How do you deliver material that is practical, engaging and memorable to 100,000 women? And, how do you do this when you have only three hours to make the difference?
Key, of course, is deeply understanding the target audience – what do they know? What do they need? How can we teach essentials from marketing, finance /accounting, leadership and personal development that will touch these women where they are today while also leading them to growth and greater success…all in a three-hour class? To reach participants’ minds and inspire action, the lessons and delivery design had to be practical, memorable and resonant.
We custom tailored the level and direction of instruction, with keen awareness that most of our audience faces a daily struggle to raise their kids, manage their households and run their businesses, all with very meager resources. To make the leap, they would need to think bigger, and to do that, they would need to see success in someone who looked like them.
We integrated some standard methods (e.g., mini-lectures, interactive exercises, prizes for participation, workbooks), but the leap for us was in creating a telenovela. Think soap-opera with rich Latin roots, but add more drama, much tighter timing of story arcs, multiple crescendos and a happy ending, always. Want to take a quick look? What is your dream?
As you’ll see, the trailer references some essential business lessons (like creating a simple accounting sheet, building a network) that run throughout the telenovela. Central character, micro-entrepreneur Vicky ultimately finds success at making the leap, creating priorities and stretches along the way. To draw participants into the telenovela, Vicky’s mantra is: “Cual es su sueno?” (what is your dream?). Participant responses to this tool have been terrific – even months later, they remember the characters, their set-backs and victories, and the lessons useful for making their own leaps.
Thunderbird’s use of telenovelas as a teaching methods was highlighted in this Financial Times Article: Making Business out of Drama