07 Dec Confronting, stimulating, positive, hard work and much fun!
Famous for sea, sun and scenery Cape Town, South Africa, is a beloved tourist destination. It’s also a favourite choice for MaastrichtMBA students to spend their international week. “It was a life-changing event”, says Belgian Pieter Robeays, currently working as Senior Process Development Engineer at Philips Engineering Solutions. Alessandra Pezzo (Italy), First Officer pilot at Alitalia “This was only my second module of the programme. What a great way to begin my MBA journey!” Bart Breuer (the Netherlands), Regional Director Fagro: “A wonderful experience with wonderful people that I will never forget.”
The educational week (Nov 21-25) for the Responsible Leadership & Sustainability elective took place at Stellenbosch University. 41 students flew in from all wind directions to be immersed in a comprehensive programme of lectures, assignments, field trips and – naturally – a lot of positive interaction and fun. Alessandra: “On many occasions we were confronted with how pressing, complicated and real the challenges are that South Africa – and the world – are facing. To me it has become perfectly clear that social responsibility is closely intertwined with economic development, addressing inequalities and sustainable environmental practices.”
“The Responsible Leadership & Sustainability theme was emphasised in many sessions and in the group assignment”, says Pieter. “The case was about the NGO IPNLF (International Pole and Line Foundation) who’s mission is to protect tuna by promoting the one-by-one catching method with pole and line. One-by-one is the only way to catch tuna that is considered to be environmentally and socially responsible, economically sustainable and based on traditions. IPLNF shared several problems they are facing, one of which is the lack of sustainable funding. In our dedicated group we investigated how (re)branding strategies can help improve the visibility of IPNLF and ensure long term recognition and funding.”
“Particularly the lecture of possibilism made an impact; searching for the strengths of South Africa and make those the pivots of positive change”, says Alessandra. “During a visit at Villiera Winery I heard the phrase you can always learn from a crisis, however bad it is. If you have the right mindset, a crisis is just a means to work on your weaknesses and make you resilient. Yes, there are many problems and South Africa may be the country where all of today’s issues unite. But with the right mindset business can create solutions instead of exacerbate problems.” Bart: “To me the visit to the Apartheid museum and the walk through Langa township made a deep impression. People living in poverty but still friendly and hopeful.” Alessandra: “The social and economic equalities still exist, 30 years after Apartheid. The good news is that education empowers and offers possibilities to step out of poverty.” Pieter: “Although the focus of people is still to get food on the table, they are also dreaming of and working on a more sustainable future.”
Pieter: “Experiencing Cape Town felt like a dream. South Africa is a real gem, with lots of opportunities, but still much work is to be done. I learned that sustainability has different facets; from environmental to humanitarian, and stakeholders, ranging from local use of resources to sustaining the delivery of goods all over the world. My third takeaway is that entrepreneurial fighting spirit is best obtained when people want to perform better than previous generations and are willing to fight for a better world.” Alessandra: “I loved meeting the people of South Africa. I now understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s clear that responsible leadership and sustainability demands for a new culture and mindset to set the right goals that are in the interest of all stakeholders and of the environment. We will have to remain agile and flexible to be able to continuously adapt our strategy to the challenges we will encounter, making few or no compromises.” Bart: “South Africa is a beautiful country with many opportunities, but the difference between rich and poor is still very large. I hope that in time the (literal and figurative) separation will disappear. It was wonderful to meet local entrepreneurs, visiting NGO’s, the Apartheid museum, townships and a winery.”
Bart: “All in all it was a great experience thanks to the varied programme, the passionate local teachers who provided insights in culture, politics, history and sustainability.” Pieter: “I loved going to all the different places, from fisheries to wine houses, township, and the sustainability institute. But most of all I enjoyed the resilient thinking and the entrepreneurial spirit in the townships.” “All my expectations were met and even exceeded”, Alessandra concludes. “It was inspiring, positive, sometimes emotional and great fun.” Most students took the opportunity to extend their visit and enjoyed a few extra days in vibrant South Africa.
This article displays the student insights and experiences of our On-Campus MBA International Week modules of the Responsible Leadership & Sustainability track. Our On-Campus track has an on campus learning format and is part of the executive modular part-time MaastrichtMBA programme. The programme has a Triple Crown accreditation and is aimed for professionals with at least 5 years of working experience.