As another chapter in the Cambridge Judge against COVID-19 legacy concludes, we look back on the outcomes and experience for both student consultants and clients.
In April 2020, two Cambridge MBA students began shaping the idea of helping businesses impacted by the pandemic by offering student consultancy services on a pro-bono basis – Cambridge Judge against COVID-19 (CJAJ), was born out of this leadership initiative.
Earlier this year the Cambridge MBA class of 2020/21 picked up the baton from their predecessors in the class of 2019/20 and made a renewed call out for those UK businesses still suffering the effects of the pandemic and the resulting economic crisis.
Offering their services on a pro-bono basis, students completed a total of 23 projects across the Lent Term. From a class of 174 students, 65 student consultants took part including current MBA and Master of Finance (MFin) students, as well as incoming MBAs from the class of 2021.
Student Project Co-Lead Ashish Khanna (MBA 2020) said, “Based on the feedback we received, clients were thrilled with the work of the student consultants and one student was even offered a job. We are happy to have been able to add value to local businesses to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic”.
Clients of the CJAC initiative were based in the UK and ranged from start-ups to community interest companies (CIC) and registered charities. All had been affected by and continued to feel the effects of the global pandemic, both economically and across the communities they served.
In December 2019, female founder and entrepreneur Lilidh Matthews, one of the CJAC clients, began the startup Finding Roots, an early-stage social enterprise that offers subscription-based delivery of MicroGardens to balconies across London and cities.
“The students were wonderful – their work has directly impacted my strategy for growth going forward. I have also been introduced to new concepts and insights thanks to their input, which have proven very useful,” says Lilidh.
Finding Roots is also part of the Cambridge Social Ventures Spring 2021 incubator cohort at Cambridge Judge Business School.
Another client that responded to the call out for support was Safe Soulmates, a Cambridge-based community interest company that organises meetups for adults with autism, anxiety, learning disabilities and other conditions that make socialising challenging.
Current MBA student Ben Olson, who was part of the team working with Safe Soulmates, reflected on the project and his experience, “CJAC granted us the opportunity to work with a local non-profit which helps diversely-able adults in Cambridgeshire find friendship and love. We had so much fun working with the co-founders and it really made us feel more connected to the local community outside of the University”.
The past year has put a spotlight on our mental health and the tremendous value of physical activity for the well-being of the community. Kelly Vickers from Living Sport was ‘thrilled’ to have the opportunity to work with an incoming MBA student team as part of the CJAC initiative. The team collaborated to create and conduct a survey to build an understanding of community needs and in turn, directly contributed to supporting more people to get active across the local communities in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
At the outset of their CJAC initiative the MBA class of 2020 member and Student Project Co-Lead Melanie O’Sullivan said, “As the ongoing pandemic and perennial lockdowns put pressure on the small business community, we need to band together to find ways to navigate this economic crisis”.
For Cambridge MBA class of 2020, this student-led consultancy initiative has led them nicely into their MBA Global Consulting Project and will later support them as they take up their Summer individual projects.
Practical projects form a vital part of the Cambridge MBA learning experience. Working in small teams on a business issue is exactly the sort of collaborative environment that attracts MBA students to Cambridge.
Student Project Co-Lead Hendrik Westerink concludes, “Everyone has a role to play in beating the pandemic: we have been happy to do our part to help businesses in need”.