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A summer packed with strategy consulting experience, travel and doing good

Posted by Melanie on 14 October 2008

I came to London Business School wanting to pursue a career in consulting. But I also wanted to find a way to incorporate a way to “do good” in my work. Everyone kept pointing me towards a summer internship with Accenture Development Partnerships. (ADP)

After meeting the ADP interns from the previous year, and the Program Director and Strategy Consulting Partner, Gib Bulloch, I thought, “Wow, what an inspiration! A for-profit entity that’s figured out how to use their core competency to support the global community!”

Accenture Development Partnerships is a separate business unit within Accenture that specifically provides consulting services to Non-Profit organizations, NGO’s, foundations and donor organizations operating in the development sector, helping these organizations achieve their social and economic development goals. 

Through a first-of-its-kind business model, Accenture Development Partnerships, operates on a strictly non-profit basis." Luckily I was one of two people selected for the internship, and soon enough, I was on a plane to South Africa for six weeks. Our client: The Global FoodBanking Network. My mission: To design a pilot rural food bank and the implementation plan. I would be based in Jo’burg, but the pilot would be in Maputaland, a region in the far northeastern corner of the country.

What is food banking? “The Global FoodBanking Network is a charitable organization that works collaboratively to reduce world hunger by securing more food and enhancing the ability to efficiently distribute food through food banks and food bank networks around the globe.” http://www.foodbanking.org/

Their basic model is to take good food from food manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to a food bank, which would then be redistributed to registered charities that can reach those in need.  The donations are usually un-sellable, but perfectly consumable food that would normally go to waste. (e.g. discontinued items , incorrectly labelled finished goods, leftover raw materials). This model has proven to work very well in urban, densely populated areas in the US, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Japan, Guatemala, and Columbia.

But in South Africa – a majority of the country’s poverty live in the rural areas. In addition to poverty, these communities are heavily affected by the HIV/AIDs epidemic, leaving orphans, the sick and elderly, and child-headed households as the majority of the population. South Africa needed a Village Food Bank model to help their country.  My job was to help them plan out how to do this.

Two ADP consultants had already been helping the client on their sourcing strategy, so thankfully I had a support team. Over the first weeks, I met the client and many of the key players, interviewed 30+ subject matter experts, and made a whirlwind tour through Maputaland, Durban and Capetown to meet the people on the ground.  I learned that many of their struggles were linked with basic infrastructure issues that we often take for granted: broken water pumps, sandy and gravel roads, lack of electricity.

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Back at the Accenture office, I drew together a detailed design of the project (using a creative five forces as a base structure), and a powerpoint deck for the implementation plan. The Village Food Bank would be supported through agricultural development, creating access to a larger market and sustainable feeding programs. Backyard gardening skills and agricultural scholarships would help them feed themselves in the long run.

The last weeks were filled will collecting the last pieces of data from Maputaland, and plenty of reviews. What inspired me was the vigour that these people showed in wanting to help themselves and their communities. There was hope in their voices because I had actually bothered to follow up on our meetings. To my delight, the finished product was “dynamic” and more than what the client had expected! “You are the future of the world,” he told our team. The work we were doing was a good thing.

The whole experience with ADP was great. I picked up consulting skills, brought significant value to the client and to the community, and had an opportunity to see a bit of South Africa as well. Although ADP isn’t a full-time option, I hope to do similar work on my own in the future. A big thanks to Accenture and to Global FoodBanking Network for the opportunity. Dsc_0113 Dsc_0578 Dsc_0571 Dsc_0770

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