By Bradley McGough (FEMBA ’18)
When UCLA Anderson’s summer global immersion programs were announced, the Center for Global Management-sponsored trip to South Africa intrigued me. I hadn’t ever been to the country, but had heard great things. The course topic was Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation, led by Gayle Northrop. Now, I had no idea what “social entrepreneurship” was, but I had great interest in startups, and South Africa was home to safaris and shark diving, so I applied.
As the lecture component got underway at UCLA, we spent a lot of time researching South Africa and talking about what defines a social enterprise. I found that my eyes were opening up to a world I didn’t know existed. While discussing the itinerary for our trip, Professor Northrop told us about the companies we’d be visiting, and that’s when I started to really get excited. These companies were doing amazing things for society and they were making money.
Learning about them in class was one thing, but visiting them in person was so much more motivating and inspiring. I could go down the list, one-by-one, to talk about how great each company visit was; instead, I’ll focus on the one that stands out the most: Red Bull Amaphiko. Yes, it is the same Red Bull that makes the energy drink you guzzle while pulling all-nighters.
When we departed our hotel to visit Red Bull Amaphiko, I didn’t really know what to expect. As we arrived in Langa, a township outside of Cape Town, I was a little bit surprised. We were in the heart of this extremely poor informal settlement visiting Red Bull, a company whose brand is valued at nearly $8 billion.
We headed inside and met project leader Ian Calvert, who explained that Red Bull Amaphiko Academy is a platform that Red Bull has created — in Langa and elsewhere around the globe — to assist social entrepreneurs with achieving their goals of effecting positive social change in their communities. From sponsoring an academy to assist these entrepreneurs in bringing their ideas to fruition, to hosting networking sessions to connect and grow the community, Red Bull is focused on helping social change-makers reach their goals. The best part? Red Bull isn’t taking any stake in these companies. They are doing this for the overall good of the world. (I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in.)
We were fortunate enough to meet four of the entrepreneurs who had gone through the academy in Langa. They were all solving problems that affected them directly. For example, Wandisile Nqeketho is focused on creating what he calls a “gangster museum.” One of the problems in his community is the draw of young men to “gangsterism” and he envisions a museum that will educate youth about the negatives of being a gangster. The Red Bull Amaphiko Academy helped him expand his idea, come up with how he could create a business around it, and put together his story.
I was very moved. Finding out that Red Bull, as a corporation, places such importance on supporting social entrepreneurship was incredibly inspiring. On the way out of the Langa community center, I had this feeling of a higher purpose. I hadn’t really been interested in pro-social projects before, but visiting Red Bull Amaphiko in Langa completely changed my view. This stuff is important. More companies need to do what Red Bull is doing. More students need to experience what we were able to experience in South Africa. In my opinion, every MBA program should have a mandatory social impact component, as our entire class came back with a completely different outlook on the importance of pro-social projects.
And me? I came back with a completely different view on life in general, including the importance of social impact in my next career move.
In closing, I’ll leave you with something Ian said during our visit that really stood out to me: “The world won’t ever change until large corporations realize that corporate social responsibility isn’t just a checkbox.”
Related Stories and Resources:
- South Africa Global Immersion Makes Social Entrepreneurship Standard Curriculum
- A UCLA Anderson Global Immersion in South Africa Adds “Sustainable Positive Change” to the MBA Experience
- In South Africa, a Veteran of Nonprofits Changes His Mind about Social Entrepreneurship
- MBA Specialization in Social Innovation