UCLA Anderson MBA students conduct Applied Management Research projects in lieu of a thesis. The nation’s first business school field study program, AMR partners students with top organizations to solve a key strategic problem.During Impact Week (April 17–21, 2017), whose theme is Purpose + Profit, we’re highlighting stories of AMRs supported by UCLA Anderson’s Center for Global Management that took UCLA Anderson Class of 2017 teams overseas to collaborate with NGOs whose mission-driven work includes such global challenges as health care delivery, international labor standards and environmental conservation.
By Joshua Bivins, Sarah Broadbent, Lynn Compton, Eric Flato and Denys Levin, MBA Class of 2017
Our Applied Management Research (AMR) field study project entailed working with the Human Sciences Research Council to develop a sustainable non-communicable disease (NCD) screening model in the South African community of Sweetwaters, located in Kwazula-Natal province. The goal of the service is to improve community health outcomes. Our team selected this project because it would give us the chance to benefit the wider global community and broaden our understanding of the impact space. Team members’ backgrounds ranged from registered nurse to renewable energy development, so each member was able to bring a unique perspective to this project.
Working with a client and community located halfway around the world from Los Angeles required our team to travel to South Africa through multiple, staggered trips to conduct primary research. The first trip kicked off with Denys and Sarah spending just over a week in the country in November. The second trip consisted of Lynn and Eric continuing primary research, with one week in the community. Finally, Joshua visited the community on a third and final week-long trip to wrap up any conversations and loose ends. The purpose of these trips was to get a sense of how the community operated, how health care was delivered and who the major stakeholders were in order to help us develop empathy for community members (who were our target customer base) and for their challenges accessing and prioritizing health care.
During the trips, all team members spent time in Cape Town and Pietermaritzburg (the largest city closest to Sweetwaters). Being in-country allowed us to conduct vital primary research with various individuals and organizations. Primary research sources consisted of Medicins Sans Frontieres, J&J Philanthropy, the Department of Health, HSRC employees and staff, focus groups consisting of Sweetwaters residents, nurses in the clinics, local business owners, traditional community healers, PATHs NGO, eHealth Africa, Health Tech Express and many other organizations and individuals.
Based on our interviews, focus groups and observations, our team formulated different theories about potential business models that could work for the community, and also figured out what wasn’t feasible. We were able to ascertain people’s willingness to pay, the community’s perspective on NCDs, how the free universal health care system worked, how the community interacted with one another and local businesses, and who the right stakeholders were that we would look to for support in the future. We were also able to ascertain the criteria that the potential business models should be evaluated against in order to select the solution that would be the most viable for a pilot. Finally, we gained a more nuanced understanding of the HSRC’s capabilities and resources to help shape an effective implementation plan for the pilot.
This trip was invaluable to our research and had a lasting impact on each of the individual team members. It has been one of the highlights of our time at UCLA Anderson and the team is thankful for the efforts and resources of UCLA Anderson’s Center for Global Management and administration.