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 Margaux LaPointe (’17)
From the start, our team — comprising Riccardo Cestarelli (’17), Margaux LaPointe (’17), Yoko Morishita (’17), Tyler Smith (’17), Adam Supernant (’17) — was thrilled to be matched with a prosocial international AMR project. Our client is the International Labour Organization (ILO), an agency of the UN that develops labor standards, policies and programs to promote access to decent work.
We are researching how to promote foreign investment in conflict-affected zones in Southeast Asia, focusing on Thailand, the Philippines and Myanmar. Over the winter break, we were lucky to visit all three countries and also attend the ILO’s annual conference in Bali to conduct primary research. On our trip, we interviewed business membership organizations (BMO) such as chambers of commerce and employers’ organizations, as well as multinational companies.
The three countries represent interesting cases along a spectrum: Thailand is highly developed, Myanmar is just opening up and the Philippines sit in the middle. Our in-country research was important to help us understand the perspective on the ground, both in terms of the conflict and the business environment. The ILO Asia and Pacific Regional Meeting provided a regional perspective on BMO best practices for providing resources to companies, which will ultimately be the lever for implementing our research.
As we analyzed our findings, we pushed ourselves to develop frameworks that would be useful outside of our case study countries, across Southeast Asia and the rest of the world. Ultimately, we developed three frameworks that highlight: 1) the decision-making process of multinational enterprises considering to invest in conflict-affected zones; 2) the risk ratings of multinational enterprises with vested interests in conflict-affected zones and the resulting employment effect; and 3) the capabilities, in terms of scope and capacity, of BMOs currently operating in conflict-affected zones.
Throughout the process following our in-country research, we continually challenged our assumptions. Rather than look at multinational enterprises by country, we found it most useful to generalize by industry, since certain industries provide higher employment opportunities. And rather than consider BMOs by type, we mapped them in terms of scope and capacity to begin identifying the best partners for the ILO. Our findings were grounded in the fact that the ILO wants to create decent employment opportunities. By providing the perspective of multinational enterprises, we hope our research will contribute to generating employment and, ultimately, peace-building in conflict-affected zones.
Although we split into two sub-teams for travel, we all met in Thailand and were lucky to share some cultural experiences together. We attended an alumni event hosted by Professor Jerry Nickelsburg on post-election forecasts and implications for Southeast Asia. It was great to experience the alumni spirit across the world! Not too far from our meetings at the UN, we visited Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The gilded Buddha is 50 feet tall, and the temple was the site of first public university in Thailand; its curriculum continues to teach Thai medicine, including Thai massage.
This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Beyond experiencing the business and cultural environment of multiple countries in Southeast Asia, we gained an understanding of the conflict and political risk in these countries. The climate on the ground is incredibly nuanced, and this is what we hope to communicate as we develop our plan for increasing foreign investment.