MBA Volunteer Opportunity Impacts Indy Social Enterprise

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Last weekend, a group of Kelley EMBAs got up early to meet at Freewheelin' Community Bikes at 34th & Central Ave. in Indy to help the interim Executive Director with needs that many non-profits face: a lack of resources to help organize, research, and coordinate efforts surrounding donor management and volunteer tracking.

The outing was coordinated by Emily Palmer from the SAB who used to work for Freewheelin' Bikes, and four other MBAs (myself included) joined her for the opportunity to learn about the organization and understand what obstacles they currently face. The organization is a non-profit social enterprise that takes old bicycles as donations, and then has a program where at-risk youth are trained how to maintain and fix the bikes. At the end of the 8-week course, the students can take home a bike of their choice. Their main program — called Earn-A-Bike — teaches the kids about delayed gratification, perseverance, and accountability. They also fix up bikes that are sold through their retail shop that supports the Earn-A-Bike and other programs offered. I would encourage anyone reading this to learn more about Freewheelin' at their website.

The greatest part of helping an organization like Freewheelin' is the viewpoint we as MBAs get into the needs of our community. We get exposure into how they operate, how they build communities, and the common issues most non-profits face. I tend not to oversell my MBA degree because I don't believe it's something to push onto people in the community as a sign that I have a better education or have been afforded better opportunities than some. Showing up to volunteer at a humble organization flashing my degree seems to be akin to telling someone you know more than they do. But I take pride in the fact that the degree has allowed me to see things differently. I have a different set of skills than I had three years ago when I started the program, and there are people who need those skills, not just mine, but those of others with the willingness to help.

I tend to think we can utilize the skills and knowledge and wisdom we gain both from the courses and our peers in a way that helps equally as humbly as these social entrepreneurs and non-profit leaders go about their work.