INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana University Kelley School of Business has developed a 10-week pilot study program designed to impart foundational business knowledge and skills to the people of Kenya through its strategic international partnership with Moi University.
Started in November 2006, the alliance between Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Moi is one of Indiana University’s most significant international collaborations. Building upon the foundation between the medical schools at each university, the partnership has expanded to include a wide range of academic disciplines at IUPUI and Moi, located in Eldoret, Kenya.
Beginning in late September, the Foundations of Social Commerce study program will help participants understand the commercial and social outcomes of business. The pilot program, limited to 50 participants, will be taught by Todd Roberson, senior lecturer of finance at the Kelley School. Roberson believes the long-term value of the study program lies in widening and spreading the level of business discourse among the region’s skilled workers.
“A pottery maker is good at making pottery, but making a good piece of pottery is only part of being commercially successful,” Roberson said. “The pottery maker needs money; he needs to know how to manage money, how to stay out of debt and how to realize that a lot of his or her money can be tied up in pottery sitting on the shelf.
“What we’re trying to do is give people knowledge that will take them from being just good at making pottery to having a commercially viable pottery business,” he said. “We’re talking about basic fundamental knowledge: revenues, expenses, debt, equity, cash flow. We want to make sure that what they’re good at doing they can do in a financially sustainable manner. Ultimately that will enhance their lives.”
The program will be broken into five two-week modules, with each module composed of four sessions. Each session will cover a different business topic, from identifying needs, opportunities and commercial basics, to understanding more complex issues like capital structure, commercial funding and growth models.
Participants will have access to instructor-provided video files, readings, slides, spreadsheets and case studies, which they will study on their own schedules. Once per week, students will attend a live session conducted remotely by Roberson.
Though items such as a scientific calculator or proficiency in Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint are recommended, the only required material for the course is a reliable Internet connection.
The Foundations of Social Commerce study program is the inaugural collaboration between Moi University and the Kelley School of Business, and the first in a series of planned study programs that will fall under a broader business education program known as “The Business of Peace Through Prosperity.” The program will lay the framework for future study programs that will delve deeper into specific subjects like finance, marketing and operations management.
Participants who successfully finish Foundations of Social Commerce will be awarded a Certificate of Completion from the Kelley School, and they will be eligible to enroll in future program offerings.
“This represents a real step up in the training opportunities that we can offer people in Western Kenya,” said Ian McIntosh, director of international partnerships at IUPUI. “One of the critically identified needs in Kenya is training people in a way that gives them the opportunity to lift their standard of living. This is about giving people the basic entrepreneurial skills to do that.”
While many American colleges and universities are involved in humanitarian or aid projects in Kenya and other African nations, the focus on imparting business knowledge offers a change in thinking about how to better the lives of those living in developing countries.
“Kelley is unique in its focus on peace and prosperity through commerce,” Roberson said. “Lots of people are talking about food security and medical care. But you don’t hear a lot of people talking about commerce as a way to solve social issues.
“The way the wind is blowing in the developing world, instead of giving people money, you give them skills,” he added. “Commerce is the route to peace and prosperity. You can find endless support for that. And Kelley wants to be part of that.”