Bringing business expertise to the community

Paul Mayne // Western NewsIvey Business School students Alina Lalji and Bobby Kaloty are bringing about positive social change. The pair coordinate the Community Consulting Project, a student-run organization that matches first-year Honours Business Administration student teams with local non-profit organizations in London, Toronto and across southwestern Ontario, to provide free consulting services.

Community organizations work hard at improving our collective well-being and bringing about positive social change. But these groups sometimes face challenges that lie outside their expertise.

That’s where the Ivey School of Business steps up.

The Community Consulting Project (CCP) at Ivey is a student-run organization that matches first-year Honours Business Administration (HBA) student teams with local non-profit organizations (NPOs) in London, Toronto and across southwestern Ontario, to provide free consulting services.

Throughout the project, student teams are guided in their research, analysis and presentation by consultants from Accenture, a global professional services company.

“We match the organizations with people who have a particular skillset, to provide valuable organizational insights,” said Bobby Kaloty, one of two student directors of the project. “They can address all manner of business issues ranging from reversing declining revenues to developing a fundraising strategy. The HBA student teams work to help the NPOs address their challenges and achieve the desired impact in the community.”

It’s a mutually beneficial partnership. Participating organizations gain four bright, energetic HBA students to tackle each project. For their part, students have the chance to make an impact in the community, while acquiring practical skills that could bolster a professional consultancy business.

The program is perfectly aligned with Ivey’s famed case-based learning method of using real-world scenarios to put business theory into practice – but with one key difference.

“In in this project, it’s like you’re building out that case yourself. You don’t have everything laid out for you,” said Kaloty.

The projects are completed over a six- to nine-week period, beginning in September and ending mid-November. At the end of the project, student teams present their findings in a report outlining specific recommendations to address the business issues.

“Over the nine weeks, teams work with different parties; students have touchpoints with advisors, touchpoints with student leaders, touchpoints with non-profits to make sure the project is on track and if they get stuck, they always have somewhere to turn for help,” said Alina Lalji, CCP co-director.

Program directors for the term are regularly chosen from previous student groups. This year’s directors, Kaloty and Lalji, share management duties.

As previous participants in the program, they can attest to its value.

Kaloty describes an “amazing” experience working with a counselling service in London. As a young business student, he questioned the value he could provide to an established organization. But he quickly realized his business mind could offer important insights.

“The entire experience was so rewarding: working with the Accenture professionals, working with our teammates and thinking critically about the organization’s challenge,” said Kaloty. “That was the exciting part. We were working on a real-world problem and the NPO was extremely receptive to the help we were giving. Those were the two big takeaways for me.”

Lalji had a similar, positive experience.

“I was working with a research advocacy network here in London. When we gave them that final presentation, when we saw the reaction of the executive director and how excited the organization was to put some of our strategies in place. That was really rewarding,” she said.

Tamara Blaney, executive director of Chelsea Green Children’s Centre, a not-for-profit child-care centre for families in the London community, was thrilled with her organization’s experience with the program. “I was impressed with the students’ business acumen, imagination and work ethic. By doing a detailed cost analysis on the centre’s spending, the students found ways for our organization to save a significant amount of money by making some relatively simple organizational changes.

“The students took the time to gather data, research options and provide expertise we would not have been able to afford otherwise. The experience was so positive and rewarding that two of our CCP students recently joined our board of directors,” Blaney said.