Heller MBA Team Consulting Project Diary Part 1: Selecting an organization

May 31, 2019

Social Impact MBA students attend the TCP Fair: a platform where organizations pitch their unique management challenges and seek sustainable solutions

By Daniella Ayesha Fernandes, MBA/MA SID'19

When you’ve been raised among artists and activists, pursuing an MBA may seem unexpected. And choosing to do so at a school for social policy can be flummoxing. However, enrolling into the Social Impact MBA at the Heller School couldn’t have been a simpler choice for me.

As a former social entrepreneur who faced innumerable challenges in starting up and sustaining my organization based on my gender, religion, caste and socio-economic class, I’ve been hungry to learn. Numbers, strategy, operations – having learned the basics in the real-world, the opportunity to go deeper, absorb and apply concepts without extreme costs to finances and emotions was exciting.

But what eventually drove me towards the program was the infamous Team Consulting Project, also known as TCP. For three months over the summer, groups of Social Impact MBA students provide leading-edge business solutions for real-world management challenges facing client organizations focused on a social mission. The TCP project culminates in a public presentation to the entire cohort, MBA faculty and client organization—not to mention a notoriously long and detailed written report.

During the fall semester, between learning the language of accounting and organizational behavior, TCP seemed light years away. But before we knew it, spring was upon us and so were the first few glimpses of TCP, organized by Carole Carlson, director of the MBA program, Professor Larry Bailis and MBA staff Norma DeMattos and Rosella Carelli.

It began with a simple survey at the end of January, a few days before our first meeting, where we expressed interest in our theme of choice, from international development to public policy, social entrepreneurship to human services. The results of this survey would help Larry and Carole determine what kind of organizations could be suitable for this batch of TCP students.

At our first TCP meeting on February 1, the results of this survey were shared with us. And even though we spent considerable time with our classmates, learning about their interests was refreshingly surprising. We also learned about the initial TCP process: team formation, organization selection and the big TCP fair in March, where 27 shortlisted organizations would be invited to pitch their management dilemmas to us.

Before the TCP fair, we were all given a PDF of each organization and its management challenges. Then, over two hours at the fair, each organization representative pitched their unique challenge. From fundraising, communications, patient service optimization to monitoring and evaluation - it was inspiring to see the dedication of each representative—many of whom were Heller alumni—to their cause and the importance of our roles as social justice solution seekers.

After taking it all in, there was only one place I felt I fit perfectly: BAMS Fest, the Boston Art & Music Soul Festival. It’s a nonprofit organization that strives to break down racial and social barriers to arts, music, and culture for marginalized communities of color across Greater Boston. Having worked in fundraising and communications over the last decade, I knew I had both the background and new MBA skills to advise this organization.

But before I could work with BAMS, I needed to add my first, second and third organization choices to a massive shared spreadsheet, along with all my MBA classmates. This process, we were told, comes from years of testing a system to reach a democratic path to team selection. As my classmates jockeyed for their preferred organizations based on both fellow classmates and organizational mission, we were warned, “No teams are final until all teams are final.” 

In her next TCP Diary, Daniella talks about the team selection process!