This past summer, a group
of ESCP Europe students from the MSc in Marketing & Creativity postgraduate
programme (MMK) travelled to the Philippines to work for a
grassroots NGO, called Gawad Kalinga, started by Filipinos for
Filipinos to end poverty through an inclusive sustainable
Their mission? To engage in a
social impact project that would reframe daily challenges into
opportunities and ultimately drive innovative change in the
Many may wonder why a postgraduate
course focused on marketing and creativity would encourage its
students to travel overseas to engage in social development
missions. The directors of the MSc in Marketing & Creativity
introduced the concept in its very first year in 2010, when a dozen
students travelled to Uganda to help support local organisations.
The following year was the first year the MMK introduced its
mandatory module 'Managing for Social Impact'.
We spoke to the Directors and
faculty behind the MMK, as well as students and alumni, to discover
the true value of this module:
1. Social impact
strategies are on the rise
Dr Chiara Ambrosino is a Senior Advisor at iDE and guest lecturer and
module coordinator at ESCP Europe, where she teaches the 'Managing
for Social Impact' module. "The obvious reason we are teaching this
course is because we are seeing more companies interested in social
change and impact," says Dr Ambrosino. "As marketing professionals,
our students need to be able to understand and develop that."
Brands with a social cause have
certainly risen in popularity over the last decade. Companies
understand that consumers now prefer to spend money with brands
that "give back", as it shows that the business is focused on a
healthier and more productive world. This is crucial for marketers
to understand, as it gives consumers a larger reason to consume.
With this in mind, many brands now have departments dedicated to
this initiative; some label them as Corporate Social
Responsibility, while others see that label as too restrictive, or
Peter Stephenson-Wright, MSc in Marketing
& Creativity Programme Director, adds that "Managing for Social
Impact skills make a candidate more employable; corporations
increasingly accept that they should focus on their social impact,
but find there are few in middle and senior management positions
with the necessary skills or experience."
As the overlapping interest in
profit and social becomes greater than ever, marketers entering the
workforce need to be expected to know and discuss those issues.
2. The world is facing huge
As alluded to above, it's crucial
that marketers understand the increasingly detrimental challenges
the world is facing.
Unlike other marketing master
degrees, the MMK focuses on real-world problems in marketing and
beyond. "During the programme, I loved being constantly connected
to the real world," acclaims Aurelien Lemasson, who travelled to Uganda to
complete his project. The course on Managing for Social Impact does
just that by tackling global challenges in class. "We discuss
poverty throughout the module, a session is dedicated to the BoP
(base of the pyramid), their challenges and opportunities,"
elaborates Dr Ambrosino. The module also covers topics like
malnutrition (Danone-Danimal), tackling malaria, and the carbon
credits market and climate change.
A huge aspect of the module is
completing a social impact consultancy project, whether that be
overseas (Philippines, Uganda, Haiti, etc.), or locally in London.
Dr Ambrosino states that when on these missions, the students
experience issues discussed first-hand. "It's not only important
that they understand what's happening in the world, but that they
develop empathy to these global issues."
According to Zayneb Kadiri, Beatriz Camborda Mendoza, Paolo Gagliardo, Francesca Tombetti, and Masa Milhem - all ESCP Europe students who
participated in the Philippines mission - working overseas
instilled in them the "emotional aspect that [could not have been]
taught at ESCP Europe." They noted that the module allowed them to
feel connected with each other and the issues at hand. Also
participating in the Philippines project were: Anouchée Khochtinat, Andrea Giubilato and Karlee Zhang.
Some of the students are so
inspired by their experience abroad that it leads them to a career
focused on global issues. "This made me consider working at a
global organisation's marketing department," Aurelien Lemasson
Professor Marie Taillard, Academic Director of the MSc
in Marketing & Creativity programme, adds that "as management
educators, we have a responsibility to instil strong social values
in our students, particularly in marketing.
"We want them to reflect on the
social impact of the decisions they will make as managers. Whether
it's to do with labour issues, diversity and equal opportunity and
access, poverty, education and of course the environment, these
considerations must be at the centre of their decision-making. We
work on developing this kind of mindset throughout the MSc in
Marketing & Creativity programme."
3. Lack of resources pushes
students to think even more creatively than ever
But the 'Managing for Social
Impact' module is particularly important to the MSc in Marketing
& Creativity programme specifically. Indeed, according to
Professor Taillard and Dr Ambrosino, working in underdeveloped
countries or in contexts with fewer resources forces students to be
if she's finding more creativity in developing countries, Dr
Ambrosino responded: "Yes, definitely! Sometimes I think
farmers in third world countries can be the most creative people.
They work with whatever they have. Their lives depend on finding
solutions to all sorts of problems they might encounter."
While in the Philippines, Zayneb
and her friends were particularly impressed by a French
entrepreneur, Fabien Courteille, who created a social organisation
called Plush and
Play. After he noticed that children didn't have access to toys
but that most of the women knew how to sew, he created a company
that employed these women to sew stuffed toys. Plush and Play
created many jobs for the women in the community and allowed the
children to play.
During his time in Uganda, Aurelien
Lemasson helped create a durable and profitable business plan for
an association which treats both the physical and mental effects of
being HIV positive. Other associations, he said, functioned through
donations creating an unstable financial situation. Aurelien
explains that by getting the patients involved in a profitable
activity by teaching them about business and knitting, "these
products could then be sold to the population to create a more
stable source of revenue. This idea, though creative, was
ambitious, and that was our role: to help bring it to reality."
According to the students,
creativity in these circumstances really comes from figuring out
how to make the people who have few resources - "at the base of the
pyramid" - take control and become productive.
Professor Taillard has observed
throughout the years that when coming back from these missions,
students exert a more innovative approach in class than before. "I
certainly notice that they are more willing to take risks and more
apt to look beyond obvious solutions. Being in an environment in
which everything we take for granted in our daily lives is suddenly
challenged cannot help but drastically change the way we approach
problems and challenges. This is what I see as the main change
among the students who come back from these projects. They seem to
be more flexible and nimble in their thinking and their
4. Companies are
increasingly looking for their employees to be experts across all
Dr Ambrosino, today, companies of all sizes and types (private,
non-profit, governmental) are increasingly looking for employees
who can work across sectors. She references an article from Harvard Business Review, which states that "if
the new jobs that are emerging are increasingly hybrid, then [the
programmes of] study may need to become hybridised as well."
In other words, it's important to
Dr Ambrosino and her colleagues that they educate the next leaders
to be flexible and capable of moving from one function to the next.
"Cross-functional and cross-sectoral movement is happening more and
more and our students need to be ready."
According to another Harvard Business Review article, when leaders
move across sectors (business to non-profit, to government), they
"acquire elements of all three skill sets, and as they apply their
growing array of tools and tactics to new challenges, they
strengthen their ability to work effectively across the sectors."
The Managing for Social Impact module certainly plays a crucial
role in allowing students to see problems from different
perspectives and making them more adaptable, no matter what the
challenges presented to them.
Managing for Social Impact and the
projects associated with it have certainly been a success amongst
the MMK students. Aurelien Lemasson was undoubtedly deeply moved by
his experience in Uganda: "Before landing in Entebbe, my idea of
Uganda was based on stereotypes and vague memories I had of
documentaries I'd seen. I was so excited to discover this new
world, and knew even before starting that this would affect me both
professionally and personally." He highly encourages his fellow
classmates to embark on this life-changing experience.
To find out about how
Managing for Social Impact inspired another ESCP Europe MSc in
Marketing & Creativity Graduate, check out Ana Marcella Succla's Career Spotlight on
working for an NGO in Peru.
If you would like to find
out more about the MSc in Marketing & Creativity, please join
us at our London Campus Open Day on 29th October, 2016. More
information can be found here.