Wittenborg Conducts Project Week in Partnership with ReachOut Foundation
To provide a group of Wittenborg Amsterdam students with practical skills and a real-life experience in the field of social entrepreneurship, Senior Lecturer Andreas Ooijer conducted a bachelor’s project week in partnership with the ReachOut Education Support Foundation.
The activity took place between 29 November and 17 December, and involved 20 students from the bachelor’s in Entrepreneurial Business Administration (EBA). A related project week was developed simultaneously in Apeldoorn for three programmes: Marketing, Communication and Information (MCI), Hospitality Business Administration (HBA) and International Business Administration (IBA).
In Amsterdam, the participants were divided into four operational teams, each focused on a specific area, and a control team – composed of the four team leaders and an overall leader – which was responsible for supervising and coordinating the other groups. Over three weeks, the students performed a variety of tasks aligned with the goals and challenges of ReachOut, an Apeldoorn-based, non-profit organisation that provides financial support for young people from Malawi to attend school, from secondary education to graduation.
The main focus of the project was on providing the non-profit with a solid basis for the long-term continuity of its activities. To achieve this aim, students acted as strategic consultants, working on improving the foundation’s existing marketing initiatives, developing new donation models and establishing partnerships with external organisations.
At the completion of the activity, the control team delivered a presentation to the ReachOut Foundation’s chairman, Dr Teun Wolters, who is also Emeritus Professor of Applied Sciences at Wittenborg. Moreover, each operational team was required to produce and submit a detailed report of its activities, while the control team handed in an integrated report concerning the whole of the project.
Wittenborg lecturer Andreas Ooijer, who coordinated the project week, said that the students worked really hard on the activity and presented many interesting ideas. He also stressed that the control team played a crucial role in ensuring that all of the work was developed in an integrated and efficient manner.
According to Ooijer, the purpose of the project week was to help students develop multiple strategy consulting skills. “To succeed as a consultant, professionals need to learn how to listen very well to the client, and to read between the lines. They also need to be respectfully critical, addressing difficult issues and even asking confrontational questions sometimes, while keeping a good relationship with the client. On top of that, the students practised their teamwork competencies and how to collaborate with other teams, and also had to employ their project management skills within a limited time horizon.”
Ooijer also pointed out that the ReachOut Foundation was chosen as a client not only because of its valuable work, but also because the programme’s curriculum strongly emphasises social entrepreneurship.
The ReachOut Foundation’s chairman, Teun Wolters, complimented the students on their motivation and professionalism. “The participants did a good and professional job. They have presented an interesting strategic framework, and they were really excited to collaborate with the foundation, because it helps other students whose families have no conditions to finance their studies. So, in a certain sense, they are helping their peers,” he says.
Kiara McClendon, a German EBA student who participated in the activity as the leader of the control team, described the project week as very interesting and challenging. She expressed her satisfaction about being able to help a non-profit organisation, stressing that all of the work that was done by the students was for a great cause.
Additionally, she highlighted that the project week has helped her develop her team-leading and communication skills. “I am definitely learning how important communication and decision making are when it comes to leading a team. I have always been an organised person; therefore, that was not much of a struggle for me, but as I am more introverted, communication never came so easy to me. So, taking on this position definitely helped in that aspect.”
McClendon added that this experience will be useful for her future career, because she eventually plans to have her own business, and the project made her see that she likes being in a leadership role.
by Ulisses Sawczuk