Project Pyramid: Impacting the Global Community Through Business Leadership

Original Publish Date: October 15, 2012

The program’s goal is to help people at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid, and in order to do that, Project Pyramid sent classmates to multiple countries including Kenya, Nepal, South Africa, and Guatemala along with the United States this year alone. Projects ranged from helping penetrate new customer segments to revamping marketing activities and creating effective organizational structures. Prior to travelling, each team (typically 5 to 7 students) worked closely with enterprise leaders via Skype, Email, and Phone to accurately assess current issues and needs. They then collaboratively worked toward a solution. Once on the ground, the teams were able to implement their solution while trouble shooting any issues that arose. Finally, as travel concluded, most projects still did not end. Students continue to remain personally engaged with the organizations that they visited and continue to complete projects while taking on new assignments.

This year was a big success for Project Pyramid. Not only did participation by students at Vanderbilt double, but the program also expanded as the University of Alabama at Birmingham started a model for a new chapter on their campus. Given this success, the Project Pyramid leadership team and past alumni worked all year on a supplementary effort called Frontier Graduate Initiative that will allow any school across the nation to adopt a pre-packaged model and immediately implement it in their university. Through economies of scale, this will enable thousands of students to have an impact on social organizations throughout the globe with a turn-key program – effectively helping countless enterprises doing social good.

With a rebranding effort entitled Frontier Graduate Initiative, Project Pyramid will no longer be only a Vanderbilt program. The leadership team spent countless hours preparing an innovative plug-and-play package that can be used by other universities to partner students with organizations around the globe and consult on daily business activities. This pre-made package allows for the school administrators to implement a course with pre-made syllabus, readings, and assignments that will engage graduate students in social enterprise and poverty alleviation – helping them to take the skills they are learning in the classroom and implement them in the real world for a good cause.

Additionally, this past December, leadership team members spent time in Kenya with a rapidly expanding, for-profit microfinance organization identifying new products and services they could provide to rural farm holders in order to better meet their needs. While there, they developed an academic case study that centered on operating a social enterprise in a foreign country. This new tool will allow future classes at Vanderbilt and other frontier-seeking universities to learn from a unique, real-world experience while spurring classroom discussion. Furthermore, the case is supplemented by various mediums including a video interview with the company CEO and various employees along with the possibility to travel and work for that exact organization.

Project Pyramid is a student-led activity at the Owen Graduate School of Management that is driving a significant impact on social enterprises and frontier organizations around the globe. It empowers students to “take the lead” in using knowledge gained in the classroom to be put to use for noble causes that aide communities in the world’s most destitute places.

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