Isabelle Meier participated in our 6th Capability Program that led to the opening of our 11th learning center in Sükhbaatar in the very East of Mongolia. We talked to Isabelle about her motivation to participate in the capability program.
Isabelle, why did you participate in the Capability Program?
The opportunity to create a sustainable impact working hand in hand with the community in Mongolia as well as the possibility of developing my own leadership skills attracted me to the program. The chance of working with other participants from different professional backgrounds and countries using virtual collaboration platforms was another challenge I wanted to try.
You developed a business plan for the learning center. What was the biggest challenge?
Facing the facts. We created a business model in close collaboration with the tandem partners and the community hero and wrote a business plan based on that. However, we made assumptions and had expectations based on our own professional, cultural and personal experiences. Reality in Mongolia is somewhat different, which was to be expected. So it is important to be flexible and to question previous assumptions when new information surfaces. That isn’t always easy, but very interesting, especially when your team is as diverse as ours.
From your point of view, what are the critical milestones in making the learning center a success in the future?
Again, I think we have to be flexible and willing to adapt to unforeseen events, without losing sight of our business and financial goals. The success of the learning centre depends on the entrepreneurial spirit and “can do” mentality of the community hero and her local teaching team. After the opening, it will be crucial to keep the momentum going. This can be done if the offering (both courses and extracurricular activities) reflect the community’s needs and is appealing. One challenge we face here in Sükhbaatar is the fact that the school year only lasts 9 months, which means that we had to find ways to generate revenue during the three Summer months when there are no courses in Sükhbaatar. The learning centre needs to have a fan base consisting of enrolled students and a community which feels it benefits from the learning center. I am confident that ours will be a success story and that the business plan has taken into consideration potential down- and upsides. I for one am keen to help in any way I can, even after the program is completed.