When an impactful partnership ends…

Georg, CEPS and Carsten, BOOKBRIDGE

After two successful pilot programs, CEPS and BOOKBRIDGE end their collaboration on the CAS in Global Social Entrepreneurship (GSE). Cultural differences between both organisations and the uncertainty in attracting candidates were key drivers in this decision. In this blog article, Georg and Carsten review the initial objectives of the collaboration, key achievements, challenges and lessons learnt.

What were the key drivers to create the CAS in Global Social Entrepreneurship?

Georg: Two aspects were key drivers in creating the GSE. First, we wanted to put our executive education offerings on an international stage and attract a broader target group. Second, we realised that the entrepreneurial focus had been missing in our offerings. Hence, the CAS was a great chance for project managers at not-for-profit organisations to experience entrepreneurial thinking and acting in a live case.

Carsten: From our side, you (Georg) had been the key driver in creating the program. You called me and asked to collaborate. On an impact level, we aimed at reaching out from the paradise island of our own program to implement our approach at an university. Furthermore, we found it attractive to move into the not-for-profit space with our program together with the CEPS. Last but not least, I wanted to make sales and marketing of the program less dependent on me.

What have we achieved together?

Georg: I am also very proud what our candidates have created. The program helped a lot of candidates to set their own goals and put them into action. From a university perspective, it has been a bold step of innovation and entrepreneurship to conceptualise and implement such a program.

Carsten: First of all, we run two very successful pilot programs with 24 candidates from the Global North. All of them are still linked with their learning centres and take part in our regular update calls. Curdin, GSE1 Alumni, even became a board member. In GSE2, two candidates created their own learning centre in South Africa while another candidate uses our approach to offer a leadership program with urban refugees in Asia. Finally, two learning centres have been created. They are managed by two very dedicated social entrepreneurs.

What have been the challenges in running the program?

Georg: The key challenge has been to bring together two very different cultures. The creation of a program concept and curriculum was a major milestone. The biggest challenge had been to attract candidates as benchmarks or similar programs had been missing.

Carsten: From my perspective, sales and culture had been the key challenges. Regarding sales, the not-for-profit environment proved to be challenging to turn leads into candidates. However, all candidates who went through the program were convinced that it was 100% worth it. Regarding culture, we realised that BOOKBRIDGE is very entrepreneurially driven. We learn by doing in everything we do while the CEPS is nestled into a much structured university environment. I still remember the layout of the tables in our modules as an example of our cultural differences: while the CEPS uses tables in a row for its lectures, we solely rely on a circle of chairs without any tables. This was an interesting experience for me despite the fact that we both come from more or less the same experience in Bavaria ;-).

What have been the key learnings?

Georg: I have been fascinated by the way how you have setup BOOKBRIDGE and how you drive it a as a social enterprise. We have learnt a lot on how to approach challenges and how to use remote working tools like Teamwork.com or Zoom.us . This has been a completely new experience where we benefitted a lot from your experience. In addition, it was great to accompany the learning journey of our teams and candidates. The emotions after the investor pitch in module 3 or the changed team dynamics in module 5 impressed us a lot. To achieve this in an educational program means a lot.

Carsten: From my side, I was very impressed how you pushed the program through all levels at the university. In addition, I really value the fact that you and your team went outside of your comfort zone in offering such a program. It is far less risky to offer lectures in Basel than sending candidates to Cambodia. Furthermore, I realised that theory and practice are two key components of our program. Despite the critical feedback by our candidates, I believe that both parts should form part of our programs. I am grateful for the learnings I made here.

Why do we stop collaborating?

Georg: One of our key questions has been whether we reach our core target group with the program. One observation has been that the candidates of the GSE do not match with the profile of the candidates in our other programs. This raises the question whether we can tolerate this in the overall concept of our programs or whether we should adapt the program. Furthermore, the different planning horizons of our organisations and the related costs proved to be difficult. While BOOKBRIDGE needs certainty on whether a program happens or not, we can decide shortly before the kick off date whether the program takes place or not. This uncertainty caused a lot of organisational challenges at the CEPS.

Carsten: From my side, I expected that less depends on me when it comes to attracting candidates for the program. In reality, I acquired most of the candidates. In addition, I learnt from the feedbacks from our candidates that substantial changes would be necessary when it comes to the linkage between theory and practice for a third program run.

What is the outlook?

Georg: We also see the program as a success on which we would like to build upon. In the next months to come, we would like to think how we can re-design the program that it attracts the NPO sector. We need to consider the cost structure and the contents which are really relevant to our target group. We will then see whether we are able to come up with a compelling offering to experience entrepreneurship. This is an unique opportunity for us and the sector. For us, this will be a new adventure.

Carsten: We have just closed a new partnership with the IAP Zurich. This will be my key focus. I learnt a lot from our collaboration for this new partner. Furthermore, I would like to continue to bring our approach to new countries like we did it with Christina‘s and Dorah‘s Green Business College in South Africa in GSE2.

 Credits for pictures go to Dominik Labhardt and Moritz Strähl, Advanced Studies, University of Basel.

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