Team HaAshesi – Educating Ethical, Entrepreneurial Leaders in Africa
Written by: Joseph Bird, Carolyn Henderson, Nicole Quinty, Jessica Slocovich and Nicholas Meyer
Our client, Ashesi University, was founded by Haas alumnus Patrick Awuah in 2002 with the grand mission of educating a new generation of ethical, entrepreneurial leaders in Africa (Patrick, coincidentally, was Haas’s Class of 2019 MBA commencement speaker). The school has a longstanding relationship with Haas and has partnered with IBD to host 12 (!) IBD teams to date.
Prior to arriving on campus, our group dove deep into the current educational landscape across Africa, distributed and analyzed results from an international student survey, spoke with a number of university admissions teams, worked with Haas African Business Club points of contact, and even enjoyed early exposure to potential customers by spending time with current students at Haas in early March.
Before getting to work, our team was thrilled to start our time in Ghana with four safaris at Mole National Park.
We then embarked upon the drive from the country’s capital, Accra, to our client in the remote town of Berekuso, situated high on a hill with stunning views of the surrounding Accra metropolitan area and the Gulf of Guinea.
Given that most students had already departed campus for internships or summer vacation, our team largely had campus to ourselves. We were treated to a tour of the school’s beautiful facilities and were afforded access to any room on campus to ensure that we had ample space to work during our time with the project. Accommodations were in on-campus faculty housing, three-bedroom homes with shared living rooms and kitchens that also served as great spaces to meet and work.
One of our first large objectives during our time in-country was to conduct focus groups with current international students. Ashesi’s staff was instrumental in helping us coordinate a group of 30 students to speak with, and we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon learning more about what drew them to the school and developing hypotheses on what the institution could do to attract additional international fee-paying students.
Our group resolved early in the project that a sustainable solution for our client would be one that they were heavily invested in and that they would be inspired to carry forward our recommendations regardless of our geographic proximity or duration of time removed from the project. We wanted Ashesi to be invested in the ideation process early and coordinated a three-hour design thinking workshop with key staff members. Hearing directly from those stakeholders, brainstorming, and collaborating on potential solutions to achieve the client’s lofty goal was extraordinarily productive, and the enthusiasm and energy from the afternoon was palpable.
Ashesi’s staff were eager for us to continue to explore Ghana, and were kind enough to build an itinerary for us to visit Cape Coast during our first weekend between work. Crocodiles, castles, and rainforests filled our days, and we were very appreciative of the cultural experiences we enjoyed together.
At this point, our group had enough information to begin synthesizing final deliverables for the client, but not without the buy-in of our final stakeholders. We facilitated a brief check-in to lay out our proposals and rationale to ensure that we were meeting expectations and any substantial questions or reservations from the client were being proactively addressed.
We were also thrilled to be on campus for Ashesi’s graduation. It was a remarkably fulfilling and inspiring experience knowing that our work today would influence the lives of those walking across the stage a few years from now.
Our last few days in-country were spent refining our deliverables with a handful of key stakeholders, continuing to extract insights, and synthesizing our final recommendations. The final presentation on Thursday, June 6th was well-attended, as members from our stakeholders’ entire teams were eager to hear what we had learned and understand first-hand our proposals for their day-to-day responsibilities going forward.
Upon the conclusion of our final presentation, our team took time to reflect on the project and pulled together a few closing observations. While timelines, deliverables, and audiences shifted a number of times, our group did a wonderful job of staying grounded and focusing on the importance of our work to the client. Each and every one of us was heavily invested in the school’s mission and the overarching goal of our project, which kept day-to-day challenges and project scope fluctuations in perspective and kept us motivated to deliver our best. We were also mutually appreciative of the comportment of our teammates and the easygoing nature by which we all approached our work and collaborative efforts. This, in tandem with the unwavering support of our client, created a memorable work experience and end-state deliverables that we are all very proud of. Next steps: planning a team reunion in Ghana a few years from now!