By Alex Marino, Staff Writer
The Refugee Consulting Projects are a portal for participation linking Thunderbird-ASU students with local minority communities. Thunderbird students have the unique opportunity to participate in something impactful, while also sharpening their newly acquired consulting skills on a real world project. It’s a mutually beneficial strategic alliance.
Thanks to fellow Thunderbird student Faduma-Dhool Mohamed, several opportunities are available linking T-birds to active community projects. I personally teamed up with Pam Bhullar on the Congolese Refugee Project (CRP) to give consulting advice while helping organize a sound business plan to help ensure donor funds and resources are utilized at their maximum efficiency. At the CRP the “mission is to bring dignity, nurture, and enrichment to our Congolese identity from the Democratic Republic of Congo.” The CRP plans to accomplish this mission by providing non-emergency transportation services to the Congolese community. Drivers are fellow Congolese who speak the language and understand the cultural challenges facing newcomers to the United States.
Linking more established refugees with newcomers creates a collaborative effort that utilizes internal community resources. Transportation services create more opportunities for job accessibility, social navigation, and access to essential day-to-day resources, while also providing a comfortable setting for adaptation to their new environment.
In addition to transportation services, CRP President Patrick Masoya plans to organize professional workshops for aspiring Congolese entrepreneurs to learn business and marketing fundamentals. The workshops are a great opportunity to stimulate entrepreneurial spirit within the community while also offering free consultation services to help existing businesses grow, develop, and reach a sustainable position as a non-profit. Sustainable growth is the best way to create new employment opportunities through expanding business practices linking members of the community together. Mr. Masoya’s vision for the organization is about establishing a long-term strategy within the community utilizing internal resources.
After analyzing the project, we proposed to Mr. Masoya a business plan aimed at generating more funds from potential donors. The CRP faces several challenges including insurance coverage for selected drivers, finding professionals to teach workshops, and allocating funds to stay within their current $19,000 budget restrictions. We stressed with Mr. Masoya how important it is to create contracts for drivers and refugees receiving transport services prior to the service being provided. The contract should include the nature of the service as well as a pre-determined route so fund allocations per project do not exceed budget restrictions. Most importantly, we advised Mr. Masoya to conduct target market research to show future donors how effective and impactful operations reached goals using allocated funding. Data analysis demonstrating the effectiveness of the project to reach target goals will help generate more funds for future operations within the community.
For T-birds, these types of hands-on projects are what make us unique and impactful. MAGAM student Pam Bhullar shared what it means to her to have this opportunity to contribute to the project: “It’s been a meaningful experience to see all the different initiatives and how they have contributed to improving opportunities in the Congolese community. Its beneficial to my career to see first-hand some of the challenges that consulting can bring and trying to navigate a non-profit through business practices. Everyone has a great goal but it’s important to understand how to incorporate business practices to make that goal a reality.”
For me personally, the project is a great opportunity to understand and work through the cultural differences that make creating this type of business plan so challenging. Entrepreneurs are often very passionate when they see an opportunity to implement an idea that contributes to the well-being and development of a community. However, they lack the business knowledge to link that idea to a realistic and long-term strategy. Connecting innovation and creativity with business strategy and analytics is what makes these projects come to life and create real impactful change, and I am thankful for the opportunity to contribute to making that connection.
For more information, visit the Congolese Community of Arizona’s website.