June 27, 2019

Mel Butcher's 2018 Social Impact Field Trip to India

"The India course challenged me in a good way, particularly when it came to the rapid development and testing of ideas in such a different environment.

Before embarking on the trip to India, I was pretty confident about my ability to do rapid human-centred research and design social enterprise business models. But I was surprised by how challenging – and also exciting – it was to do this in such a different setting, with all the cultural, language and logistical barriers of India. We were very quickly thrust into an incredibly complex environment that forced us to adapt the way we engaged with locals as well as each other. Not to mention the noise, traffic, unhinged tuk-tuk drivers, and how everything just comes to a standstill when it rains!

Social enterprise can be different in different contexts

Exploring small enterprises in the bustle of Bengaluru was really interesting, but a highlight was the afternoon we visited a small village on the outskirts of the city, through Clary’s connection with the 40K education program. There we had free rein to talk to people throughout the village, who were open, friendly and generous with their time. We explored different social enterprise models, from cooperative milk production to a Self Help Group using microfinance to empower women and strengthen community connections. Visiting the little school and singing nursery rhymes with the kids was cuteness factor 10!

The experience made me reflect on what constitutes a ‘social enterprise’. In India there seemed to be more focus on economic and community development, rather than more specialised issues we tend to associate with social enterprise in Australia, such as homelessness. And all of the enterprises we visited had strong connections to place, community and family.

I was grateful to spend time with such a fantastic team of people.

One of the best parts of the trip was spending the time with a great bunch of people. Anyone doing the MBAX or Grad Cert in Social Impact knows there is a strong focus on group work – and some group dynamics are more successful than others! But in India I found one of the best groups I’ve ever worked with. Being out of our comfort zones helped us to form strong connections and built trust over a short time. And we were immersed in a different environment without everyday distractions so we could focus on achieving what we were there to do, while also having a heap of fun.

I’d recommend arriving a bit early and leaving later so there’s also some opportunity for downtime to explore the environment, eat amazing food and socialise without pressure of deadlines!

The Field Trip reignited my interest in social enterprise.

The trip was a good capstone to the MBAX in Social Impact because it integrated the business and social impact parts of the course really well. For example, we developed an idea through a practical business model that also incorporated human-centred approaches and social impact tools. The course reinforced the idea that combining business acumen with social or environmental purpose is powerful in any context. And it inspired me to get more involved with my local social enterprise network on returning home."


Find out more and register for the next Social Impact Field Trip to India 14-22 September 2019!

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