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Video: MBAs in action

Indonesia, May 28, 2010

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It’s midnight in the slums of Jakarta. Four intrepid Ivy League co-eds, armed only with a video camera, tiptoe down a dark alley towards a door cracked open just enough to reveal the orange glow of a light within…

It sounds like the latest slasher movie doesn’t it? But in fact it’s a day in the life of a group of Master of Business Administration (MBA) students at MIT’s prestigious Sloan School of Management, who — in addition to studying finance and marketing — are learning to use their business acumen to make a difference in the world.

Here are two short video clips, so you can find out what this group of MBA students was doing walking around at this late hour. The answer will surprise you!

These students worked with Mercy Corps as part of MIT’s G-Lab (Global Entrepreneurship Lab), an innovative program in which teams of MBA students work with host companies in what is essentially a four-month unpaid mini-consulting project.

Mercy Corps' challenge to these students: turn a healthy food-cart pilot project into a self-sustaining enterprise that will provide affordable, nutritious food to poor children.

In Jakarta, street food sold from carts is often high in fat and sugar, lacking nutrients and prepared in unhygienic conditions, contributing to high rates of malnutrition among young children. Enter Mercy Corps’ Kedai Balitaku project (KeBAL for short) which translates to “My Child’s Café.” These brightly colored, child-friendly food carts provide healthy, safe and delicious food for children under five.

Two weeks ago, I went to MIT to meet the students and see their final presentation. They had terrific insights and creative solutions, as well as a business plan and set of financial tools that will help Mercy Corps' Indonesia team take this program to scale.

Four students, big impact. And more evidence of the limitless creativity that can be brought to bear in tackling seemingly intractable problems. Many thanks and best of luck to Erica Carlisle, Chris Lin, Libby Puttnam, and Emily Sporl, the Mercy Corps Indonesia G-Lab student team!