15 years of Esade Alumni Social
Esade Alumni Social works to generate a productive economy in developing countries through various projects in places like Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay, with the active participation of Esade alumni. These international consulting activities are known as the Together project, as they are managed in coordination with the Esade University Development Service (SUD). With the help of some of the people involved, we analyse one such project and its evolution in Piura, Peru.
The aim of the project is to help small local businesses – usually cooperatives – to earn profits for the benefit of local people and communities. The work formula involves interaction between senior alumni and current students. The alumni go first, carrying out a three-week consultancy visit on site. They return having identified actions that SUD students will subsequently implement over the course of their two-month internships.
The APPROCAP cooperative, made up of 242 cocoa-growing families, was founded in 2003 in the department of Piura, in northern Peru, with the aim of strengthening cocoa production processes. In 2018, this organisation received professional support from the Together project, as it was going through tough times. The aim of the pro bono consultancy project was to introduce business management techniques in order to make the administration of the organisation more efficient, improve its productivity, and provide it with a technical and academic framework. In December, APPROCAP began exporting cocoa directly to Barcelona thanks to Esade alumni who put the cooperative into contact with the chocolate company Blanxart, with which it signed a commercial agreement. This was an extremely important event for the small cocoa producers, since it guaranteed them a market for the sale of their output. It also posed a challenge for the consolidation of the cooperative. Ana Viñals (MBA ‘91), Albert Martín (EMPA ‘08) and Víctor Peiró (MBA ‘74) participated as solidarity consultants and have continued to follow the project.
The alumni experience
Albert Martín (EMPA ‘08), an international pro bono consultant with the Together programme, and his colleague Ana Viñals (MBA ‘91) spent a fortnight last summer in the city of Piura and various small towns of the hinterland. The aim of the trip was to support the organisations CIPCA and APPROCAP in a process of strategic reflection, with a small cooperative of cocoa farmers, in the areas of finance, sales, organisation and management. Albert told us about his experience:
How did you feel before the trip?
Before the trip, we were in contact with people from CIPCA and the APPROCAP cooperative, preparing for the project, sharing and analysing documents, holding videoconferences, etc. Our commitment was strong. I had worked for many hours, especially with my colleague Ana Viñals, who tutors the Esade students who travelled for the same project. For me, the trip was not the beginning of anything but a continuation of the consulting process we had already started online.
What did you take away from the experience of participating in the Together programme?
On a personal level, I got a lot out of it. I came away admiring the desire for improvement that I observed in the members of the cooperative and the NGO that supported them (CIPCA). With few financial and management resources, and in an unfavourable environment, they went above and beyond, with a great capacity to adapt to the circumstances. I remember, in particular, the pride and care they took in their work. They showed us their chacras – their term for plots of land – and told us how, when they wanted to give a training class in a village in the middle of the woods, they had to hang a crocheted tablecloth from nails in the adobe walls and use putty to attach post-it notes. Seeing these things encouraged me and convinced me that the work we were doing was worthwhile. I also learned more about cocoa and chocolate in six months than I had in 65 years.
Can you define your experience in five words?
Warm, exciting, stimulating, interesting and a reality check.