Alumni stories

Showing Responsibility in Emerging Markets

BOOKBRIDGE and WHU enable participants to start their own social enterprise

What could be more hands-on in management education than to start one’s own company during the studies? The General Management Plus Program (GMP+) of WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management offers this possibility. Since 2013, the business school has been cooperating with the social enterprise BOOKBRIDGE giving its executive education participants the opportunity to co-create social enterprises in emerging markets like Sri Lanka, Cambodia or Mongolia. "Over the years, we have developed more than 600 leaders in GMP+ each of whom has impacted 77 colleagues on average. This means that we have already turned over 46,000 people into purpose-driven responsible leaders worldwide," says BOOKBRIDGE co-founder and WHU alumnus Carsten Rübsaamen and smiles. "We are thus changing entire organizations towards more innovation and value-based leadership.”

BOOKBRIDGE was co-founded by Carsten Rübsaamen in 2010 after he had made impressive experiences in Mongolia the year before. Together with his project partner and a group of scouts, he founded the first learning center in Mongolia which is dedicated to improving job and life chances of the rural population. "My heart told me that this is my destiny," Carsten Rübsaamen explains his choice. "Ever since, I have never lost my fascination for social entrepreneurship."

Within one decade, the social enterprise has achieved a lot. It has been recognized by Ashoka, startsocial, UNESCO, the start-up incubator Venturekick, and many other international organizations. The 50 social enterprises founded by participants now provide improved educational opportunities in different emerging markets. "Our 30 learning centers offer courses from English and IT to entrepreneurship, agriculture, and tourism. Our 20 other social enterprises are working on issues like water supply, agriculture, sustainable housing, and green entrepreneurship. The vast majority runs financially self-sustained through their own products and services, and they are all run by local people," Carsten explains the concept.

The GMP+ allows participants to combine the WHU Management Essentials program with the Capability Program which is offered in collaboration with BOOKBRIDGE. This enables participants to obtain a WHU Mini MBA certificate with 15 ECTS points while also gaining valuable experience as a social entrepreneur.

The international participants of the program obtain their theoretical knowledge in leadership, strategy, finance and entrepreneurship at WHU. Afterwards, together with BOOKBRIDGE, they co-create the vision and business plan for a social enterprise in an emerging economy in close collaboration with local counterparts. Carsten Rübsaamen particularly emphasizes sustainability and keeps in touch with the social entrepreneurs. "This approach has ensured that 47 of the 50 social enterprises founded still exist today. This is an exceptional achievement compared to Silicon Valley where the majority of start-ups does not make it in the end. Instead of clinging to theory and classrooms, participants experience the role of temporary entrepreneurs, working in multicultural teams, and across different sectors," explains the WHU alumnus.

In addition to the strategic approach, the GMP+ program provides its participants with a range of soft skills – including strong teamwork and empathy for the needs of the local people. Moreover, in the program, participants already bear responsibility for a sustainable social enterprise fitting with the local people’s living realities. "By working with local partners at eye-level, everyone quickly realizes that they are not only taking responsibility for themselves but also for others and a joint higher goal,” says Carsten Rübsaamen.