Now in its fifth year, the Future Leaders Fundraising challenge kicked off a new digital format. Despite the challenging strategic context, our new cohort of WHU MBA students successfully raised €16,166.16 for the charity Welthungerhilfe, a sum that surpassed the previous year.
The bi-annual challenge is a unique concept originally designed in 2016 to help provide students with leadership experience as well as strategic and entrepreneurial skills that are valuable throughout and beyond their studies. Over the course of five days, the students form teams, create a brand, design and produce a product, and distribute their product to the public. Each day brings a new challenge, a new team member taking the lead, and a variety of tasks as the teams compete.
This year, of course, was different. The challenge at WHU was to create a digital program that would emulate the intense, immersive experience of previous FLFCs, in a completely new strategic environment that excluded many of the face-to-face interactions that would normally be integral to the program. We spoke to student mentor Gabriela Lopez who previously completed the challenge, to find out more.
“I think the situation has pushed the new students to be more creative than ever before.”
“Most of the students had already met online and outside of the challenge, so it was less about communication and more about getting to grips with the tools that made the virtual format trickier,” says Full-Time MBA student Gabriela. “For example, one of the new students lives in China and she was not able to access Paypal to collect donations and had to find another application. Aside from connectivity issues, the students adapted very quickly.”
In total, 41 students participated in the challenge, representing 20 nationalities in 11 countries, and spanning 11 different time zones. These students were assembled into remote teams, a first since the FLFC’s inception in 2016. “They are more creative in how they express their ideas and gain attention for their campaigns,” Gabriela adds. “I think it was more beneficial for them that they were able to easily reach their international friends around the world, as donations kept arriving throughout the day from different time zones.”
“I found the experience so beneficial; I wanted to help guide new students through their journey.”
Born and raised in Mexico, industrial engineer Gabriela decided to join the WHU MBA Program in her bid to find a new business perspective outside of the US-influenced bubble at home. Keen to step outside of her comfort zone, she chose Germany for its strong economy and the opportunity to learn a new language. “I found the experience of the challenge itself incredibly refreshing and it was my first experience of working with people from different cultures. It was an entirely German team, except for me, so the cultural shock combined with how they approached this business problem, was surprising for me. However it was so fulfilling and I learned so much during the challenge, that when I look back and see how much I grew; I wanted to act as a mentor to provide some insights and help guide the new students through their own journey.”
“This virtual format was a great opportunity to prepare for a style of online working environments that many of us will likely encounter in the near future.”
New Full-Time MBA student Christopher Brown was part of the winning team ‘Team Pathfinder’, who achieved the top position for the best overall performance. “We faced typical obstacles that we expected such as different time zones and technology issues. But there were some more subtle points we did not expect – such as giving feedback and not being able to read that person’s body language to understand how it is being received.”
A mechanical engineer from the United States, Christopher was drawn to the close-knit community that WHU offered and looked to develop as a leader by working in a diverse environment. “Even before I arrived in Düsseldorf I had heard about how the Future Leaders Fundraising Challenge was a challenging week at the start of our MBA experience. In hindsight, I think it was a great way to learn just how adaptable our batch is. One of the highlights for me was the award ceremony, because it gave us all an opportunity to see how each team grew over the course of the challenge.”
Each year the students receive a different topic or theme, with this year’s competition dedicated to raising funds for charity partner Welthungerhilfe, with a focus on their coronavirus prevention projects providing hygiene and sanitation for people in need. The new MBA students successfully raised an impressive €16,166.16, beating last year’s total despite the digital format.
An exciting start to the program, with the new students already demonstrating the ability to adapt to changes with the entrepreneurial spirit that is vital to the high-achieving potential of the WHU MBA Program.