Tag Archives: management

Five ways to focus your growth as a small business

Dr Pamela Yeow is Assistant Dean (External Engagement) in Birkbeck’s School of Business, Economics and Informatics and teaches on the Help to Grow: Management Programme. She shares five tips for SMEs to accelerate their growth.

People make your business, and this is even more true for small businesses, where people are your business. In the midst of the great resignation prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than half of businesses that are reporting a worker shortage unable to meet demands (ONS, 2021), it is getting increasingly difficult to find the right employees for the right positions.

While the idea of trying to grow your business in the midst of our post-Brexit, post-lockdown, cost of living crisis might seem daunting, there are steps you can take today to start moving in the right direction. Here are five suggestions on where to begin.

1. Authentic leadership

Leadership is crucial in all businesses. Positive leadership is not just for those right at the top of the tree, but relevant to all positions at all levels. People look to leaders for direction, for strategy, and for reassurance when things are uncertain. Employees want to know that they are respected and appreciated, and also heard. Consider how you can develop clear, consistent communications to support and reassure your teams.

2. Develop partnerships and networks

Partnerships, relationships and networks are important for business growth and development. It is important to continue creating and renewing industry relationships, but have you considered developing partnerships and establishing networks in the wider community? Universities and colleges, for example, can work with businesses to develop internships or knowledge transfer partnerships.

3. Knowing your strengths

Most of us cannot be everything to everyone (we do try!). Having a clear understanding of what your business stands for is always a strength. Try asking your colleagues what they think their strengths are. Sometimes these can come as a surprise to the senior leadership team.

4. Values and purpose

Increasingly, businesses are expected to have a clear purpose and employees are voting with their feet if their values aren’t aligned with their organization. Knowing your purpose and values enables employees to proactively relate and engage with the business.

5. Flexibility and agility

As a small or medium sized business, one major advantage is your agility and flexibility. With greater accessibility to senior management within SMEs, this means that staff can share new ideas quickly and embed new suggestions even quicker. Consider how accessible your team is today. How could you communicate to staff that you’re open to new ideas?

Keen to grow your business?

The Help to Grow: Management Programme is a 12-week course that offers 50 hours of practical business leadership and strategy training, with 1:1 business mentoring, peer-learning networks in a hybrid (face-to-face and online) format. This programme is specifically for business owners and senior leaders operating in small and medium sized businesses who want to grow.

Register for the Help to Grow: Management Programme and start creating a plan for your next stage of growth!

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Management Consultancy and Organizational Change: Are you up for the challenge?

Each year, students on the MSc Management Consultancy and Organisational Change work directly with major clients of PA Consulting on a variety of challenging consultancy projects.

A unique aspect of Birkbeck’s MSc Management Consultancy and Organisational Change programme is that students have the option to complete the Consultancy Challenge in place of a traditional dissertation or research project.

Partnering with PA Consulting, the global innovation and transformation consultancy, students on the Consultancy Challenge work with PA’s major clients on a range of projects across an intense twelve-week period. For these students, it is an opportunity to deliver solutions to real problems that clients face, reflecting the work of management consultants, and experiencing a unique journey alongside team members who all offer different skills and knowledge.

For the 2021 academic year, students formed two teams, each tasked with solving a problem in a large, complex organisation. The first team completed a knowledge governance project for a large UK animal charity. The second team completed a project advising a regulatory organisation in the medical field on implementing hybrid working.

Dr David Gamblin, programme director and module convenor of the Consultancy Challenge, said: “It was a joy to see the students in action over the twelve-week consulting cycle, from initial scoping of the briefs and defining the problem with their clients, to the final presentation of deliverables. The students tackled two challenging projects, put learning into practice, and ultimately delivered meaningful outputs for their clients.”

Throughout the project, each student team is mentored by a consultant from PA, who provides support and guidance, as well as assurance that the work is of a standard that PA would be proud of.

The consulting cycle culminated with the student teams presenting their final analyses and recommendations, which were met with positive reactions from the clients, PA consultants, and Birkbeck supervisors. The clients highlighted the “hard work and professionalism” of the students, and they were impressed with the practical advice that was offered.

The 2022 Consultancy Challenge officially kicked-off on 25 April 2022 with students working on two new client projects. If you think you are up for the challenge in future years, have a look at our Management Consultancy and Organisational Change programme page, or contact David Gamblin to learn more.

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Changing the stories we tell about creativity

Jamie Hannon graduated with distinction in MSc Management with Business Innovation from Birkbeck’s School of Business, Economics and Informatics. Working for the Barbican and Culture Mile Learning during his studies, Jamie put theory into practice and interrogated practice with theory, linking the creative arts with skills in innovation to create the Fusion Futures skills and employability programme.

Photo credit: Christian Cassiel – Copyright: Museum of London

Creativity and the arts are recognised for their contribution to innovation. Yet, space for creativity is often sidelined by business and education. Even those working in arts and culture play into this narrative that creativity exists as a separate ‘nice-to-have’. This comfortable status quo has a lot to do with how we evaluate and talk about our arts and culture initiatives.

In 2020, I was lucky that my organisation was in a position to retain its workforce. It allowed me some creative space to develop a new learning programme based on the provocation ‘how can we best prepare young people for the as-yet-unknown jobs of the future’.  To really interrogate the possibilities, I drew upon my arts background and my burgeoning knowledge of innovation as part of my studies towards an MSc Management with Business Innovation at Birkbeck.

Knowledge sharing as a tactic against future challenges

Influenced by the academic discourse, a possible solution started to emerge.  Skills in knowledge sharing might be the only ones relevant when future jobs are unknown. Knowledge sharing – the donating and collecting of information that is then utilised by the receiving individual as knowledge – is considered a key behaviour within innovation-led learning organisations. This was sounding like a promising direction to take the programme in.

Of course, it made sense to me that knowledge sharing as a learning tactic could be deployed against future challenges. But would the young participants understand this? Participants likely wouldn’t articulate it in clear academic terms.  So, how were the programme outcomes going to be measured?  I had spent a lot of time on the programme and had promised its stakeholders a full and extensive evaluation. The choice of possible quantitative and qualitative methods was, for a while, disabling.

I had to stop and cut myself some slack, as they say. I had to strip back my thinking to the level of an individual taking part. In order to evaluate the programme, what did I need to know from the young students?  Were they aware that they had experienced knowledge sharing in the workshop?

Picturing the experience

My logic was this: participants might not be able to fully articulate their experience of knowledge sharing, but they would give away clues about how they understood their experience through linguistic pictures in their responses. We often use linguistic pictures to create an understanding of something.  (For example, ‘feeling down’ provokes an understanding of a person’s mood in a picture form – we imagine a person looking down or lacking energy so therefore sitting down.)  So, I decided to conduct loosely structured interviews that allowed participants the space to fully describe their experience in their natural vocabulary.

Revealing something hidden

“I was showing my creative mind”, one said.  “There was more to it”, “I saw the meaning behind their picture”, others said.  “I delved deep into my soul”.  “I could really see”.

A common linguistic picture appeared, the experience of revealing something to others or having something revealed to them. Although the young students had not used the words share, give, or take, they were describing how they were giving information about themselves to others and then receiving information from others in return.  The donating and collecting of knowledge had been experienced, and interestingly, it was at the level of identity.

The role of identity in knowledge sharing

The artist facilitators instinctively started with teamwork activities that explored identities. One artist’s exercise was to take a polaroid of how the student saw themselves, then a second of how they thought others saw them. Each picture was an agent for discussion and became an indirect and less pressurised way to share.

I realised that before sharing complex information and before utilising it as knowledge towards challenges, participants were sharing who they were with each other.  They had been supporting each other to share their authentic selves, which created a shared psychological safety within which the rest of the workshop activities could be conducted.

This was an important revelation for me. Returning to the academic discourse, I found that identity and self-concept are linked to a person’s understanding of their own knowledge and abilities and whether they feel comfortable to share; a self-confidence to offer a contribution and a humbleness to know how others can contribute.

Empowered with these findings, I can talk about this new programme and its impact on innovation. I can say that through understanding who they are and what knowledge, insights and experiences they bring to the group, participants have practised knowledge sharing. They feel open and confident to take part in collaboration and collective problem solving.

Tailoring the learning experience

For the degree, I achieved distinction and received an award of academic excellence. But it wasn’t all hard work. I enjoyed the experience because I took the advice given to me in a Birkbeck dissertation seminar. Their recommendation was to investigate a topic that was of interest to me; that I could apply to my career or other ambitions, and that I would feel proud and empowered to know more about. This advice, coupled with the course’s flexible approach to module selection meant that I tailored my learning to me and my ambitions.

At work, the story I now tell about my new learning programme, Fusion Futures, is that it is more than ‘nice-to-have’ – it’s fundamental to innovation!

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Halloween: a Horror Story of Unnecessary Consumerism?

And we thought the costumes were the scariest thing about Halloween! Dr Amy R Hackley, Senior Lecturer in Marketing in Birkbeck’s Department of Management explores the dark side of holiday consumerism.

As Halloween approaches, are you considering buying a pumpkin or two, and perhaps a plastic broom, make up or a horror mask for the kids to take trick or treating? Or even some Halloween-themed nightwear, or a special chocolate treat for yourself? Halloween consumption is on a rising trend: according to www.statistica.com, UK consumers are spending more than twice as much money on Halloween as we did in 2013, and an estimated 25% of us will buy a pumpkin, at a cost of around £30,000,000 (yes, that’s £30 million). Total Halloween related spending is estimated at almost half a billion pounds sterling annually. Last year, British supermarket chain Waitrose reported its biggest ever Halloween sales bonanza, with sales up by 62% on the previous year[i]. This year, in the home of Halloween consumption, the USA, pre-Halloween chocolate and confectionary sales have reached $324[ii] million, up by 48% comparing to the same period in 2020, with American consumers spending a stunning $10 billion every year on Halloween. But why do we spend such extraordinary sums on trivial items to mark an ancient Celtic death festival?

Halloween originated as the pagan festival of Samhain, part of the ancient Celtic religion in Britain and other parts of Europe. The Celts believed that on the 31st October the barrier between the world of humans and the world of spirits dissolves to allow ghosts to wander amongst us on earth. The festival was needed to scare away the bad spirits, and to remember the dead. Turnips were used to carve lanterns rather than pumpkins, and ‘guising’ (going from house to house in masks and costumes) was practised. Under the influence of Christianity, the day became known as All Hallows’ Eve or All Saint’s Eve. There are versions of this festival practiced around the world. For example, the Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead in Mexico is celebrated in the 2017 Disney movie Coco, and across East Asia there are many versions of ghost festivals practiced, such as paper burning rituals of ancestor worship, the Hungry Ghost festivals in Singapore and the ‘Pee Ta Khon’ festival in Dan-sai district, Loei province, Thailand. All these ritual practices are marked by consumption of various kinds, of food, goods and services. Halloween gained its popularity in America when 19th century Irish immigrants brought it with them, and the influence of American TV shows, books and movies, made Halloween more and more popular in the 20th Century.

From an academic perspective, consumption is a rich site of ritual practices, and death-related ritual is one of the most powerful. Death rituals re-enact our symbolic connection with our existence. They give us opportunities to re-tell tell stories about life and death, and to connect with the spirit world from which we are separated. They help the living to move away from the brute fact of death towards an acceptance of death as a kind of continuity of life. In a way, Halloween and other ritual practices help the living to celebrate life, by ritualising death.

Of course, the spiritual side of death rituals is very well-hidden in today’s deeply commercialised consumer festival of Halloween. Although a lot of consumption is essential to the practice of death rituals, we really do not need to eat so much chocolate or to buy so many horror costumes. It is, really, a horror of wasteful consumption. Halloween costumes and decorations are made from cheap plastic and synthetic materials which are not so good for our environment. It was recorded that consumers created 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste by discarding Halloween costumes[iii], and an estimated 8 million pumpkins (or 18,000 tonnes of edible pumpkin flesh) are heading for the bin as consumers do not eat it[iv] But, when we are young, Halloween is an opportunity to party and have fun dressing up, trick or treating, eating a lot of chocolate and candy and, when we are older, perhaps drinking a lot of alcohol. What’s not to love? Most supermarkets have their own dedicated range of branded Halloween products because the event is a huge opportunity to make money by selling us overpriced stuff we do not need.

Halloween remains one of the world’s oldest holidays and death festivals, and in its many forms around the world it retains a rich cultural significance in human society. As the contemporary American author Andrew Delbanco notes in his book ‘The death of Satan: how Americans have lost the sense of evil’, he suggests that as we have lost touch with the idea of evil, we seem to need more vivid representations of it. The commercialisation of Halloween in the Western world helps us to affirm our sense of self and social identity and to reconcile us to the inevitability of death by making it seem like a harmless children’s cartoon. Yet, lurking beneath the millions of pounds worth of fake blood, carved pumpkins and discarded plastic witch hats, is a real horror story of reckless and unsustainable consumption.

[i] https://waitrose.pressarea.com/pressrelease/details/78/NEWS_13/12558 accessed 21/10.2021

[ii]  “New Data Shows 2021 Halloween Chocolate and Candy Sales Are Up” Yahoo News Monday 18th October 2021 https://finance.yahoo.com/news/data-shows-2021-halloween-chocolate-173600801.html accessed 21/10/2021

[iii] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/10/17/halloween-2019-costumes-will-create-2000-tonnes-plastic-waste/ (paywall)

[iv] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/23/pumpkin-waste-uk-halloween-lanterns

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Introducing Birkbeck’s Professional Doctorate in Evidence-Based Human Resource Management

Julie Gore, Programme Director, shares the rationale behind the Professional Doctorate in Evidence-based HRM.

Advancing metacognition – the process of knowing, understanding and learning are central features of doctoral education.  Deciding how to decide is central to successful leadership and management.   The challenges of Human Resource (HRM) management in times of uncertainty have never been more apparent, with sociotechnical advancement and change being pervasive features of our working lives.   Bringing together our advanced understanding of cognitive decision making processes and expertise, alongside a scientifically informed process of deciding how to decide, is where evidence based HRM meets informed HR practice.

In short, evidence-based HR refers to adopting a decision making process in which the organization consciously evaluates any decision against multiple sources of data, experience, expert opinions, and other types of information to ensure the decisions most successful outcome.

Notably, examining multiple sources of data is also completed deliberatively, with a critical eye, and questioning the value of the data is part of the method. It takes constant effort to seek multiple sources of evidence to aid decision making and Evidence-based HR aims to actively do this.

Birkbeck’s new doctorate in Evidence Based Human Resource Management provides advanced research skills, a critical approach to thinking and deciding, the opportunity to tackle challenging work based problems and paradoxes, and a vibrant network of opportunities for discussion and reflection with HR professionals.

I anticipate that practitioner and academic discussions will be lively and insightful.

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“The insight I now have about myself has changed my outlook on life.”

Karen Bowden-Brown is an HR leader and coach. She shares her transformative experience on Birkbeck’s Postgraduate Certificate in Coaching Psychology.

Karen sitting outside, smiling.My career to date has been in HR and I considered coaching to be a vital part of my role as an HR leader and an area I wanted to develop further. I considered various learning routes but many of them seemed be very generic, the Birkbeck course was exactly what I was looking for.

We covered such a breadth of topics and theories from psychology and philosophy when considering the coaching approach.  We viewed coaching approaches through various lenses – normative, interpretative and postmodern, which provided a different insight. The latest academic thinking was shared and discussed and we had assignments drawing on these resources.

I particularly enjoyed the presentations from experienced practicing coaches who were invited to provide demonstrations of different styles of coaching approaches.

The course leadership is excellent and Andreas, Susan and Raul who led the Programme at that time have years of experience both academically and practically as Executive Coaches. They also provided great mentorship to our cohort and were always there to provide friendly challenge to stretch our learning.

I have made some excellent friendships during my time on the course and I remain in regular contact with my small work group.

The Postgraduate Certificate in Coaching Psychology gave me the confidence to provide internal leadership coaching as I had all the necessary tools. The course has taught me to approach conversations differently as a thought partner and a consultant – from a place of curiosity and open questioning.

The course has also been of benefit recently when I was reviewing the organisational approach to performance management – coaching by managers is now a core element to support all employee development.

I would go as far as to describe the course as life-changing, as the insight I now have about myself has changed my outlook on life. Additionally, the life skills I have developed on communication have been invaluable to me not just at work but with my family – especially with my children.

If you are considering this course, I would encourage you to invest in yourself! You won’t regret it.

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“If you try and do everything at once, you’ll never get started.”

Neither pregnancy nor a pandemic could keep Francesca Calabrese from completing her degree. She reflects on her experience on the BBA Culinary Industry Management.

Picture of Francesca CalabreseWhen I first moved to London, it was really important to me to be independent and not ask for help from my parents. My friends were all going to university and I would have loved to do the same, but as I was working full-time, I couldn’t see how I would be able to get a degree and support myself.

I was aware of Birkbeck because I was working in a hostel in nearby Russell Square, but I hadn’t realised that it had evening classes until I came across a prospectus that somebody had left in the hostel.

As a supervisor, I’ve always liked management, and my other passion is for cooking, as my dad is a chef. Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to set up my own food business, like a restaurant or bakery, so when I was browsing the Birkbeck website and saw a new course launching with Le Cordon Bleu, BBA Culinary Industry Management, it felt like a sign!

Even after applying and completing my interview, I had my doubts about whether I would be able to manage work and study. However, I decided to give myself this opportunity, so I shifted to working part-time and applied for a student loan to help fund my studies. I’m so glad I did, as the course has been an amazing experience and really important for my future career.

The first year flew by: we had the opportunity to do practical sessions at Le Cordon Bleu, which I found completely fascinating. At Birkbeck, I attended lectures and explored management in more depth through small group seminars.

In the second year, we suddenly found ourselves in the COVID-19 pandemic. Even that felt doable, as our tutors were so understanding and were always available any time we needed help or support.

A global pandemic would have been enough to deal with, but last summer I got pregnant and once again was wondering if I would be able to manage. I can be quite a stubborn person and my friends were sure that I would end up dropping out, but I decided once again to give myself the opportunity to succeed. It was tough: my parents were in Italy and couldn’t come over to help me and the thought of the assessments I needed to do once my son was born was really stressful! At the time, I thought I would never make it, but now I’m writing my dissertation having missed just one class through it all and I’m almost done!

I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved and most of all I’m happy that I didn’t give up. Once things are a bit more normal, I’m interested in exploring food development and eventually opening my own business.

My advice to anyone considering studying at Birkbeck is that it’s really difficult to think in one-year terms: take things slowly, do one thing at a time, one exam at a time and things will get much easier. If you try and do everything all at once, you’ll never get started. Take your time, reflect and do things at your pace.

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“The MBA gave me a sense of purpose and the ability to recognise what I wanted when I found it.”

Dan Demilew enrolled on the Central Saint Martins Birkbeck MBA seeking a new direction. Now preparing to start a role in renewable energy, he reflects on the experience that led him to this opportunity.

The Central Saint Martins Granary Square campus.

I had always found my work as a Civil Engineer fulfilling; I enjoy being able to build stuff in my neighbourhood and physically show friends and family what I’ve worked on. Before I’d even considered studying at Central Saint Martins, I was an engineer on the redevelopment of Granary Square, helping to build the entrance bridge, Coal Drops Yard, Kings Boulevard and all around the university.

Back then I had the idea of doing an MBA in the back of my mind because my Dad often talked about how it had benefitted his career, but in my industry it was less clear how an MBA would be useful.

Instead, I moved to take up a new opportunity in Australia. I accepted a senior role working mostly on mine sites, and found the work less fulfilling, as I was working on projects that were mostly temporary in nature. Having progressed onto the project management side of things, I found myself spending an increasing amount of time dealing with the politics and work winning side of the business, which started to wear me down.

It was in my next role in Dubai that I realised it was time for a break. I wasn’t performing as well as I could at work and my wife had just been promoted and had a baby, so it seemed a natural time to take a step back and look after my child so my wife could go back to work.

I worried about my brain going a bit rusty so I thought now is the time to do this MBA that my Dad keeps harping on about!

Choosing a fresh approach

University of the Arts London had been on my radar since working on the Granary Square project, but the main thing that attracted me to the Central Saint Martins Birkbeck MBA was the concept of design-led thinking. The company I worked for in Australia was committed to design thinking and I could see the benefit of this approach when working with clients. In engineering, there’s often one correct way of doing things, so being able to apply an artistic and diverse way of thinking was really fulfilling.

The MBA has core modules like finance and leadership that you find on most courses, but 25% of the content is stuff you don’t find elsewhere, such as entrepreneurship and design-led thinking. After my experience of feeling burnt out in my previous roles, these were the parts of the course that appealed to me the most. Because the programme is part-time, I was able to combine my studies with taking care of my daughter as well.

Looking to the future

I knew that the MBA was a path to something different, but I wasn’t sure what was available to me. I thought I would be more motivated in my studies if I had a specific goal in mind, so I focused my energies on the Minderoo Foundation, an organisation funded by Australian philanthropist Andrew Forrest which looks to solve global challenges. Before enrolling, I set myself a metaphorical goal to work for Minderoo, and it was through following them on social media that I learned about Forrest’s new green energy fuel venture, Fortescue Future Industries. They advertised my dream job in January 2021, just as my daughter was starting nursery and I was starting to look for jobs.

I’ve just returned to Australia to take up a Program Management role for a portfolio of clean energy projects. The company is looking to build a global clean energy supply chain spanning more than 25 countries – the scale is breathtaking! I’m thrilled to be able to work on something that I know I can be proud of.

I don’t think I would have applied for the job had it not been for the MBA, and I’m certain that the MBA contributed to my success. It helped me differentiate myself at interview and was a great discussion point to enable me to articulate my skills and value. Above all, the biggest compliment that I can give to the work of Birkbeck and Central Saint Martins is that before I was struggling to know what I was looking for, but the MBA gave me a sense of purpose and the ability to recognise what I wanted when I found it. I’m excited about my future again.

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Finding balance and fulfilment through the Central Saint Martins Birkbeck MBA

Before she found the Central Saint Martins Birkbeck MBA, Jennifer Chen felt that a business degree would not be a good fit for her background as a creative. Now juggling the roles of design researcher, charity trustee, Royal Society of Arts fellow, start-up mentor and mum to twin toddlers, she’s embracing new challenges and learning to balance all areas of life more than ever.

Picture of Jenn

My background is in design and advertising. As a creative, I found the work interesting, but from time to time felt a lack of control to make greater impact with my work. The agency setting I was in was rather fragmented and figuring out the why of the projects I was working on was usually someone else’s job. There were times when I would be given a task that didn’t feel quite right, but I did not have the capability or confidence to challenge it. My role was sometimes limited to form-giving, styling, making things look pretty – there is a lot of skill to that, of course, but I knew that I wanted to do more.

I began by searching for Masters programmes in innovation. I didn’t consider business programmes at first because I didn’t think they would be the right fit for me: of my friends with MBAs, as successful as they were, none of them had a job description that sounded like something I’d want to do.

I was delighted when I found out about the Central Saint Martins Birkbeck MBA. Working in the design community, I had always known about UAL, but Birkbeck’s strong research reputation gives the MBA more credibility in the business world.

From the very beginning, we were told that this was a safe space to share ideas, and that there were no stupid questions – I don’t think this is common practice in traditional MBA programmes. We learned from a team of excellent lecturers and industry leaders, but most importantly, from each other. As a more mature cohort with work and family commitments, we learned to plan for contingencies, to make sure colleagues could contribute to group projects regardless of their personal circumstances, and to be empathetic towards each other’s situations. We operated under the assumption that everybody wants to do their absolute best, but a bit of flexibility may be required here and there.

This was particularly true for me, since on the very first day of the programme I found out that I was pregnant with twins! It was almost surreal. My MBA cohort heard the news before some of my family. Birkbeck and UAL were very accommodating. To maximise my learning opportunities, Dr Pamela Yeow, the course leader, advised that I complete the first module, then helped me rejoin the programme a year later with the following cohort.

Picture of Jenn with her twins

Jennifer with her twins after rejoining the MBA in 2018.

Even then, balancing work and family life was not easy, especially as the estimated ten hours of reading per week turned out to be quite an understatement! Towards the end of the programme, we had all nearly become experts in information extraction and priority management.

The course was a transformative experience for me. Through theory and practice, I was able to develop my skillset as a design leader, especially in the areas of collaborative leadership, entrepreneurship and operations management. Having access to industry-specific knowledge and concrete, actionable advice from the teaching staff has really helped me get closer to achieving my goals: affecting change to the world through design.

Chris Cornell, our lecturer on strategy, who has worked extensively with the charity sector, helped me work out a clear action plan. I am now a marketing trustee for the Heritage Crafts Association, refreshing the brand to create a contemporary, engaging and relatable identity in order to attract a wider audience. I also mentor startups, helping their world-changing ideas cultivate the power of storytelling and develop clear communication approaches.

The MBA makes you ask a lot of questions about the work that you do, the work that you want to do, and the work that you can learn to do, in order to implement change and improve the world around us, and in doing so, enrich ourselves.

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An MBA with a difference

Sammera applied for the Central Saint Martins Birkbeck MBA to build the skills to have a greater impact in the charity sector. Her efforts have been recognised by a scholarship from the Aziz Foundation, who support British Muslims into higher education to better society.

Picture of Sammera

As Head of Development at the British Asian Trust and with over fifteen years’ experience of charity and voluntary work, Sammera speaks with authority when she talks of the need to innovate in the third sector. 

“Innovation and creativity are central to developing products or services in any leading organisation,” she explains, “but in the fast-changing and highly competitive environment in which charities operate, it is essential. There’s also the added challenge of adapting within a strictly regulated and scrutinised environment.” 

Sammera wanted to return to education to consolidate the skills she had learned through her working life. The Central Saint Martins Birkbeck MBA appealed as it provided the opportunity to bring together creative and business disciplines. 

“I didn’t want to do anything too conventional – I wanted to bring in a creative angle,” says Sammera. “The four units of the MBA programme link in with my work, so I can apply what I’m learning in my day to day integrating the business management theories practically. There are elements of the course that require independent investigation and research, while others focus on entrepreneurship, leadership and change.” 

In January 2020, Sammera successfully interviewed for a scholarship from the Aziz Foundation, which will partly cover the costs of the MBA programme. The Aziz Foundation offers Masters scholarships to British Muslims in order to empower one of the most disadvantaged communities in the country to bring positive change to society as a whole. 

For Sammera, the MBA is an opportunity to gain the skills she needs to make an even greater impact: “At the British Asian Trust, I have learned the value of social finance, making sustainable changes for the longer term and helping marginalised communities in South Asia. Beyond this course, I hope to continue to empower the diaspora and wider communities locally and internationally.” 

Dr Pamela Yeow, Programme Director of the MBA, said: “We designed the MBA to equip students with the tools to make positive change. I am delighted that the Aziz Foundation has recognised Sammera’s commitment to the charity sector and that they have seen the potential for her to have an even greater impact with the help of the MBA.” 

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