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Ivey's 39 country initiative ships business knowledge worldwide

by Communications Staff | May 6, 2014

39 Initiative
Ivey Business School PhD candidate Yamlaksira Getachew, left, and Ivey professor Paul Beamish, HBA’76, PhD’85, show off some of the more than 10,000 textbooks and journals sent to Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa University, part of Ivey’s 39 Country Initiative. (Photo by Paul Mayne)

In just six weeks, one African university has fast-forwarded decades, thanks to the Ivey Business School’s 39 Country Initiative.

A nine-tonne shipment of more than 436 boxes of course packs, journals, books and business cases – totalling more than 10,000 items – has made its way from London to Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa University. The university plans to use the books to bring its business education into the modern era.

“It’s not just the volume of books, but the quality of the books,” said Yamlaksira Getachew, an Ivey Business School PhD candidate (General Management) and former faculty member at Addis Ababa.

“When I was working there, we would have books from the 1950s or the 1980s at the latest, and be using them as textbooks. There were no journals I could refer to, to do research.

“This shipment will prove to be beneficial to the university. Those who want to make a difference in their teaching, by incorporating the latest developments in their areas, they are going to find this very helpful.”

Ivey’s 39 Country Initiative makes educational materials more accessible in the least developed countries around the world. Of the 39 eligible countries, 32 are in Africa, with others including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia, Myanmar, Tajikistan and Haiti.

The idea for the program started in 2010 with the idea of making Ivey’s case studies available for free to business universities.

“What we realized was there were some limitations to its immediate use. Can they actually download it,” said Paul Beamish, director of Ivey’s Engaging Emerging Markets Research Centre. Access to computers in business schools in these countries can be limited.

For instance, only two students owned laptops among a class of 30 Getachew taught at Addis Ababa. The school of 3,000 students has just five or six total computers in its library. “Plus, the access for Internet is very slow,” he added.

“It was not enough to simply make the cases available, we had to take it further,” Beamish said. During the first half of 2013, prior to the move to the new Ivey Building, faculty and staff received a series of messages regarding the collection of materials for shipment. More than 1,000 faculty and students donated to the cause, with dozens of others around campus providing the remaining logistics. The $5,000 cost to ship the container to Ethiopia was covered through a private donor.

“It is hard to overstate the positive impact of this quantity of high-quality material for university-level education in one of the world’s 39 poorest countries,” Beamish said. “There is no question we can do it. Our objective now is to set up a model to show other business schools they can absolutely do this as well.”

A website, ivey.uwo.ca/centres/engaging/39-country-initiative, provides a blueprint to universities on how to mimic the program – from initiating the project and packing the boxes to loading a container and having the proper export forms.

WIC Librarians
MLIS students Christina Wilson, former chair, and Charlene Lee, current chair of Western’s chapter of Librarians Without Borders, see the program as working toward a greater good. (Photo by Adela Talbot)

Ivey isn’t the only area on campus helping others in developing countries with donations of books. Librarians Without Borders (LWB), a non-profit organization established within Western’s Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program in 2005, was created to donate books and build libraries in the smallest, poorest places on Earth.

Since its development, LWB has expanded into an independent, nationwide organization that has chapters at six Canadian universities. Founder Melanie Sellar, MLIS’06, now serves as the co-executive chair of the parent organization, which is run by a geographically dispersed team of volunteers across North America.

Western’s chapter contributes to the funding and awareness of a few specific local and international projects.

Most recently, students from Western’s chapter have been helping supply and catalogue a library in the Kettle and Stony Point Native community, a First Nations reserve on the southern shore of Lake Huron. They have also been helping fundraise for the London Public Library’s A Book For Every Child campaign, a drive established to help supply the local children’s book bank.

On a grander scale, they have fundraised for educational institutions in Nigeria, Costa Rica, Ghana and Rwanda. Their most direct work abroad has been in Guatemala, where two Western LWB members engaged in an 11-day visit to Quetzaltenango, a city of more than 220,000 in 2012.

Suzanne Fernando, 29, was one of them. Along with 16 other volunteers from various LWB chapters, she helped institute the city’s first-ever loan-out library system at Miguel Angel Asturias Academy, a local public school.

“When we introduced that idea to the kids, that they could take books home, they just squealed. I’ve never seen that reaction before. Even the older kids were excited,” Fernando said.

Much to the delight of those on the trip, the 200 books Fernando delivered and catalogued did much more than enable local children to read in their spare time. They triggered a dramatic cultural change.

“Girls going to high school there is an anomaly. Most girls stop going after grade six and are then expected to be a mother, not a student,” Fernando said. “But with the development of this school, there are now girls in those older grades. Some of them were 14 and telling me they want to become engineers. It was very encouraging to see.”

Western’s work at this school in Quetzaltenango has been an annual effort since Sellar and the original Western LWB team first visited to begin the project in 2005.


This article appeared in the Spring 2014 edition of Alumni Gazette
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