How society benefits from impact education: 'More potential donors than we anticipated!'

Impact at the Core joined forces with student initiative I DO to work on impact-driven education at the Rotterdam School of Management. During the course, students work on societal challenges in teams. We spoke with one of their partners, Mpilo Foundation. How did the collaboration come about, and what impact do the I DO students induce?

We interviewed Ellen and Albert Nijland, founders of Mpilo Foundation. In the 1980s, they moved to Zimbabwe, where Albert worked as a doctor in a local hospital. After returning to the Netherlands they started a general practice together, with Ellen working as an assistant. But Africa kept on calling; the couple started Mpilo in 2018. The foundation invests in clean water and renewable energy in Zimbabwe and has been working with I DO since September 2020. From the perspective of a stakeholder, we can see how students offer a refreshing perspective on contemporary issues. That’s why it is important to integrate societal partners into our education, as has been done with I DO.

Can you describe the problems in Zimbabwe that Mpilo is fighting against?

“Water is a problem for the people there. Many depend on contaminated water, which often leads to cholera outbreak resulting in many deaths. There is no pipe network for water supply and it rarely rains. This means that the girls and women - this is culturally determined - have to walk up to nine kilometers to get water. They fill a bucket of twenty liters and put it on their heads for the way back. Families in Zimbabwe usually consist of about six people. Twenty liters is not enough, so this scenario repeats several times a day.”

How did the collaboration with I DO come about?

“I found I DO on the website of Partin (an association for private initiatives for international development). The students had started a collaborative project with Partin to use their knowledge and skills to help organizations. Out of nineteen applications, five were selected. Among those was Mpilo. We asked them to work on a number of tasks: brand awareness, social media, fundraising, the internal structure of our organization and the execution of projects. The I DO students have their own way of looking at things, their own areas of expertise. It’s the next generation, they introduce new perspectives that leave us surprised and impressed!”

How is I DO making an impact for Mpilo; what concrete steps have they taken towards clean water and energy supply in Zimbabwe?

“They started working on our visibility as a foundation, which is linked to social media. They created several templates for posts, emails and newsletters. The real impact, of course, lies in the construction of wells and pumping systems. However, such work is preceded by our reputation and visibility. Our successes are shared by people on social media in Zimbabwe, which in turn leads to more requests for wells and water pumps.”

“Furthermore, I DO is improving our methods of fundraising by using data analysis to map where the most donations in the Netherlands are made, and by which demographic. It was an eye-opener for us to see that the people with the most money often donate the least. In fact, it is the middle class that tends to give a lot. We had never anticipated that! It made us reconsider the ways in which we generate the funds for our work in Zimbabwe. Our group of potential donors is much bigger than we initially thought. In the coming months, the students will expand their efforts to others focus point. We are excited to continue working with them!”

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