University at Buffalo School of Management

Buffalo Business - Spring 2020

The magazine for alumni and friends of the UB School of Management

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Page 7 of 31

6 Buffalo Business Spring 2020 Three UB students stand in front of a packed lecture hall, wearing colorful hair clips, pins and bags that were hand- sewn and embroidered by refugee women at Stitch Buffalo. Together, Kristie Bailey, Xingyu Chen and Shannon Lach spent two months interning at the nonprofit, analyz- ing its operation, identifying opportunities to improve efficiency and developing a plan to sustain its tremendous growth. Now, they're ready to pitch for their cause. It's all part of UB's Social Impact Fellows program, which places student teams at mission-driven organizations to develop innovative solutions to social issues impacting Western New York. Every team is made up of an MBA student, a Master of Social Work (MSW) student and a graduate-level researcher from another UB program. "Students from a variety of disciplines work together with partners in the commu- nity to help organizations boost the triple bottom line—people, planet and profit— and advance the communities they serve," explains Paul Tesluk, dean of the School of Management. Part of a strategic focus on social inno- vation, the program is presented each summer by the School of Management and School of Social Work, in collaboration with UB's Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars and other UB schools. Teams spend four days a week at their partner organization, and one day with their classmates, learning from social work and management faculty or completing community service projects. The fellowship culminates with the Pitch for a Cause competition, when teams pitch for seed funding to help their partner organization build upon and implement their solution. "The Social Impact Fellows program is about bringing diverse students and perspectives together in a blended disci- plinary model to change the way all of us—students, faculty and community part- ners—view things," says Nancy J. Smyth, dean of the School of Social Work. Stitching together a solution For Bailey, an MSW student, working with her teammates at Stitch Buffalo was the perfect opportunity to gain new skills and perspective, while exploring her long- time interests in ethical and sustainable fashion and fair labor practices. Founded in 2014, Stitch Buffalo is a thriving community of local refugee women from five countries, who sew and sell textile goods from a storefront and online. The nonprofit advances social justice for members by promot- ing cross-cultural exchange and economic empowerment. "I was looking to see how you balance social good with making a profit," Bailey says. "As soon as we walked in, we noticed the welcoming atmosphere and the evident positive regard the women had for one another. Our challenge was to suggest tweaks to improve certain things but not affect the good things." Aer conducting an in-depth analy- sis of Stitch Buffalo and other like-minded organizations, the team devised a three- part plan that called for adding a digital point-of-sale and inventory system, as well as programs to help members develop retail and financial literacy skills. Meanwhile, at other area organiza- tions, the Social Impact Fellows completed projects to address such issues as child- hood poverty, domestic violence, the foster system, fresh food access and voting reform. In every case, bringing together social Community Impact Strengthening the fabric of our community Social Impact Fellows use diverse perspectives and skills to make a difference Social Impact Fellows completed projects at 10 organizations across Western New York, including (from left) the Service Collaborative of WNY, Habitat for Humanity Buffalo and LegWorks. Photos: Onion Studio

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