Learning in Action: A Business Plan for the Global Philadelphia Association

Learning in Action is back! We have another story for our readers about Villanova MPA students putting what they learn in the classroom into practice.

This past spring, as a part of MPA 8199: Cultural Competency, several students had the opportunity to work with the Global Philadelphia Association (GPA) and develop a business plan for the organization. In May, the graduate students presented their business plan to John F. Smith, III, Chair of GPA’s Board of Directors, and Zabeth Teelucksingh, Executive Director of GPA.

Photograph of students with GPA staff.
From left to right: John Smith, III, Vincent Reitano, Zabeth Teelucksingh, Justin Evert, Sophie Lee, Christian Slater, and Prof. Catherine Wilson.

Sophie Lee, an MPA student, told The Leaders’ Lounge a little more about what she learned about GPA and about the project:

“GPA leaders are from academic and for-profit backgrounds, so the organization is naturally structured for business strategy. As a foreigner, I think of Philadelphia itself as a part of America and culture, and I believe GPA’s vision of ‘advertising’ the City of Philadelphia will bring more interests groups to represent themselves as a culture and Philadelphian. 

“Creating a business plan for GPA was challenging.  People make different assumptions, have various communication styles, and praise or criticize something based on their values, beliefs and background. We wanted to present a realistic business plan to the leaders, who already have learned and achieved so much, while considering their experience. We gradually became more confident about our findings, and that also led us to target the organization’s mission in broader perspective. Furthermore, the more we communicated with Asmaa and Zabeth, the better the adjustments we made on the project. ”

Justin Evert, a Masters of History candidate pursuing his Nonprofit Management Certificate in our department, told us about some of the specific steps the group took:

“My project partners and I spent most of our time in the first weeks of the term getting in touch with GPA and its staff, particularly Asmaa Lahlou. GPA was very forthcoming with its promotional materials and yearly report(s), and that was an immeasurable help. From there we conducted a market research survey in the region, just to see what other organizations had in the works. Afterward, most of our time was spent hashing out ideas for new projects, more efficient structures, and overall organizational goals. Throughout the semester we were in constant contact with the GPA office staff and board, and conducted several interviews to gather background info and a view of the state of affairs on the ground.”

Presenting the project culminated the group’s experience.

“Presenting to Zabeth Teelucksingh and John F. Smith was, in a way, much less nerve-wracking than our final in-class presentation,” said Justin. “The two of them, despite their enormous pool of experience, talent, and cultural sway, are in fact very approachable people, and extremely engaging with everyone they meet. They listened intently, took careful and copious notes, and asked insightful questions. And more than that, they were genuinely interested in what we had to say and valued our input as outsiders.”

Sophie agreed, saying, “I knew our business plan was realistic and was at the executive level to grab the Board Chair’s attention, and I was proud to be the member of the Cultural Competency class project team.”

Both students reported learning a lot from the project.

“All the team members were actively involved in the project. We all shared and taught each other with suggestions throughout our journey. The most valuable thing I have learned through the project was collaborating, and incorporating my knowledge and background into various fields. I always compared and still compare myself with others’ expertise, but it was a great opportunity to know I actually have unique background and skills. We distributed project responsibility based on our expertise, and we worked well together,” said Sophie.

Justin said, “In the end, my greatest take-away from this project was that as important as resources are to a successful non-profit, enthusiasm and talent on the part of its membership is equally essential. Fortunately for GPA, they possess both in spades.”

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