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The first of the blog posts from Institute for Business in the Global Context researchers comes from Sarah and Jennie, who studied the business practices and the most challenging constraints of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in Turkey.  Both Sarah and Jennie graduated from the MALD program in May.  As background for their post, they note that:

SMEs comprise 99% of Turkish enterprises and employ nearly 80% of the workforce; thus they have the potential to contribute significantly to the long-term growth of the country.  Currently, the government, followed by private banks and supporting institutions, have increased attention on SMEs, but there are still considerable constraints in the areas of finance, human capital, and enhancing competitiveness.  Through our research, we seek to identify the gaps between existing products and services available to Turkish SMEs and the unmet needs of those businesses, and to uncover potential alternatives to narrow these gaps. 

Here’s the post that they wrote midway through their summer.

The Making of a Team

Turkey team
After three weeks of finishing our literature review, piloting and perfecting our interview questions on nearby business owners, and speaking with many knowledgeable representatives of Turkey’s leading banks and supporting institutions, we took our first field trip as an entire research team to begin interviews with the businesses formally participating in our study.

Our research focuses on two regions of Turkey: the Marmara Region and Southeastern Anatolia.  Istanbul is the primary city in the Marmara Region and that is where we have been based since mid-June.  While we are of course interviewing SMEs in Istanbul, we are also interested in speaking to businesses in other, smaller cities in this region.  Therefore, we arranged to interview SMEs in Edirne, a city where Turkey shares its borders with both Greece and Bulgaria.

Turkey map
We met our two research assistants, Mert and Abid, at the bus station, prepared for a three-hour trip, and took an evening for final preparations before our first interviews with business owners.  To our surprise, it took over two hours just to get out of Istanbul proper, so the bus ride ended up being five hours, during which we learned that we actually had two interviews lined up that very evening!

We had a contact in Edirne scheduling the interviews for us, so while we knew we’d be interviewing four to six businesses over the three-day period, we didn’t have the exact schedule ahead of time.  The realities of field research abruptly hit us as we scrambled to finish final details on the bus.  Due to the importance of relationships and networks in Turkey, we realized that we were at the whim of our Edirne contact as to how many interviews we packed into one day, how much time we had between the interviews, and how long the interviews would actually last.  While it was amazing to finally start interviews, we were suddenly inundated with many tasks such as transcribing, recording, and analyzing this steady flow of information!

While our inner-American spirits would have preferred more time to feel settled, our newly minted Turkish mindset, coupled with the many hours we had previously spent on interview questions, enabled us to complete very productive and informative interviews that evening and over the next couple of days.

In the midst of it all, however, we did get a chance to see a bit of the city, one of the former capitals of the Ottoman Empire.  On our way to one interview, we stopped to explore some historical sites such as Selimiye Mosque, visited a horse stable on the Turkey-Greece border, and one of our research assistants realized his lifelong dream to ride a moped!

Turkey Collage
Exhausted from this hectic schedule of travel and “pop-up” interviews, we finally bonded as a team over burgers at a steakhouse — a new venture of one of our recent interviewees.

All in all, the trip was a rich learning experience and provided some lessons and insights which have already begun to influence the direction of our research.  We are discovering that, despite a wide range of both financial and non-financial offerings by Turkish banks, SMEs are mostly concerned with loans, for which they consider the terms (especially high interest rates) to be quite prohibitive.

Furthermore, while the existing literature indicates that access to capital is the greatest constraint SMEs face, we are actually finding that businesses largely lack skills in cash management and financial accounting principles, which prohibits them from effectively using the available capital.

Last, these businesses also cite difficulties in finding, employing, and trusting qualified employees.  There is a tension felt by business owners who do not want to relinquish control, yet aspire to expand and professionalize their business.  When faced with the decision of whether to hire outside talent, particularly semi-professional managers, more often than not owners prefer to maintain a tight grip on all decisions.

We are now wrapping up our interviews in the Marmara Region, and we will be writing a second post from the opposite corner of the country, Gaziantep!

Turkey team, 2

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In August I heard from the folks at the Institute for Business in the Global Context, who asked if the Admissions Blog could feature the writing of students who conducted research this summer.  I’m really happy to be able to share the posts that the IBGC students have written, and they’ll run from Wednesday to Friday this week.  First, an introduction from Jamilah Welch, the IBGC program coordinator.

This summer, three teams of two students each conducted original research projects around the world for Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context.  The projects, which took place in Indonesia, Turkey, and Kenya, were fully funded as part of an innovative research initiative in partnership with the MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth.

Drawing upon the Fletcher students’ contextual understanding, the Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) allows them to engage in original research and analysis, resulting in new market insights to encourage more inclusive business growth — everything from SME (Small and Medium Enterprise) development, to mobile money, to services for the poor.  Resulting publications will display a rich blend of academic and business-oriented insights that push beyond the reach of traditional market research, but maintain a practicality less often found in academia.

This week, we will hear from our student teams, via their field blogs.

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As I walked through the Hall of Flags this morning, I saw that the balcony had been fitted with temporary walls.  On the other side of the walls is a beautiful exhibit of photographs by Jean Mohr.  If you’ll be visiting Fletcher during the next three weeks, I encourage you to reserve a few minutes to view the exhibit.  I know that I’ll be encouraging a visit by the attendees at the midday Information Session that I’m leading today.

The exhibit marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Photo exhibit, September 2014

 

Remember how just last week I noted that I’m often visited (via NPR) by the voices of Fletcher community members?  Well, here are two more examples.  First, Dean Stavridis kept me informed when his interview was broadcast while I cooked dinner.

Somewhat more surprising, I heard a report from a correspondent with a name unique enough that I thought it had to be a Fletcher alum.  Karoun Demirjian graduated from Fletcher in 2006 and is a correspondent in Moscow for The Washington Post.  She also occasionally files a report for NPR, and writes for the NPR website.  I happened to hear one of her reports, but it was only while writing this post that I learned that her main gig is with The Post.

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While Shopping Day can be said to kick off the semester, Fletcher Convocation is the formal start to the academic year.  It’s a bookend event to Commencement, with professors in their academic finery.  The Convocation Address will be delivered this afternoon by Ambassador Liu Xiaoming, F83, who has served from Zambia to North Korea to the UK and is considered one of China’s foremost experts on the U.S.  But before Ambassador Liu received the special award that preceded his address, there were also presentations from second-year student Pauline Yang and from Prof. Jenny Aker,

Prof. Aker at Convocation
as well as two songs from the Ambassachords.

Ambassachords at Convocation
All in all, an informative and festive event!

 

Today is Shopping Day, the kick-off for the semester.  Students (including newly returned continuing students) can gather information on class options from professors who give short presentations about them.  The focus is on new classes, but any professor can do a presentation on Shopping Day.

One of the new class options this semester is a special offering.  Here’s the description:

This fall, Fletcher students are invited to participate in a class that will be taught simultaneously and in real time to Fletcher students and graduate students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), Russia’s oldest and largest professional training program in international affairs.  The course, Strategic Rivalry or Strategic Responsibility: The United States and Russia in the Key Euro-Atlantic and Asia-Pacific Regions, will be taught by Robert Legvold, the Marshall D. Shulman Professor Emeritus, Columbia University, who will be visiting Fletcher.  The course will cover the large challenges facing the United States and Russia in the two major strategic arenas where both have vital roles to play: the historic Euro-Atlantic region and the rising Asia-Pacific region.

Students of the two countries will have an opportunity to interact and collaborate directly with one another in assessing the current state of affairs in U.S.-Russian relations, then moving to a consideration of the key issues that both countries face in these two critical regions, how their policy in one region will or should affect policy in the other region, and what the impact is likely to be on the interests and behavior of the other country.  Energy relations, new and old security threats, the risks from regional conflicts, and the task of building or modifying regional institutions in the Euro-Atlantic and Asia-Pacific regions will all be examined.  Students will be expected to develop policy perspectives on all of these dimensions for both the U.S. and Russian cases.

The first portion of the course will be taught from MGIMO, with Fletcher students participating in class discussion by video-conference.  In the second portion of the semester, the process will be reversed and Professor Legvold will teach the seminar from Fletcher with MGIMO students joining by video-conference.  Regardless of Professor Legvold’s location, all students will be treated as present in the live classroom and expected to participate fully.  In the final weeks of the semester, the emphasis will shift to students’ research papers, and the full-class video conference sessions will be devoted to the research challenges the students are facing.  During these weeks Professor Legvold will spend time at both schools, working with students individually.

In addition to lectures, reading, class discussion, and a research paper, assignments will include student collaboration in small clusters, which will consist of a mix of Fletcher and MGIMO students. Within these clusters students will work together using course forums or social media to prepare a memorandum on a topic relevant to one of the different weeks’ themes.

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Prof. Bridget Conley-Zilkic at The World Peace Foundation asked me to share their call for proposals for their upcoming competition.  I’m happy to do so!

World Peace Foundation
The World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School invites Fletcher students to submit proposals for a two-day seminar to be held on campus in February 2015.  WPF seminars offer a rare opportunity for leading experts to engage in incisive, collegial and sustained dialogue on the pressing problems of our day.  The student competition enables Fletcher School students to frame an issue and interact with leading global experts on the topic of their choosing.

The topic should be related to conflict, security, peace or human rights.  The criteria for selecting the winning proposal will be that it is innovative, well-articulated, and relevant to the Foundation’s vision that intellectual leadership is important to promoting peace.  Noting that the vision of these seminars is to explore issues that might otherwise not gain attention, the WPF does not make a requirement that the issue should be directly connected to policy outcomes.

All costs will be borne by the WPF, including travel and accommodation for invited participants, catering, costs for interns for organizing and taking notes, and other associated expenses.  The competition winners will work with the WPF to organize the seminar, and will be paid a standard hourly rate for their time.

Important dates:

October 10, 2014: deadline for proposals to be submitted to worldpeacefoundation@tufts.edu.

October 17, 2014: winners announced via email.

February 2015: Seminar held at The Fletcher School

Events that we hosted based on past winning proposals include:

Unlearning Violence: Evidence and Policies for Early Childhood Development and Peace,  February 13-14, 2014.  Last year we departed from our model and accepted two closely related proposals as winners and hosted an open conference.

Advocacy in Conflict: Methods, Impacts and Ethics, February 28 – March 1, 2013.

Drug Trafficking and Transnational Organized Crime: Re-Framing the Debate, May 7 & 8, 2012.

More information including detailed proposal guidelines are available on our website.

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The new students are here!  They’ll be on the move for the whole week, meaning life in Admissions is not so completely different from last week.  But we’ll meet them over lunch or at special sessions (including a morning of community service that I’ll be participating in tomorrow) and it’s starting to feel like the fall semester is upon us.  Here’s the registration scene from this morning.

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I liked this group in the corner, already looking like a study group at work.

Orientation day, 2

Today’s agenda is a mix of welcomes and briefings that will help everyone get settled in.  A barbeque tonight will cap it all off.  By next Tuesday, when returning students are back in the building, the first-years will feel like old pros.

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There have been several interesting stories this week about triple Jumbo Nahid Bhadelia, who completed her MA degree at Fletcher and her MD degree at Tufts University School of Medicine in 2005, after graduating from Tufts Arts and Sciences in 1999.  As she prepares for a trip to Sierra Leone to work with Ebola patients, Nahid has been profiled in the Boston Globe and on Boston’s local CBSNBC, and ABC, stations, as well as on MSNBC, WBUR, and in a piece in the Huffington Post that describes the disease in detail.

Though the current circumstances are extreme, Nahid exemplifies the professional profile of our MA-MD graduates.  Just as Emerson Tuttle wrote in the blog this spring about the MA-DVM dual Fletcher-veterinary degree, the relatively small number of students for whom the MA-MD is the right fit are seeking a particular path for their career — one where the international dimension is inseparable from the medical/veterinary core of their work.

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The few students at Fletcher for the past two weeks were in the GMAP program, but they took off during the weekend.  Next up for GMAP:  the mid-program residency in Tallinn, Estonia for the students who started the program in March.

Though the GMAP students may have gone, the Fletcher staff is not alone this week. The MIB pre-session starts today!

All incoming MIB students are required to take the pre-session, but it is open to new and continuing students in other programs as well.  The pre-session wraps up just in time for new student Orientation, meaning we’re within two weeks of a full house.  I’m looking forward to it, even as I’m scrambling to wrap up some summer projects!

 

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