Delivering maximum impact through shared value partnerships

Third Sector Promotion University of Cambridge

After years spent working with poor communities in the UK and overseas, Louisa Cox was fired up by a vision of what big companies might contribute to poverty reduction and sustainable development

Louisa Cox, Director of Programme Partnerships at Fairtrade and Cambridge Executive MBA (EMBA) alumna, knows from first-hand experience that poverty is not only a tough or persistent problem; it’s a complex one with tangled roots that are barely touched by traditional service-delivery approaches of many charities. "I could see huge potential for working with Multinational Corporations to build strategic, shared value partnerships," Louisa says.

Louisa enrolled on the EMBA at Cambridge to better understand corporate innovation, how to connect different types of innovation to deliver maximum impact for poor communities and to navigate the various challenges that corporate partnerships create. "Knowing what innovation looks like in the corporate world helps me to see the connections across the different types of innovation present within an INGO programme, from product and network to brand innovations, enabling me to support teams to take advantage of the synergies and so deliver maximum impact for communities in the long term."

The Cambridge EMBA focuses on hard and soft skills; both provided critical learning outcomes for Louisa. "Having an understanding of how the nuts and bolts of an organisational strategy fits together helps me explain the importance of new and more collaborative ways of working with commercial partners to more sceptical colleagues. This means that they can really get behind the programmes as key market differentiators that if delivered well, will increase our impact for communities and access to future funding."

The programme also gave her the opportunity to work in teams with members from a diverse range of organisations and job roles, allowing her to develop relationships that she would need to turn partnership visions and ideas into reality. "I developed a renewed interest in what it takes to build a genuinely fantastic team," Louisa says. "On the EMBA, teams are rotated every six weeks or so, which means that by the time you graduate, you’ve been a part of at least eight different groups with completely fresh members. This experience helped us to evolve into better and more productive versions of ourselves, problem solving faster and seeing mistakes more quickly."

A typical cohort has over 25 industry sectors represented, with nearly every cohort having at least one participant from the third sector. The Sainsbury Bursary Scheme provides Cambridge Executive MBA participants from the charitable or voluntary sectors who need financial aid help fund their degree. Louisa proved that she was a highly motivated candidate, committed to a career within the charitable sector and therefore was awarded one of five available bursaries which are generously provided by the Monument Trust.

"The EMBA programme gave me an invaluable platform for understanding the corporate world, from deep diving into core functional areas like Corporate Finance and Marketing as well as getting to know key players themselves, many of whom were represented on the programme – from fellow students to after dinner senior leader insight sessions.  I’m really glad I took part and now have a family of critical friends I can call on when I need them the most."

To learn more about the Sainsbury Bursary and the Cambridge Executive MBA, visit

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