If you’re going to teach students how to best engage with and invest in the community, why not go straight to the experts?

The Daniels College of Business has partnered with Mile High United Way—arguably the epicenter of community investment for the greater Denver area—for the Social Good Challenge, the second of four challenges that serve as the core of the Denver MBA curriculum. The exclusive partnership is a departure from last year’s challenge, which had students in the program working with 10 Denver area nonprofits.

“We are excited to have a partner with deep expertise and deep roots in the Denver community,” said Denver MBA Director Dan Baack following the Social Good Challenge kick-off on Nov. 3. “The Mile High United Way does important work, and we are proud to have Denver MBA students helping to support them in that work. Student learning coupled with impact is a real win-win.”

Just as Daniels is excited to work with Mile High United Way, the 130-year-old organization is happy to benefit from the brainpower of this year’s Denver MBA cohort. “Don’t underestimate your own power to make a difference,” said Mile High United Way’s Chief Strategy Officer William Browning at the kick-off meeting held at the organization’s headquarters in downtown Denver. “We’re delighted by the passion and potential in this room.”

Following welcoming remarks from Daniels Dean Brent Chrite, an icebreaker exercise that emphasized the importance of teamwork and communication, and Browning’s overview of his organization—its mission, how it works and its community impact goals—the students heard from Mile High United Way representatives who will serve as points of contact for six projects the students will tackle in teams beginning in January:

  • Bridging the Gap Social Enterprise. Mile High United Way’s Bridging the Gap program is exploring the development of a social enterprise that provides employment to youth while also providing business value to the community. Denver MBA students will develop a business plan for the proposed social enterprise. 
  • Impact United: Mile High United Way’s Impact United program provides capacity building support for nonprofit agencies throughout Denver. Denver MBA students will develop the services, pricing and market analysis necessary to build a business plan to expand the Impact United service to include a fee-for-service model.
  • 2-1-1 and the Modern Call Center: Mile High United Way’s 2-1-1 Call Center helps thousands of Coloradans find community resources and assistance via call centers that are staffed by highly skilled community resource navigators. Denver MBA student will conduct a thorough market survey of the call center industry and make recommendations about how 2-1-1 can remain a key community resource in this evolving space.
  • Center for Business Opportunity: Mile High United Way’s Center for Business Opportunity provides support for small businesses and entrepreneurs in high-need communities. Denver MBA students will develop a communication and marketing plan to inform community residents and business owners about the CBO and motivate their participation in it.
  • Market Assessment—Hispanic & Gen Z: Mile High United Way is committed to building better brand loyalty with Generation Z and the Hispanic marketplace. Denver MBA students will conduct market research to determine the current donor landscape for Mile High United Way—and its competitors—and identify opportunities for the organization.
  • Impact Investing: Mile High United Way is interested in impact investing, an investment strategy designed to create measurable and sustainable social change. Denver MBA students will develop a comprehensive understanding of the landscape of impact investing, and will make recommendations about how the organization might best pilot a strategy that aligns with its goals.

After learning the scopes of their projects, the Denver MBA students used the remaining time to meet briefly with their respective teams to discuss the logistics of how they will work together next quarter and report to their clients. Finally, they received an overview of what it means to be an effective consultant from adjunct faculty members David London and Alvin McBorrough.

“Everything you do must be rooted in data and facts,” McBorrough reminded the students. “I promise that at the end of these 10 weeks, you’ll be able to add this consulting experience to your resume.”