Doing Well by Doing Good: The MBA and Community Outreach

Even as a child – much to my mother’s dismay – I was always searching ways for “us” to make a difference. I would volunteer us for Tidy Towns litter clean-ups, rescue strays and bring them home, and offer homemade baked goods to the local school’s charity bake sales. My intentions were pure, though my mother was less than impressed with me incessantly offering her services. 

Nevertheless, these principles persisted throughout my life, and led to volunteer stints teaching underprivileged children, assisting disadvantaged communities, organising gigs for charity and numerous other fundraising events since. 

Coined by Benjamin Franklin, yet more relevant now than ever, “Do well by doing good” encapsulates the essence of today’s MBA teachings, from sustainability practices to social impact.

Five smiling young women hold up hot-pink t-shirts with the logo of the Irish Hospice Foundation.
Founder Emer Walshe with Community Outreach Society Committee members and volunteers 
at our Charity Cycle Challenge

During my first trimester as a student in the UCD Smurfit MBA, I gathered a group of remarkable women with a combined skill set that I knew could achieve anything, to join my committee for the Community Outreach Society. With each member leading a project, I knew that we could magnify our individual impact exponentially. The sky’s the limit in my eyes.

During the whirlwind that was the first term, engrossed by the humbling workload, with strong teamwork and dedication, we pulled off our first event.

I led the Christmas Shoebox Appeal, hosted by Team Hope. Working together, we assembled 21 shoeboxes filled with all sorts of magical toys, clothes, and art supplies. We sent the boxes to children all over Africa and Eastern Europe who otherwise wouldn’t have received anything for Christmas.

A group of casually-dressed MBA students smile for the camera behind a table piled with festively-wrapped presents
Community Outreach Society members gathering shoeboxes for The Christmas Shoebox Appeal

Committee Member Emily Merlino spearheaded our next initiative. A pub quiz in aid of Children’s Books Ireland, the national charity and arts organisation that champions every child’s right to develop a love of reading, raised a fantastic €277 to send books to children all over Ireland. Emily’s comments on planning the event:

“I feel very passionate about the importance of reading and literature. I was lucky to have parents and librarians that supported my love of reading early on, but not every child does. The work that Children’s Books Ireland does is so important because they encourage and facilitate this love of reading early on. 

I love a good quiz night, so planning one was good fun – though, the added pressure was a bit of adrenaline, I will say! I always want an event or project to go well, but when planning an event to raise money for a cause, I want it to go above-and-beyond.”

A collage of photos, clockwise from left: quiz sheets and a pencil on a dark wood pub table; a CBI-branded bookmark; club chair Emer Walshe speaking to the assembled quiz players; the Community Outreach Society logo of two cupped hands.
Images from the Pub Quiz in aid of Children’s Books Ireland

For our next big event, Flossie and the Beach Cleaners helped us plan a day by the sea, cleaning our shores and keeping our wildlife safe. The level of plastics and litter around our shoreline astonished us, raising an acute awareness within the class about the importance of effective waste management. 

I was stunned to find a full, undamaged shoe amongst the rocks. To see the enormity of plastic containers, nets, bottles and cans was a shock, especially in Dun Laoghaire, an area I would have previously considered unspoiled. In the end, we collected a colossal 65KG of waste from the shore line.  

A collage of images, clockwise from top: 15 MBA students celebrating behind bags full of collected litter; litter on the rocks near Dun Laoghaire pier; the same rocks after clearing; the bags of collected rubbish.
MBA volunteers at Dun Laoghaire West Pier picking up litter from the shoreline

We held our biggest event so far less than a week later. Club committee member Caitrín O’Leary and I had a lot of fun planning a Charity Cycle Challenge with a twist – lecturers and students competing head-to-head, driving donations for their teams to gain an advantage and ferociously cycling on the night to outshine the other teams’ kilometre numbers, all in aid of The Irish Hospice Foundation.

Whilst it took the womanpower of two to plan, along with a plethora of students and lecturers to jump on board our bikes for the cause, it was all worth it to see us raise a whopping €3,430. 

Charity Cycle Organisers Caitrín O’Leary and Emer Walshe celebrating a fantastic fundraising driver for The Irish Hospice Foundation

Caitrín O’Leary had these words to say about the event:

“I chose the Irish Hospice Foundation because of the difference they make to families and loved ones coping with end-of-life care. By ensuring that patients are comfortable and cared for they enable people to spend precious time with their loved ones as friends and family, rather than as carers.  It’s hard to overstate the importance of the work they do.

This was my first experience of organising an event like this, and it wasn’t without challenges -not least when two of the bikes broke down 10 minutes in! But I was blown away by the support for the event; from students, faculty and lecturers who gave their time and stamina to take part, to everyone who donated generously to the cause. The support was incredible and that’s what made the event a success.”

A collage of photos: 4 MBA faculty & staff members wearing athleisure, riding stationary bicycles
Faculty members Jim Power, Sinead Cunniam, Jack Massey and Edel O’Leary
 going head-to-head for The Irish Hospice Foundation

It’s certainly been an eventful year, and we’re not done yet! We have much more to come from our esteemed committee members. Next, our sights are set on planting a vegetable garden for a special needs school in Dublin, which currently lacks the necessary resources to do so.  

Whilst it’s true that studying an MBA demands considerable fractions of time, let’s not forget our power to “Do well by doing good”. The end goal is not simply to graduate with academic triumphs, but to relish in the experiences along the way. Remember how fortunate you are to be standing where you are at this very moment. 

As Pablo Picasso once said: 

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

Emer Walshe, FTMBA Class of 2024