Santa Clara University


Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative (NPI)

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 Krishan Allen

Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013

Have those 10 weeks flown by or what? I think my fellow cohort members have done an excellent job of covering what we’ve been up to during this flurry of a quarter. So, I’ll take it upon myself to lend a quick piece of our group’s reflections on what we’ve done, and perhaps a bit of where we’ll go with our newfound knowledge.

Although the neighborhood is only a quick 10-minute drive away from the well-manicured pastures of Santa Clara University, the Washington neighborhood helped outline some notable differences as well as similarities between our cultures. In our version of society, it’s easy to see monetary achievement and influence gathered as a definition for success (especially in a business school setting). In Washington, this isn’t always so. Success could be defined as the single mother providing a meal everyday to her four children, or it could be the middle-aged father struggling to pay for his elderly mother’s medical bills, or it could be the Washington elementary student getting a B on his math test despite not having a parent there to help him study.

What are the implications on our project given the vast difference in how we see achievement? Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, it will change how we derive solutions from the knowledge we have created. For example, we learned that Yolanda has been charging on average around 27% less for most of her products than competitors in her neighborhood. Almost certainly, the recommended solution in most business environments would be for her to increase her prices otherwise she is missing out on lost revenue. But is this necessarily the right course of action in this situation? From talking with Yolanda, we learned that while she would definitely enjoy greater incoming funds for her business, she gets a lot of gratification from providing low cost products to her neighborhood. Her branding, after all, is “Cocina Economica” literally translated as “economic kitchen”. Even a slight increase in her pricing could detract from a portion of the social benefit she is providing to her neighborhood in the form of quality food at a cheaper price than her competition. A discussion, rather than just giving a stated recommendation, needs to take place with Yolanda to dig deeper and decide on what would be most appropriate in this instance. 

This moral quandary highlights the complexity of not only serving an underserved community, but also the subjectivity that goes into making business decisions. Rarely is anything black and white (even when it involves numbers), and understanding how to operate in the gray areas is a lesson to be well-learned now, that will prepare NPI students as we move along in our careers in the future.

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