IU Kelley School of Business awarded $1 million USAID grant to support Myanmar's economic transition

  • Feb. 24, 2014


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Under the terms of the first bilateral agreement between the United States and Burma/Myanmar since 1957, Indiana University and its Kelley School of Business are involved in a program that will help the Southeast Asian nation develop a market-led economy and improve its citizens' lives.

The U.S. Agency for International Development has awarded $1 million to IU's Kelley School for a Global Development Alliance project that will extend the teaching and outreach capabilities of the Yangon Institute of Economics and help micro- to medium-sized business enterprises to be more successful.

Today's announcement is being made in connection with the official launch of the program at the Yangon Institute of Economics.

Other contributing partners are Hewlett-Packard, Business for Social Responsibility and Vietnam-based VinaCapital Foundation, who will provide funds and in-kind resources.

Global Development Alliances are USAID’s premiere model for public-private partnerships, helping to improve the social and economic conditions in developing countries. This is the first GDA grant awarded to IU.

IU also has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Yangon Institute of Economics. Both accomplishments initially arose from efforts undertaken by the Kelley School and IU's Office of the Vice President for International Affairs in Burma/Myanmar within the last year.

"We are thrilled to create a lasting legacy as we work to deepen and broaden the teaching and outreach capacities of the country’s top business school, Yangon Institute of Economics," said Idalene Kesner, dean of the Kelley School and the Frank P. Popoff Chair of Strategic Management. "It is our hope to improve lives by working with the school to identify opportunities that will lead to economic development and a robust private sector."

"We are very pleased to be academically engaged again with Burma and also with the other major partners in this project, as Burma emerges and becomes further integrated into the rest of the global community," added IU President Michael A. McRobbie.

"This grant is the latest example of Indiana University's decades-long engagement and commitment with many of the countries of Southeast Asia that form the Association of Southeast Asian Nations," McRobbie said. "These countries and ASEAN more generally are a priority for the university, as is demonstrated by our plans to establish a new Center for Southeast Asian Studies in IU's School of Global and International Studies."

These developments are a result of improved relations between the United States and Myanmar/Burma since 2011. While USAID has been providing humanitarian assistance to Burma since 2000, last summer the United States signed its first bilateral agreement for economic cooperation with the Southeast Asian country since 1957.

The country's name was changed to the Union of Myanmar in 1989. Yangon is the country's former capital and largest economic center.

The USAID project is designed to foster a lasting legacy of improvements to higher education institutions, international investment in small- to medium-sized enterprises and the management and entrepreneurship skills critical for the changing business environment in Burma/Myanmar.

It brings together private sector, non-governmental organizations and academic capabilities under USAID's GDA umbrella, serving as a flagship example to potential private and public investors, who support the opening of Burma's economy and society.

The Kelley School's Institute for International Business will lead the project, "Advancement and Development through Entrepreneurship Programs and Training," or ADEPT. Principal investigators on the project are Ash Soni, executive associate dean for academic programs and ArcelorMittal Faculty Fellow in the Kelley School, and LaVonn Schlegel, the Institute for International Business' managing director.

It has two primary objectives: increase the institutional effectiveness of Burma/Myanmar's top business school, the Yangon Institute of Economics, and strengthen entrepreneurial activities in a country where two-thirds of the population live in rural areas.

Observers have found little skill differences between self-employed micro-entrepreneurs, small business owners and middle managers, whether at public or private firms. The situation severely impairs growth and competitiveness among the 126,000 small- to medium-sized enterprises accounting for 96 percent of Burma's business activity. This has raised concerns as the country looks ahead to the start of free trade next year.

The Burmese government is encouraging foreign direct investment, particularly in information and communications technology needed to fuel social and economic development.

The Kelley School will work with the Yangon Institute of Economics (YECO) to build current programs and degrees to support best standards and practices. They also will further develop YECO 's research capabilities, including building on the YECO Entrepreneurship Center of Excellence.

YECO faculty will come to IU Bloomington, as well as other Kelley international partners such as Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea and Australia National University.

With support from Hewlett-Packard, Kelley and YECO will establish up to 12 Learning Initiative For Entrepreneurs centers in four regions of Burma, through local partners such as the Myanmar Business Executives Association.

These centers will be equipped with the latest HP technology and classroom solutions providing information technology and business skills training, using the HP LIFE e-Learning program. The free, interactive e-learning solution helps students, entrepreneurs and small business owners to use technology effectively to start or grow their businesses in their own time and at their own pace or as part of a classroom setting. Course materials will be translated into Burmese and other content modules will be developed to support Burmese small- to medium-sized enterprises.

VinaCapital Foundation's Lotus Impact Fund will create access to finance including small business loans to small and medium enterprises to spur social impact as well as affordable student loans for qualified students. It also will support efforts to map the SME community and capabilities for partnerships crucial to multinational companies.

Most SMEs find it challenging to qualify for partnerships with multinational companies because they lag in social, governance and environmental standards and performance, as well as international standards. To address this gap, Business for Social Responsibility -- with support from HP -- will work with partner Myanmar Business Executives to establish and facilitate multi-company groups that will help SMEs incorporate social and environmental standards and performance as a core part of their development.

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President Michael A. McRobbie

President Michael A. McRobbie

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Idalene Kesner

Idalene Kesner

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Yangon Institute of Economics

Yangon Institute of Economics

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