A group of Manchester Full-time MBA students recently worked with Suicide Bereavement UK (SBUK) during their first consultancy project. The group was briefed to help the organisation develop a marketing and sales strategy.
SBUK’s work includes research into suicide bereavement, providing care for those bereaved by suicide, and developing and delivering evidence-based suicide bereavement training. It was established by Dr. Sharon McDonnell who is the Managing Director of the organisation. Being personally bereaved by suicide, she had the vision of developing the first suicide bereavement research unit in the UK and has thus far provided global education in 17 countries.
Sharon, who is also an honorary research fellow at The University of Manchester, specialises in suicide bereavement research, developing evidence-based training and consulting. “I am a researcher; my work is both personal and professional and I am innovative. I translate research findings into evidence-based training which is the first of its kind internationally in this area.” Sharon admits that business is an area where she has gaps in her knowledge, so hosting an MBA project is something of great value to her and the company.
Suicide Bereavement last hosted an MBA project 3 years ago and has been implementing the findings made by the last group since then. “Having these consultancy groups helps us to grow. I feel that when we host these student groups our organisation goes up a notch,” said Sharon. “I believe the group we have just worked with was exceptional and will take us up 3 gears.”
“The project the MBA students did for us was about marketing strategy, helping us to deliver our training internationally,” continued Sharon. “We know we have interest in what we offer in places such as Jersey and Australia, but we didn’t know how to implement this which is where the MBA students stepped in.”
“The topic of suicide bereavement is taboo and a heavy topic. I believe getting your head around the topic itself is a challenge before you even start on the business side. Working for our organisation requires a certain sensitivity that you might not require for other projects, which is a skill in itself.”
Sharon said that the company massively benefited from hosting the MBA consultancy project. SBUK started to put the findings into action while the students were still working with them and continue to implement the findings now. “The students fitted in really well with the team and were very professional, it felt as though we had real consultants.”
“The students worked with us through our biggest crisis which was Covid. Being such a small organisation, the pandemic hit us hard,” explained Sharon. “One of the first pieces of advice the students gave us was to start offering the training we had been so used to doing face-to-face, online. This was something I was always reluctant to do, but I went with their advice and we have now launched online training. I have to say it is fantastic! Having the students working with us is very motivating and encourages our growth. They were such an enthusiastic group, they engaged and kept us updated every week. The report has got us on track again and we are already filling in the gaps. The whole process is a very rewarding experience.”
According to Sharon, the students’ insights and guidance and their dedication to the project is next level. “They put so many hours into their work and produce quality reports. I think these projects are really helpful for a small charity, we feel so nurtured by the students who take part. It is all a complete learning process for everyone involved.”
Eranga Seneviratne was one of the students who worked on this project. “Our project with SBUK was to develop a marketing and sales strategy. We were briefed to leverage and utilise SBUK internal resources in a more effective manner, and to identify market opportunities by targeting relevant audiences who would be interested in SBUK services. We delivered this project in 4 months via presentations and reports”.
“Our team had members from across the globe,” continued Eranga. “It was incredible working with people with varying cultures and backgrounds. Working in this group enabled me to learn aspects of group working dynamics and we gained unity and understanding with people on suicide, which is such a taboo topic. Being responsible for the delivery of our client’s market research, pricing strategies and social media analytics to name a few helped with my time management skills, workload balance and project management principles. I have learnt a deeper emotional understanding about suicide from my experience working with SBUK. I have taken away many skills from this first project including consultancy and client collaborations.”