Making an impact through giving back - IMD Business School
Alumni Stories · Innovation - Purpose

Making an impact through giving back

As part of the MBA Class of 1993’s commitment to making a difference in the world, alumni and their next generation visited Alma Clinics in South Africa.
April 2024

Over three decades since the MBA Class of 1993 graduated, the class remains motivated to make a difference. During their five-yearly reunions, they explore how they can enact positive change globally while fostering leadership and continuous learning. 

At their 30th year reunion, they relaunched the Team Initiated Enterprise (TIE) projects, originally started in 1993. One team decided to work with Alma Clinics in South Africa. Alma Clinics was founded by Sibongile Manganyi-Rath (EMBA 2018), and the clinics’ mission is to improve access to primary healthcare in low-income communities in South Africa.  

Since 2020, Manganyi-Rath has successfully established five clinics. These clinics offer tech-enabled, affordable, quality healthcare services and are a gateway into treatment for many people with chronic diseases. Manganyi-Rath now has her sights set on expanding its offering and scaling the business into other provinces and countries. The opportunity to help scale the social enterprise fitted perfectly with the MBA Class of 1993’s project objectives explained alumnus Walter Lee. 

Making an impact through giving back - IMD Business School

A discovery expedition to Johannesburg 

Lee had previously visited Manganyi-Rath and Alma Clinics with his daughter, Heidi Lee. He knew that taking other alumni and the next generation on a discovery expedition would give them a phenomenal and rich learning experience. The visit would also provide an opportunity to support the expansion and impact of an alumni-founded social enterprise. 

Primary care has a huge impact on the health of a population. In many countries, such as South Africa, public clinics, which are state-funded and means-tested, provide services to the majority of the population. In the case of South Africa, 71% of the population relies on the public health system; however, the population’s healthcare needs exceed capacity. The public sector is underfunded, and most South Africans cannot afford the exorbitant cost of private care. Alma Clinics’ model offers a high-quality, affordable solution for the “missing middle,” namely those who fall between the public healthcare system and private care.  

“I was motivated to see how Alma Clinics’ model can be scaled, especially as so much of the world cannot afford healthcare,” Lee said. 

In April 2024, two alumni from the class of 1993, Walter Lee and Vibeke Stromme, were joined by the next-generation IMD Alums: Heidi Lee (Walter Lee’s daughter), Santiago Vivanco (son of Luis Vivanco), and Alice Elmeland (daughter of Ola Elmeland). They traveled to South Africa to visit four clinics in and around Johannesburg. The visit aimed to look for opportunities to support Alma Clinics in expanding further. 

“Sibongile set up a series of information exchanges to get us up to speed. We also had the opportunity to engage various stakeholders as we witnessed first-hand the significant impact Alma Clinics is having,” said Lee. The exchanges provided the insights needed to help support the growth plan. Experiencing it as a group meant they were able to look at the business model from different perspectives. 

“It was wonderful and very enriching to me and my team for the alumni and next generation to take time to visit South Africa last week; it brought a different perspective to our strategy, especially how we intend to scale the business with the recent investment,” Manganyi-Rath said. 

Once back in Switzerland, Lee says he will continue to engage with Manganyi-Rath on the growth plan, as Manganyi-Rath intends to expand Alma Clinics’ footprint from five to 45 clinics in the next few years. Lee said that a key focus will be on how to preserve the caring culture that is enshrined in the clinics’ operating model.  

Inspiring the next generation  

In line with the project’s purpose of making a difference in the world, Lee believes that exposing the next generation (as he refers to the alumni’s children) to leaders who are making a difference can be a powerful learning opportunity for all involved. 

“Having our extended families on the visit was particularly special. The opportunity for them to meet an inspiring leader like Sibongile was fantastic.” Lee said. “Our visit also showed us the power of tapping the IMD Alumni community when creating opportunities.” 

Lee added that the visit was equally beneficial to the next generation. “The experience from a learning standpoint, such as working together to learn how to look at the business differently, was incredible. It showed us how much of a difference you can make if you take action and how big the impact can be if taken collectively.” 

“The Alma Clinics project was a fantastic experience and a valuable learning opportunity. I loved being a member of this diverse, international, intergenerational team. We all have different backgrounds, which was great as everyone picked up on different things,” next-generation alum Heidi Lee said.  

“Sibongile is an inspirational role model and a warm and driven leader. Her story reminded me to challenge the status quo and pursue the ideal situation because, despite many hurdles, solutions can always be found as long as the determination is high. I look forward to continuing to work with Sibongile and her team and seeing Alma Clinics grow,” added Heidi. 

Next-generation alum Santiago Vivanco captured their visit to South Africa on film, and he intends to produce a documentary about the discovery expedition. The film will showcase the incredible impact that Alma Clinics is having on the communities in which it operates.