Mendoza School of Business

ND MBA’s innovative Business on the Frontlines course receives two research grants

Published: March 18, 2019 / Author: Carol Elliott

ND MBA’s innovative Business on the Frontlines course receives two research grants

MBA students with clients stand behind a deskA course that connects University of Notre Dame MBA students to business problems in war-torn and disaster-ravaged communities in order to help facilitate stability and peace received a pair of research grants to study the economic impact of its projects.

Business on the Frontlines (BOTFL) recently received two grants to support the economic impact research associated with projects in Brazil and Colombia. The grants were awarded by the Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the Keough School of Global Affairs and the Ford Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity, which is part of the Kellogg Institute.  The funding included support from the Mendoza College of Business’ Department of Management & Organization.

The grant proposal was put forward by BOTFL co-founder Viva Bartkus, associate professor of Management & Organization at the Mendoza College of Business; Joseph Kaboski, the David F. and Erin M. Seng Foundation Professor of Economics and a fellow of the Kellogg Institute; and Sara Sievers, associate dean for policy and practice and associate professor of the practice at the Keough School.

“Professor Kaboski and his team and our multidisciplinary research collaboration present an opportunity to test the anecdotal evidence gathered by our teams in a very systematic and rigorous way so that we can get to generalizable insights,” said Bartkus. “These insights then could go far beyond Business on the Frontlines and actually impact policy in many of the places that we’re working.”

participants of the Business on the Front Lines program stand with an ND flag in front of waterfront in BrazilBOTFL launched in 2008 with a unique and audacious vision: to harness the dynamism of business to rebuild war-torn societies and help bring about economic stability and peace. Since then, BOTFL teams of students and advisers have traveled across the globe, partnering with organizations ranging from international humanitarian groups to multinational corporations, to serve the world’s poorest billion people. The program has conducted more than 40 business- and peace-related projects with local partners in 25 countries to date.

This research proposal has two objectives: First, to chronicle BOTFL’s experiences, both positive and negative, in focusing on creating sustainable businesses rather than relying on development aid to drive economic opportunity in places without security; second, to establish the correlation and causality, if possible, of these markets, businesses and ultimately jobs in creating the social welfare that theory suggests should follow.  

Specific areas to be explored include whether supply chain interventions are effective in increasing the profitability of the work to improve livelihoods and determining the role that increasing income-generating opportunities through businesses and markets play in the prevention, reduction or recovery from conflict.

A man leans on stacked white bags and wears a Notre Dame baseball capAccording to the proposal, the research efforts will involve developing 30 case studies that will describe the problem that the BOTFL team addressed; its research and field activities; breakthroughs in problem-solving; recommendations and programs that local partners implemented, and impact on those served. The case studies, which will leverage the more than 11,000 pages of primary documents organized by BOTFL teams, will lend insight into the barriers to business expansion, ways to overcome them and BOTFL’s impact, as well as lay the groundwork for the more formal subsequent testing of the hypothesis.

The researchers then plan to test the hypothesis in the field through randomized control trials (RCTs) on the ongoing implementation of business interventions recommended by two former BOTFL teams in Colombia and Brazil, according to the proposal. In both intervention and control communities, these trials will compare outcome measures, such as businesses, employment, changes in income per household and/or community, income inequality and incidence of violence and illicit activity.

For more information about the Notre Dame MBA course Business on the Frontlines, visit


Topics: Press Releases