Partner With Us

Since 2008, Notre Dame MBA students working on interdisciplinary teams with other graduate students have lent their acumen, heart and problem-solving skills to accompany on-the-ground partners working to improve their communities. Whether it is building agricultural businesses for the largest organization preserving the Amazon rainforest or driving entrepreneurship among Appalachian communities exploited by the coal and opioid industries, Business on the Frontlines students walk alongside partners to uncover ways to build better livelihoods in marginalized  communities.

Our objective isn’t to devise a solution, deliver a report and depart. One longtime partner, Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, describes our approach well. “Humility asks the poor, ‘What do you need?’ Hubris says, ‘Here is what you need.’” Frontlines partnerships are long term and long range, aiming for authentic and equal collaboration, co-creation and results.

Why partner with Frontlines?

Frontlines partners can be multinational corporations, nonprofit organizations or governments. All Frontlines projects are oriented toward the communities we serve, primarily with the intent of building livelihoods or setting the economic conditions for human flourishing. Because many of these communities face systemic barriers to the dignity of work due to poverty, violence and prejudice, we seek multi-year partnerships where each project builds upon the project that came before. 

A group of 30 people smile for a group shot together under an Umgibe banner .

Our projects are overseen by experienced faculty and volunteer advisors who support student teams. Advisors come from a variety of industries, bring disciplinary expertise and, in many cases, participated in a Frontlines course during their Notre Dame graduate studies. Faculty teach Frontlines courses with practical application of frameworks, best practices and innovative approaches, and meet regularly with student teams to offer strategic guidance and ensure the project is progressing. Frontlines staff provide operational, logistical and communications expertise. Graduate students must apply and be selected for the course and are chosen for their work experience, academic performance and dedication to serving communities who need it most.

During the course, teams support our partners’ initiatives with a new and different perspective that our partners might not have considered. Through investigative research both on campus and during community visits, teams examine specific industries, challenges and opportunities as they develop recommendations co-created alongside partners and community members.

Frontlines partnerships at work

Years of partnership engagement experience have taught us that it’s best for partners and teams to tackle tough problems jointly and to learn from each other. The first step in forming a partnership is to identify mutual areas of interest, shared goals, opportunities and challenges faced by the community we aim to serve. From there, together we develop a memorandum of understanding and scope of work to clearly define the process and expectations. 

Frontlines teammates conduct much of the research and analysis while working closely with our partners. As the project unfolds, partner expectations include: 

  • Participating in weekly calls for joint updates on the problem solving and planning for the itinerary to support data collection.

  • Identifying local interviewees and sharing necessary data.

  • Offering knowledge and expertise in the travel logistics (transportation, lodging, language translation, local relationships).

  • Supporting and accompanying the team during our time in the community.

  • Continuing weekly calls after data collection in the community.

To further contribute to this collaborative effort, the Business on the Frontlines team accesses information drawn from the University of Notre Dame’s unique experiences, relationships and insights including:

  • Interviews with business leaders, government officials and industry experts who could provide additional insight.

  • Networking with Notre Dame researchers, alumni and supporters who could further advance this initiative through expertise, influence and connections.

  • Research on the market landscape. 

  • Insights from other projects around the world focusing on applicable topics.

This co-production approach ensures that the joint effort produces pragmatic, actionable solutions.