Student consulting group works pro bono in West Phila.
Consult for America launched its services at an open conference Friday
January 22, 2013, 12:52 am·
Sophia Lee | DP
During his freshman year, College and Wharton sophomore Shlomo Klapper conceived of a big idea to change West Philadelphia.
Remaining true to the values of Benjamin Franklin, he yearned to connect knowledge and action by using his education in consulting to improve the community. A year later, his idea has evolved into a new campus organization: Consult for America.
To introduce the group to campus, a conference titled “Consulting for Change” was held in Huntsman Hall on Friday morning, featuring Wharton professor Keith Weigelt, who is also the faculty advisor for CFA.
Primarily he discussed income disparities and their effect on the community. “When I go to the public schools in Philadelphia, it reminds me of the Jim Crow system in the 1950s, where you have separate education which is supposed to be equal. But it’s not really equal,” Weigelt said. “Clearly these schools are lacking in resources. They’re lacking in curriculum.”
Weigelt also stressed the importance of using business as a positive force in the community.
“Organizations like the Wharton School have to step up and do something. You should be doing something to help the local neighborhood at the very least,” he said.
And rising to Weigelt’s challenge, CFA does just that.
According to Klapper, the group, which is open to all Penn undergraduates, seeks to train students to become “consultants that will advise and deliver meaningful action plans for the remediation of low-income sectors.”
By tapping into Penn students’ business skills, Klapper hopes to offer consultation for local businesses and, in turn, boost the area’s economy.
“West Philadelphia in particular is an area [in a] low-income sector,” Klapper said. “It could really use the help of the best business school in America.”
For Klapper, bringing the organization to fruition has not been a speedy one. Over the past year, he has reached out to Penn professors for advice, searched for small businesses in need of help and worked with a team of Management 100 students to advertise the club.
Klapper said the team “delivered incredible value. They were all instrumental.”
When searching for a faculty advisor to guide CFA’s work, Klapper knew Weigelt would be the perfect candidate for the job.
“He’s done this stuff in the past. The man is brilliant and also has a soul the size of Montana,” Klapper said.
Joining Weigelt on the conference’s discussion panel was Boston Consulting Group Principal and 2008 Wharton MBA recipient Alexandre Costabile, who talked about his experiences in pro bono business work.
Costabile said about 15 percent of employees at BCG are involved in social impact work at any given time. The main objective of their work is not only to assist communities in need, but also to provide sustainability for the future.
“One of the key things we have to have in mind is to not only do the work, but to get [communities] better prepared to do the work themselves, ” he said.
Beside showcasing some of the pressing issues at the intersection of business and social outreach, the conference also inspired a deeper interest among students to join Consult for America.
“I’ve always been interested in consulting and social impact,” College sophomore Rafiat Kasumu, a Daily Pennsylvanian contributing writer, said. “I thought it was great to see students mobilize together to create change within the greater Philadelphia community.”