As part of an ongoing EU Project The DIGAS Spring School project allowed for higher education students and teachers, who acted as a facilitators, to gather for 5 days in Vilnius. We were all set up in a hotel just around the corner from V. A. Graiciunas School of Management (AVM (External link)), as they were our host for this project.
39 people from 7 different schools in the EU and at least 13 different nationalitities went straight to work on the day we arrived. Us students were divided into 5 groups with at least 1 member from each school in each group. We were given a bit of background information and goals of the SME that we were to work with.
The facilitators were there to guide us along when needed and to create an environment that would generate collaboration and ideas. They were also there to assess our work. In turn an external auditor was there to assess our faciliators and to assess the effectiveness of the entire DIGAS Spring School.
We used our time in Lithuania wisely: We analysed the information we had; expanded upon our information and ideas; created marketing plans; furthered any other concrete goals of the company assigned to our group; worked on our report and presentations and we learned from one another through our work time and down time, which we spent together in the beautiful old town of Vilnius.
So what’s the end goal of all that assessing? Well to help out SMEs, graduates and high unemployment areas, since people from low employment areas need work, as do us students and SMEs should be able to expand and provide jobs.
What better way to do that then to have hands on experience for us students with real business cases, SMEs being able to have new input and concrete plans from us and all that in an internatinal setting. The collective international background of each groups members, what and how we were all taught allowed us to do so much more than on our own.
Stephan Aschwanden-Granfelt, https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephanaschwandengranfelt (External link)
Case 1 – AVM
The company I worked with is AVM, the school which welcomed us in its establishment during this spring class. In a few words, AVM is a non-profit company which provides eductional programs for bachelor study for about 800 students on 2 campuses, Vilnius and Kausas.
My team’s project was about the diversification of AVM: it wanted to create a hotel complex on a land that it has already bought, located in the Ciobsikis Valley.
The challenge was real. The target clientele was the upper-class and the Ciobisky Valley is completely empty of everything.
AVM wanted innovative ideas for the different services and activities that the hotel could offer. Our company expected from us to find ways to attract local and foreign people, and a communication plan as well. AVM did not limite us with budget, it wanted above all ideas so we had the opportunities to imagine many things for this hotel.
Our first ideas were to make advantage of the localisation of the complex. Actually, the hotel is located in a traditional Lithuanian village and surrounded by a particularly well-preserved environment including a river, forests, and close to an UNESCO site.
Therefore, we decided to focus on the eco-tourism and the culture aspect of Čiobiškis. Then, we thought about the services and the activities adapted both at our target clientele and at the eco-tourism and we finished by establishing a way to make known efficiently.
All the members of my team came from different countries with different backgrounds. Thus, everyone participated and had different views of our project, so it was very interesting to share and compare our ideas and also my group was very creative.
For me, working with a company and having the opportunity to meet its members was very rewarding since we could have worked on a real business issue and thus understood the difficulties that a company have to faced on a daily basis. It was not only an academic work but a meaningful work. In addition, one interesting factor for me was the desire of our company to involve the community of Čiobiškis as much as possible, in a bid of developping the area. It was very interesting to work not only for a company, but for the development of a complete area which needs help as well.
Moreover, the project of my company was starting from scratch, so we had the possiblity to imagine the whole project as we see it. This project was also the opportunity to meet people from all over Europe and to create contacts for our professional network.
A great challenging experience!
Case 2 – In the shade of Ash trees
I worked with a Lithuanian company called “In the shade of Ash trees”. It is a beautiful place with magnificent view mainly used for big events such a weddings, business conferences and more. The company has many local customers within Lithuania but they still want to expand and attract international travelers from all over the world. I had five people in my team from different countries with different professions which made our case study much more interesting. First we tried to know the background of the company so that we could understand the problem and how we can help them; after searching a lot of information we did brainstorming and prepare a questionnaire to ask them somethings that were not clear to us and also other things that are related to the solution that we were planning on giving them. We found three main problems on their services, events and majorly their marketing strategy. So after a week of hard work we came up with big recommendations that we think will help the company to improve their services, organize different attracting events and chose the right of approaching consumers and make them interested to visit and plan their events in there.
As we all came from different schools and countries; it was very hard to be on the same level and understand each other but as the days went by we found our ways to make good solutions which was very good and helped me a lot personally. It was such an amazing experience that helped me to grasp knowledge in so many levels. It was a pleasure to share ideas, work as a team and bring something that companies can benefit from the near future.
Case 3 – M. M. Farm
While the M. M. Farm, in Čiobiškis has a lot of land (200 hectares) they need to be able to sell their products more effectively. Especially their produce as that is half of their revenue but planted on only 15 of their hectares, the rest is for grains.
Our group of course had to come up with a marketing plan to help them get more customers. On top of that M. M. Farm is moving towards ecological production and needs a business plan for the next 3 – 5 years on how to do that.
Taking the region’s needs into account and M. M. Farms we devised a strategy based on having students do case studies with the end result being an easy to maintain webpage that can be used to order on; trade association contracts ready for M. M. to sign; diverse ready to choose from logos with an emphasis on ecologicalness of the farm; QR coded product promotion signs for businesses that buy exclusively from M. M Farm and graduating students to design a short course and teach everyone that is interested in the region what they have learned in their studies.
If I had not lived in Canada, Switzerland and Finland; if I did not have other international view points than my own, when discussing anything related to Čiobiškis with everyone else involved in the DIGAS Spring School, I would not have come up with some of the ideas that I had during this very intense, fun, eye opening and rewarding week.
Stephan Aschwanden-Granfelt, https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephanaschwandengranfelt (External link)
Case 4 – Čiobiškis Parish
Čiobiškis Parish is a Lithuanian municipal budgetary institution, restored in 1995 that administers public services for this region. The public body services an area of 69 square km., in which there are 39 villages, 50% of which are forest areas.
The Parish has six employees with different tasks according to the different activities and competencies: the CEO with twenty years of experience who is the head of the parish, two specialists and three social workers.
Their vision : That the joint venture of the region of Čiobiškis become the center of SIRVINTAI region, they want to attract business, tourism and families there.
Our team project missions: Find solutions in order to able to realize all their projects
- Renovate some of their facilities
- Promote the area
- Attract business,
- Obtain more financial help from different organism
Our suggestions: First, focusing on short term actions to earn money and then realize their project. For example: renting their green space to event agencies, companies; so they can organized festivals, weddings; using their facilities to organized events such as traditional dance shows; basketball tournaments. We had many ideas but the most important thing is to increase their budget first.
As an exchange student here in Helsinki, I was really excited to be part of this project. We were working with real companies and students from all over the world.
To be honest, I was quite anxious because we were working on real cases and I needed to work with people that I never met before and that after those five days we were supposed to come up solutions for those companies. It was quite challenging but we managed to do all the tasks that were given to us.
I am used to work in groups so it was not new for me but this time I enjoyed a lot more. All of my team members came from different countries (Italy, Spain, Denmark, Lithuania, Netherland), we also had different backgrounds or specialities. Some were more at ease with english some don’t but we were still able to share our ideas, experiences and opinions freely. That was what I liked. We were all learning and discovering new things all together as a team.
I enjoyed Vilnius and the countryside that offers beautiful landscapes. We had a warm welcoming by the Lithuanian people that we met there. It was a really good experience.