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Developing Human Potential:

Strategies for Sustainable Growth

On a brisk, January afternoon of 2010, Victor Bourdeau of Missions de Solidarité Responsable

International (MSR International) was enjoying a sandwich at his favourite lunch spot with a friend, an
AIESEC alumnus who often consulted MSR. The ladies at this sandwich shop had helped Victor out a lot
when he needed contacts in Laos – MSR International had just sent volunteers to shadow physicians there
one summer ago. Very quickly, the organization was able to offer new shadowing opportunities in other
disciplines such as journalism and web design. Members of MSR were in training and would soon be ready
to go on missions again in the upcoming summer.

The night before, he and his team had just finished putting the finishing touches to a project proposal
in an organizational response to a recent natural disaster. It would be a partnership project with an emerging
group called Union Haiti to send volunteers to Haiti in the summer to come. Union Haiti had formed after the
devastating earthquake in Haiti and was mostly comprised of people in the Haitian community of Montreal.

As he sat there, Victor wondered how he was going to tackle the two biggest questions in his mind.
He wanted to know how MSR International could assist Union Haiti, a group of people with no humanitarian
relief expertise, grow and be sustainable as an organization; and at the same time, how was MSR
International going to improve its own business processes while growing in a sustainable way?


Missions de Solidarité Responsable International (Responsible Solidarity Missions International in

English, or MSR International for short) was founded by Victor Bourdeau and Elnaz Balashi in 2008, officially
registered as a non-profit association in Montreal in February 2009. It is an organization that offers career
building opportunities to young, motivated people. MSR began with the idea of offering pre-medical students
the opportunity to shadow physicians abroad in Laos, but quickly grew to include other disciplines such as
engineering, education, rural development, and more. In the past, MSR volunteers have shadowed
physicians, built websites, assisted journalists, tutored, helped do research, donated various materials (such
as medical dictionaries and surgery kits), and more.

MSR was created for youth to gain experience while better understanding the real needs of today’s
developing countries by aiding and job shadowing professionals. Its aims are to gather motivated people and
connect their field experiences to their future career potentials. MSR believes that job shadowing
opportunities on humanitarian missions better raise awareness and develop mature worldviews in young
professionals, familiarizing them with developing countries’ necessities before entering the professional
world. Through MSR, students benefit from professional, cultural, and humanitarian experiences.

Since he had seen many students from top-tier schools around the world go volunteering without
understanding the history or culture of their host countries, Victor made sure that MSR volunteers would learn
about the culture of destination countries prior to departure. MSR volunteers go through thorough training of
expected behaviour, proper codes of conduct, history, and try to attend cultural events in Montreal before
embarking on a mission with MSR. Upon completion of a one-month humanitarian mission abroad,
volunteers receive attestation certificates from MSR and the concerning organization (the hospital where they
volunteered, for example). This helps many volunteers, especially those who plan on applying to medical
school, to build their professional experiences and broaden their worldviews. MSR believes in the
development of human potential and is very careful in the selection of each volunteer it sends abroad. While
there is no official mass recruitment process, the executives really make sure that they are sending the right
person onto the field. There are many people who call MSR because they want to become one of the
organization's volunteers. MSR's volunteers are mostly students.

This case was prepared in collaboration between Victor Bourdeau, Elnaz Balashi, and Julien Le Moyne of MSR
International and Lynn Chau, Richard DeLisle, Rochelle Eng, and Katherine Pizzacalla, with translation to French by
Georgina Dooh, of AIESEC Canada. The authors are grateful for the assistance provided by Zied Laaribi and Prof. Bill
Mandelos. The authors developed this case to provide material for discussion at the AIESEC Montréal Leadership
Development Seminar 2010 and do not intend this case to be an endorsement, primary data source, or ilustration of
effective or ineffective management decisions. This version was written January/February 2010.
AIESEC MUCH LDS 2010 | Developing Human Potential: Strategies for Sustainable Growth

MSR currently operates many projects and wants to do more. The Garnet Key Society of Concordia
(of which Victor is a part) initiated an after-school workshop program at Kateri Tekakwitha primary school in
the Kahnawake First Nations reserve in Quebec. MSR will assume responsibility of this project in Fall 2010.
As a potential project for the future, MSR would like to establish an art therapy program for children with
disabilities (possibly between the Montreal Children's Hospital and a local ballet company). In terms of
humanitarian missions, MSR plans on sending teams to Haiti (June 2010), Laos and Ghana (July 2010). For
upcoming years, the organization hopes to send volunteers to Brazil (summer 2011) and Cambodia (2012).


MSR International is governed by a flat organizational structure (see Exhibit 1). Everyone on the
executive team does the same work, which largely depends on what the current needs or the organization
are. Currently, there is no clear job description for each position as all roles share the same functions.

Victor Bourdeau is president of MSR. All processes and decisions are largely centralized under the
him. Executive meetings are generally held once a month, but Victor tries to meet individually with the
executives weekly. The executive team, which consists mostly of science students, all participated on an
international volunteer experience with MSR in the previous summer. Only those who have gone on mission
projects or who are going on mission projects can become a part of the executive. Thus, there is no
separation between those who run the organization and those who go on mission projects. Executives are
not selected based on technical abilities, but rather on their alignment with the vision of the organization.

Julien Le Moyne is the treasurer for the organization. He keeps all the financial information for MSR.
The directors in the organization are principally in charge of different international branches of MSR - one
each in France, Laos, Ghana and Haiti. Julie Ngonerasasing is the director for France. Julien Pradier assists
the French branch in areas from promotion to recruiting people to go on these mission projects. Olivier Le
Sang is a French businessman in charge of the MSR branch in Laos. He works for a local newspaper
company and helps coordinate the groups going to Laos. Jonathan Bourget Murray takes care of the Ghana
projects and Jonathan Francois is in charge of the mission leaving for Haiti.

The volunteer base is comprised of approximately 20 students, which consists of contacts and
friends that are called based on the immediate needs of the organization. Volunteers are selected through a
two-step interview process, followed by orientation.


Funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, Canada World Youth (CWY) offers
international educational programs for youth between the ages of 15 - 25 and has been operating since 1971.
CWY has impacted over 31 000 youth from 67 countries. Participants contribute to different communities and
learn about other cultures. These are exchange programs; that is, for every Canadian CWY sends abroad,
one youth from the exchange country will receive an international experience as well. The organization's
programs have two parts– volunteers first get involved with a community in Canada before embarking to
another country. Moreover, CWY's different programs vary from two weeks to six months. In order to
participate in the CWY programs, one must make financial contributions that can total over several thousand
dollars. One CWY program requires that participants raise a certain amount of funds for the program itself.
These costs cover different things depending on the program, but generally include insurance, lodging with a
host family, food, and more. Some programs include travel and have partnerships with educational
institutions for academic credit. CWY recruits volunteers from all over Canada.

Run by the Canadian Federation of Students and administered by Travel CUTS/Voyages Campus,
the SWAP Working Holiday is a not-for-profit work-travel program. Participants go abroad on a holiday visit
and attempt to find paid work, assisted by SWAP offices. It is an exchange program and thus assists youth
from abroad to come job search in Canada as well. The time spent in each program varies. In addition to
registration fees, participants must prove that they have sufficient funds to live on in case they do not find
employment. Transportation must be purchased through Travel CUTS/Voyages Campus. Fees can range
from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars. Accommodation depends on the destination, though it is
usually not provided. Individuals (mostly students) who are interested in the SWAP Working Holiday program
can go into any of the Travel CUTS/Voyages Campus locations across Canada to obtain more information.


Union Haiti is an organization of Montreal residents of Haitian origin who came together to coordinate
resources and aid action in Haiti following the country's recent devastating earthquake (see Exhibit 2). The

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AIESEC MUCH LDS 2010 | Developing Human Potential: Strategies for Sustainable Growth

organization is comprised of a diverse range of Haitian students and professionals, although none of them
have expertise in humanitarian aid or crisis response.

As a crisis response, MSR decided that it needed to do something to aid Haiti's current condition. On
January 17th, 2010, MSR partnered with Union Haiti to collaborate on a humanitarian program which would
address some of the core issues which have arisen from the earthquake. MSR and Union Haiti hope to send
three teams to Haiti in July to provide medical care, support reconstruction efforts, and to arrange activities
and educational services for children and adults living in the refugee camps.

MSR will be responsible for the training of volunteers, including medical, psychological, and cultural
training, while Union Haiti will provide much needed contacts and resources. Both MSR and Union Haiti will
recruit volunteers to take part in the mission, as many Creole speakers will be needed. Union Haiti provides
valuable knowledge of the country as its members are all Haitian and regularly communicate with people
currently in Haiti; therefore, it can provide valuable insight into the realities of the current situation. Many
people trapped under rubble from the earthquake have communicated their whereabouts and living status via
Blackberry Messenger to their contacts abroad in order to be saved.

A Union Haiti member works for Air Canada and is currently submitting a proposal for sponsorship of
all flights to Haiti for volunteers. Union Haiti has committed to coordinate all of its efforts in Haiti through MSR
and has dedicated five members to work on this collaboration. Union Haiti has also agreed that all funds
raised through the partnership will go to MSR to support the Haiti mission. Current fundraising plans for Haiti
include a Haitian Art Auction, a Spin-a-Thon, and a concert.


Aside from its affiliation with Union Haiti, MSR has few formal partnerships, although they do have
organizations which have supported their efforts in Laos.

An informal agreement has been made with Concordia’s Garnet Key Society, which consists of an
elite group of students sponsored by the President of the University. This society’s members hold high
academic standing and are involved in activities both within and outside the university. They have agreed to
provide their support as consultants for MSR through identifying needs which MSR can address as well as
helping MSR to find needed resources.

MSR has also established a contact with Doctors Without Borders. A doctor who works for the
organization and is currently stationed in Haiti has been advising MSR on the conditions on the ground as
well as identifying needs which MSR’s students have the capacity to address.

Bureau d'Implication Citoyenne (BIC) is an organization working in Haiti and coordinating

incoming groups of volunteers as to where they could best apply their skills. Although MSR does not have a
partnership with this organization, BIC can provide important logistical support for the mission in Haiti and is
essential in directing MSR to the areas where its help could be best used.

The Montreal General Hospital has offered its support to MSR and has agreed to provide free
medical pre-departure training for all of MSR’s volunteers. Additionally, a team of doctors and nurses from the
Jewish General Hospital (in Montreal) who are currently in Haiti will advise MSR about the country’s
conditions and medical priorities upon the group’s return to Canada.

Another partnership is with Health Leadership International (HLI), an organization led by American
physicians. One of HLI’s former board members is a Lao-American Physician Assistant who has been
supporting MSR since its infancy. It was through him that MSR’s president was introduced to the hospital
where the Laos 2009 Medical Observation Mission was conducted. MSR benefits from this doctor’s support
and guidance whenever needed.

Volunteers for the Ameliorization of Rural Areas (VARAS), an organization in Ghana, contacted MSR
in 2009 during the mission in Laos since the organization was interested in the MSR concept. Having met
with VARAS to check the organization’s license, MSR is currently working with VARAS for the July 2010
Ghana mission. MSR expects to rely greatly on VARAS’ contacts while on the field.

Another partnership that has come about is with Global Peace Containers (GPC). This organization
builds schools and houses using recycled containers. MSR hopes to build sustainable schools and
infrastructure in Laos, but has not had enough time to expand on this project yet.

Despite these important contacts, MSR still requires the following resources: prosthetics (for
earthquake victims), basic first aid supplies, sanitation and water purification equipment, sports equipment

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AIESEC MUCH LDS 2010 | Developing Human Potential: Strategies for Sustainable Growth

(for Haitian children), English teaching supplies, other materials or funds which will enable the organization to
have a long-term presence through their missions.


MSR has its own English-language website (, which includes contact information,
a photo gallery, video footage, application forms for download, and general information about the
organization, its affiliate partners, Laos, its missions abroad, and its team.

MSR has LinkedIn and Facebook groups (reaching over 300 members). These tools are consistently
branded with its logo, which appears on its letterhead. Its Facebook group is used to advertise its volunteer
opportunities and fundraising events, in addition to publishing summary statements of accomplishment from
missions abroad and sporadic newsletters. MSR relies heavily on word-of-mouth promotion.

Moreover, a google search of "MSR International" yields results for a stove company that shares the
same name. However, the search terms "MSR Intl" shows the organization as the first hit. So far, there has
been minimal media coverage of MSR. Past publicity includes an article in The Link (a Concordia student
newspaper), the Vientiane Times and Le Rénovateur (Lao newspapers).


Unlike other volunteer abroad organizations, MSR does not require administrative or training fees
from volunteers, with one exception. There is a $100 fee charged to volunteers recruited in Canada (100
Euros for those recruited in France) for an orientation session, which includes two branded t-shirts and a pin
awarded once on the field. MSR volunteers pay only for transportation and living expenses while abroad.

MSR has no stable source of income; financing operations relies on in-kind donations and sporadic
cause-based fundraising events (see Exhibit 3). Funds raised are donated to other associations. Examples
include money for Doctors Without Borders or medical dictionaries to a Lao hospital. Due to the economic
recession, it may be difficult to raise sponsorship, and MSR did not want to obtain credit from the bank.


MSR is currently trying to become registered as a charity by the upcoming year (2011).

MSR has received a letter of support from former Prime Minister Paul Martin, who offered his staff
contacts from Africa and Aboriginal Affairs. For countries other than Haiti, there are no known regulations
barring MSR from sending volunteers abroad at the moment; nor has the organization encountered any
previous difficulty from foreign governments when it comes to embarking on missions. However, the
Canadian government requires that all volunteers to Haiti register with the Canadian embassy. Moreover, all
volunteers from Canada can act only in cities under Canadian control, and not under that of the US Army.
These cities are the ones in which Canadian organizations are offering relief to the Haitian people.

However, MSR does not have insurance for volunteers when travelling abroad– volunteers all sign
liability waivers. However, this is only a short-term solution. MSR wants to protect its volunteers before they
leave for Haiti and is in communication with an international lawyer to get insurance for them.


It was a recent trend that many non-profit organizations in Canada have been operating more like
corporations. Made up mostly of science students, MSR needed more management expertise in formulating
strategies for sustainable growth as an organization. In addition, if there were any other future crisis
responses elsewhere in the world, MSR wanted to be able mobilize and help, but was unsure whether it
would have the resources to do so. In response to the earthquakes in Haiti, MSR had been fortunate to
partner with Union Haiti, who had the necessary contacts and resources about the nation. Victor also wanted
to help Union Haiti, a group with no relief expertise, grow sustainably as an organization.

Victor and his AIESEC alumnus friend sat in the little sandwich shop pondering MSR's issues.
Victor's friend looked up and recognized another AIESECer who had also come in for lunch. They invited her
to sit down and join their conversation. She found the discussion to be fascinating and wanted to help.
Suddenly, it dawned on her. The AIESEC Montreal Leadership Development Seminar would be happening
soon, which meant many young leaders would be gathering to make a difference in society. These
AIESECers could put their bright minds together to figure out some solutions for MSR International.

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AIESEC MUCH LDS 2010 | Developing Human Potential: Strategies for Sustainable Growth




The 2010 Haiti earthquake was a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake. Its epicenter was near
Léogâne, around 25 km west of the capital, Port-au-Prince. The International Red Cross estimated about
three million people to be affected. The earthquake caused major damage to Port-au-Prince and other
settlements. Many notable landmark buildings were significantly damaged or destroyed, including the
Presidential Palace, the National Assembly building, the Port-au-Prince Cathedral, and the main jail.

Many nations responded to appeals for aid, pledging funds and dispatching rescue and medical
teams, engineers and support personnel. Communication systems, air, land, and sea transport facilities,
hospitals and electrical networks had been damaged by the earthquake, hampering rescue and aid efforts.

On January 22nd, 2010, the United Nations noted that the emergency phase of the relief operation
was drawing to a close. On the following day the Haitian government officially called off the search for
survivors. On January 28th, the Haitian government gave a confirmed death toll of 170 000, with many more
thousands dead in the rubble and outside the capital, and not including unreported bodies buried by relatives.



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AIESEC MUCH LDS 2010 | Developing Human Potential: Strategies for Sustainable Growth

"Aide humanitaire." Portail du gouvernement du Québec. Web. 02 Feb. 2010. <

Balashi, Elnaz. E-mail interview. 29 Jan. 2010.

Bourdeau, Victor, and Julien Le Moyne. Personal interview. 25 Jan. 2010.

Bourdeau, Victor. Personal interview. 29 Jan. 2010.

Canada World Youth. Canadian International Development Agency. Web. 01 Feb. 2010.

"Information on SWAP Working Holidays." Canadians working abroad in Britain, Ireland, France, Germany,
Austria, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Brazil, China and South Africa. Canadian Federation of
Students. Web. 30 Jan. 2010.

MSR International. Web. 25 Jan. 2010. <>.

"MSR International | Facebook." Facebook. Web. 27 Jan. 2010.

"MSR International group | LinkedIn." LinkedIn. Web. 27 Jan. 2010.

"UNION HAITI | Facebook." Facebook. Web. 28 Jan. 2010.

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