When Business and Healthcare Meet: A Look at an Interdisciplinary Business Run By Students from Hong Kong Polytechnic University

13923535_706655699475691_725367246747842977_oThe Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) Faculty of Business has a mission of IDEAS (Innovation Driven Education and Scholarship).  Underpinning this mission is the responsibility to develop future leaders who can contribute to the society meaningfully and innovatively.  Over the years, their Faculty has gradually stepped up its emphasis on ethics, responsibility, and sustainability in education, research, and service to the community.  A conversation between colleagues in business and the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at the University resulted in the development of an interdisciplinary venture; the student-run Wellness Clinic.

I spoke with Pamsy Hui from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University about this innovative initiative.

What is the Wellness Clinic?

The Hong Kong PolyU Student-run Wellness Clinic is the first student-run physiotherapy clinic in Hong Kong.  Jointly set up by the Faculty of Business and the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), it promotes and provides preventive care programmes, such as fall prevention programme and lower back pain prevention programme to the community.  These programmes are designed, promoted, administered, and implemented by students, under the supervision of a registered physiotherapist.

How did it come about?

It started out as a university-funded interdisciplinary initiative to encourage entrepreneurship among students in the two PolyU units in 2013.  It was identified early on that preventive health services would be a focus.  The first phase of the initiative was an open competition, in which student teams put forth different business models based on their findings on the preventive healthcare needs in the community.  The winning team was then invited to join the core management team of the clinic, implementing its business model.  The first management team has since passed the responsibility to their successors.  So we have gone through a period of succession planning and transition in the clinic’s short life as well!

What are the key features and how does it work?

The interdisciplinary nature of the clinic is one of its biggest features.  While the physiotherapy students design the actual programmes to introduce to the community, the business students take care of the service operation, marketing and general strategic plan for the clinic.  In order to provide programmes that are high quality and suitable for potential clients, the two groups of students need to maintain constant communication.  In other words, business students would need to communicate to physiotherapy students the market needs, and physiotherapy students would need to communicate to business students whether the needs can be served.  Without such two-way communication, resources would be wasted on programmes irrelevant to the community served.

The second biggest feature is the extent through which students can practice what they learn in the classrooms.  In fact, through the application of their specialised skills, be it physiotherapy or business, students get to see for themselves how their knowledge can be a force for good.

The clinic is intended to be a self-sustaining social enterprise in the long-run.  Therefore, a Care Fund was established.  Normally, clients pay a fee for the service provided.  Part of this income, along with donations, is fed into the Care Fund to subsidise clients who cannot afford the normal price.  Part of the challenge for the students, then, is to figure out how to balance different types of programmes and clients to sustain the clinic.

How does this connect to the SDGs?

The Wellness Clinic deals directly with Goal #3: Good Health and Well-being.  Specifically, through the operation of the Wellness Clinic, students strive to provide services that are available to all, including elderly who cannot otherwise afford to pay for the programmes.  Regardless of the clients and programmes, the aim for the Wellness Clinic is to promote preventive healthcare.  Rising healthcare costs have been a concern the world over, especially in ageing societies.  If people can be educated about the prevention of health issues, the burden on the healthcare system can be lightened.  In a small way, the Wellness Clinic also aims to prevent extreme poverty brought forth by potentially crippling medical expenses among some of the most vulnerable inhabitants in the city (i.e., the elderly).

Challenges?

With its interdisciplinary nature, communication across disciplines would be a challenge.  Business students and rehabilitation science students have different mindsets and different focus areas in the project.  Fortunately, so far, all the students involved have gone into this with a learning mindset.  That helps a lot.  Another major challenge is the sustainability of the project.  Students constantly face the challenge of making the clinic financially viable while providing affordable care for those who need it.  That means they have to keep thinking about new business plans and reaching out to new donors.  Sustainability can also be viewed in terms of the human resources.  Most students complete their programmes in four years.  If they sign onto the project in their second year, realistically they have at most two years on the project before they are busy with the final year workload.  That means new members need to be recruited onto the team every year.  New members bring new ideas and energy, but also pose challenges to continuity.  Students really do learn the challenges of succession planning in this project!

Successes?

As the Wellness Clinic has a constant stream of courses for different target clients, it benefits a good number of people.  For example, among the clients in the fall prevention classes, 68% of them demonstrated significant improvement in the knowledge of fall prevention, 57% of them are more confident about dealing with falls, and 38% of them showed actual physical improvement.  These are encouraging results.  Meanwhile, both sets of students get to practice what they learn in a meaningful way.  They also get to learn about how to work across disciplines, sharpen their communication skills, and strengthen their sense of responsibility.  In addition, through the experience, they get to experience organisational issues, such as succession planning and sustainability.  These are good learning opportunities for the students.  From an education point of view, this serves as a prototype that we can replicate in the future with other disciplines.

What advice do you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar in place?

Interdisciplinary projects like this are very challenging to sustain.  First, there has to be strong commitment from different parties.  Even though this is a student-run project, supervision by the faculties would still be necessary.  Faculty support – be it financial or merely moral support – would also help motivate students.  Second, in a university setting, the need for a good succession plan is even more pressing than in normal organisations.  The turnover is constant and frequent.  Faculty facilitation in this aspect may be necessary.  Third, sustainability will be a challenge.  Before embarking on such projects, it is good to assess the long-term financial viability of the projects, as well as the likelihood that people will be excited about it in the long-run.  Finally, it always helps if the project is consistent with the general philosophy and values of the school.  Such projects take up a lot of energy, and if they are not in line with other things the school is doing, they will be very difficult to maintain.

What’s next for the initiative?

For the Wellness Clinic itself, sustainability is the number one priority.  The goal is not about growth, but about maintaining good quality and affordable preventive physiotherapy programmes for the community.  In order to serve more people in need of the services (but cannot afford them), students will need to find innovative ways to keep the Care Fund healthy.

This project also shows the value of interdisciplinary student projects.  So another next step is to locate new opportunities for business students to work with students from other disciplines (e.g., construction engineering, nursing, design, etc.) on social enterprise projects.

SDGSDG3SDG11

Running a Successful Interdisciplinary Programme – Ryerson University

Since 2000, Ryerson University in Canada has been offering a unique interdisciplinary programme that brings together faculty from all of the university’s six departments. The Environmental Applied Science and Management (EnSciMan) Programme was a response to a clear societal need for graduates at the Master’s level with expertise in the core areas of practice in the Canadian environment industry. With a focus on applied research with immediate implications for practice, EnSciMan provides opportunities for students to bring together engineering, geography, public health, urban planning economics and other fields to create solutions to today and tomorrow’s challenges.

I spoke with Cory Searcy, Graduate Programme Director Environmental Applied Science and Management from Ryerson University about this programme.

Introduce the Environmental Applied Science and Management Programme and how it came about?

The EnSciMan Programme began offering its M.A.Sc. degree in 2000.  It was Ryerson’s first independent graduate programme. In the late 1990s faculty members in eight schools and departments (three engineering departments, chemistry and biology, geography, public health, urban and regional planning, and economics) collaborated in the initial development of the M.A.Sc. programme as a cooperative and multi-disciplinary degree.

The M.A.Sc. programme was developed to clearly link the environmental sciences and the management and decision-making disciplines in order to provide students the opportunity to integrate the two areas of study in the classroom and in their research. The emphasis was on applied research for resolving problems in environmental protection, conservation, and sustainable development. Much of the research conducted in the programme is intended to have immediate implications for practice

How has the programme grown over the years?

The initial planned intake was 12 full-time and 12 part-time students per year. In recent years, there has been a shift to more full-time M.A.Sc. students. The planned intake is now circa 20 full-time M.A.Sc. students per year. Several part-time students are also typically admitted.

The programme has continued to grow over time. The strengths exhibited by the faculty and students of the EnSciMan M.A.Sc. programme, through their published research and successful completion of degrees, were translated into the approval in 2008 of a Ph.D. programme in EnSciMan. The first cohort of doctoral students were admitted to the programme in the Fall 2009 semester. The planned intake was initially 5 full-time Ph.D. students per year but the target has typically been met or exceeded. The target now stands at 6 full-time Ph.D. students per year.

Since its founding, the EnSciMan programme has continued to foster research and training in the environmental sciences and in environmental management. The M.A.Sc. and Ph.D. students are now supported by over 85 faculty members at Ryerson University. EnSciMan is the only programme at Ryerson that includes faculty members from all six of the university’s faculties. The programme has been successful in preparing graduates for professional careers in the environment industry, as well as for doctoral studies.

How is the programme interdisciplinary?

The EnSciMan programme is designed to provide students with both breadth and depth of knowledge in both its programme fields (i.e., environmental science and policy and environmental management). This is done through, what the programme refers to as, its “T-shaped curriculum”.

The previous director of EnSciMan, Michal Bardecki, has discussed this concept in considerable detail. He explains that in many graduate programmes students acquire and graduate with highly specialised and deeply developed “I-shaped” expertise. However, in the 1990s an alternative model emerged recognising the value of those with “T-shaped” skills. Figuratively, the horizontal crossbar represents an ability to apply knowledge across disciplines and an understanding of fields outside one’s principal area of expertise, as well as complementary skills of communication, institutional knowledge, and the ability to solve problems collaboratively.

Recent research has continued to argue the case that the goal of shaping a T-shaped professional should guide programme development and delivery in a wide variety of discipline areas at universities. This can be particularly true of interdisciplinary programs which students’ strong foundation of specialised knowledge. For students seeking professional development, approaches such as these are often particularly attractive since they offer the promise of bridging to workforce relevance. There are manifest benefits to students as employers often seek those who can perform as “environmental integrators” (i.e., managing and coordinating projects, working in multidisciplinary teams and networking effectively). In addition, students possessing skills as both “specialists” and “generalists” may be better able to adapt to the inevitable fluctuations in the job market.

The EnSciMan programme possesses a T-shaped curriculum providing problem-solving and research depth in one area while explicitly incorporating overall breadth in the understanding of a range of other fields and developing complementary skills seen as valuable to students in the development of their careers.

What have been some of the challenges in creating an interdisciplinary programme such as this one?

Some of the key challenges in creating the program include:

  • Student funding: EnSciMan is a graduate program that does not have an undergraduate program directly associated with it. As a result, it can sometimes be difficult to secure Teaching Assistant (TA) positions for students. That said, many undergraduate programs from across the university have helped our students find TA positions.
  • Different academic cultures: EnSciMan includes over 85 faculty members from across the entire university. As a result, sometimes expectations for students (e.g., in the completion of their research) are different.
  • Seminar and office space: There is limited designated seminar and office space on campus for the interdisciplinary graduate students. Students and faculty are thus dispersed throughout the campus. This can create challenges in fostering a sense of belonging in the program.

What about some successes? 

There have been a number of successes. Two I would like to highlight are our graduate successes in securing employment in an environmentally-related area and our long history of successful co-supervision of graduate students. Over 90% of our graduates work in an environmentally-related field. The full details are available in the programme’s occasional paper (starting on page 21).

The co-supervision of graduate students has long been encouraged in the EnSciMan programme. This reflects the interdisciplinary nature of the programme and provides students with exposure to a variety of perspectives. As noted in our occasional paper, over 25% of M.A.Sc. students have been co-supervised. Many of these co-supervisions bridge departments and faculties. Examples include biology and public health, mechanical engineering and geography, biology and urban planning, and economics and occupational and public health. With over 85 faculty members in all six of Ryerson University’s faculties, it is anticipated that EnSciMan students will continue to enjoy opportunities to be co-supervised by faculty in a wide range of research areas in environmental science and environmental management.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

Establishing reasonably common expectations for students (in terms of both coursework and their research) is very important given the different academic cultures involved in the programme. We need to always make sure we are fair to all students, which can sometimes be a challenge given the very different backgrounds and needs they will bring to an interdisciplinary programme. One key challenge these types of programmes may have is that faculty members are often members of a “home” department. This can result in them being pulled in different directions. It is therefore particularly important to have a core of several faculty members who are deeply committed to the interdisciplinary programme. One challenge of these programmes is that they often belong to everyone and no one. Several faculty members need to be deeply committed to the programme to make sure the needed things actually get done. We’ve been lucky to have this, but sustaining this commitment over time is a challenge for any interdisciplinary programme.

What’s next for the initiative?

EnSciMan is a well-established programme, however, we continue to improve over time. Key areas of focus include working to address the challenges listed above. We also recently completed a curriculum review, which resulted in the addition of two new courses (on responding to climate change and business fundamentals for environmental professionals).

SDGSDG9SDG12SDG17

How the Social Impact Festival at University of Western Australia Supports Global and Local Progress

img_7254-smlThe Sustainable Development Goals help us consider everything – from one person, to the university, to our cities – in a global context. They provide a robust yet accessible framework for learning about global progress. This is the focus of the work being done at the Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia. Among their many programmes is their annual Social Impact Festival, an opportunity to bring together individuals and organisations who are deeply committed to making Western Australia a better place.

I spoke with Claire Stokes from the Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia about this increasingly successful event.

What is the Social Impact Festival?

The Centre for Social Impact at The University of Western Australia (UWA) hosted the first Social Impact Festival in May 2015 – we call this ‘prototype 1’. It saw over 1,000 people attending events on the UWA Crawley campus focused on furthering social impact. When 2016 began, the team at the Centre for Social Impact UWA decided to take the festival into ‘prototype 2’ in July 2016. Katie Stubley (the other co-director) and myself started with a purpose and designed the event to fulfill that purpose. This included three primary aims: share and diffuse cutting-edge knowledge; strengthen and connect social impact networks; and increase our capacity to make WA better for all. We also identified many people, ideas, organisations and networks that have been deeply committed to making WA a more just, vibrant and better place for all. So a key element of the festival was bringing stories of social impact in WA to the surface to be celebrated and amplified.

What are the key features of the Festival and how does it work?

The concept of ‘social impact’ is so broad that we knew a regular conference format would not work. To see real change, we knew we had to reach audiences beyond those who had previously engaged with the Centre and in a variety of settings. The format was based roughly on a ‘fringe festival’: a diverse range of small, low-cost, and engaging events in a variety of venues so attendees could ‘create their own adventure’.

We turned to our postgraduate course – the Graduate Certificate in Social Impact – for a framework which gave us the following themes for the four key days of the festival:

  • Creating social impact: entrepreneurship, innovation & design
  • Demonstrating social impact: research, measurement & evaluation
  • Funding social impact: investment, philanthropy & ethical consumerism
  • Leading social impact: organisation, collaboration & systems

As a whole, the festival featured 34 events over 7 days in 16 venues around Perth. Individual event prices ranged from $0 to $30 and 15 events were free. More than 150 people and organisations contributed to the festival programme (including speakers, workshop facilitators, co-working space hosts, artists, performers, open house venues, and market stall-holders). Through the interactive ‘Stories from the Field’ events (21, 22, 26 & 27 July), 68 individual stories of social impact were shared. Twenty local ethical businesses featured in the Marketplace & Ethical Fashion Show (23 July), and 10 spaces and organisations featured on Social Impact Open House day (25 July).

What are/were your favourite parts of the festival?

Pitching events are always interesting, as they provide opportunities for real people and organisations to take action, as well as the chance to learn about investing and the local landscape. The Impact Seed Pitch Night on 26 July was no exception. Run by a new Perth-based organisation, Impact Seed, the event saw five investable social businesses pitch for investment to a packed auditorium of 120 people. It also featured a highly engaging keynote address from Bessi Graham (The Difference Incubator, Melbourne). Graham also sat on the judging panel with Paul Flatau (Centre for Social Impact UWA), Derek Gerrard (Innovation Bay), and Paul Bide (School for Social Entrepreneurs).

Two other standout events were the Festival Opening and Marketplace & Ethical Fashion Show. The Opening was a directed performance, mixing inspiring speech from Michael Chaney, Cassandra Goldie and Noel Nannup together with music, poetry, song and dance. The Marketplace & Ethical Fashion show held an atmostphere that was absolutely perfect for what we were trying to achieve. There was a modest amount of stalls – 20 in total – but every single person involved demonstrated deep passion and commitment to their cause. This also extended to an excitement in celebrating and helping each other on the day. Businesses represented included social enterprises, fair trade homewares, organic kombucha and tea, eco-garden services, ethical fashion, Aboriginal enterprises, and more. An estimated 300+ people attended the event and all stallholders reported they sold more than expected.

Although not an event, the ongoing co-working and collaboration space was another highlight. This provided ample opportunity for attendees of events throughout the festival to come early or stay afterwards to simply work, or meet other like-minded people and make new connections. The hosts of this space, Perth-based social innovators enkel, also ensured users of the space made the most of it by engaging with interesting activities such as mindfulness, story-telling, and more.

What impact does the festival aim to have/ already have?

We have already observed and heard about the immediate impact of the Festival. For instance, as one of the key aims was connecting people across sectors we were delighted to hear that almost 70% of attendees said they made new connections they intend to follow up with (or already have). That does not even take into account the connections made across the 150 contributors. We have also heard of some changes, or actions taken based on transformative experiences. For example, 26% of attendees to seek out formal education or training in fields linked to social impact. One person reported they have already chaired a board meeting and presented information from the Festival, leading the Board to review the organisation’s mission, objectives, strategies and how we can better measure our social impact.

Anecdotally, we have heard of many new connections and collaborations around Perth that resulted from the Festival, while other connections have strengthened or formalised. This is exactly the kind of impact we intended to create.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

Design with a purpose. That was the single-most important aspect of the festival and it resulted in an event that was not only successful in terms of numbers and engagement, but in the immediate impact it had, leaving everyone involved with the optimism and drive to create positive change.

What’s next?

We are synthesizing the huge amount of information that was drawn out during the festival – in the form of stories, ideas, presentations and feedback. Many of the resources presented or created throughout the festival can be found here: http://www.socialimpactfestival.org/resources/

Follow UWA on Twitter

social-square

A Selection of MOOCs on Sustainability/Ethics for Fall 2016 (Part 2)

screen-shot-2016-09-06-at-8-31-50-pm
Every year there is an increase in the number of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available on sustainability topics. These courses are available for free online and open to anyone with an interest in the topic, lasting between three and fourteen weeks and taking three to eight hours per week to complete. Below is a selection of such courses offered this Fall 2016, listed by topic, from PRME as well as some non-signatory schools. The first part focused on courses that relate to some of the Sustainable Development Goals. Here we look at MOOC focused on developing and leading sustainable organisations.

Development of Leadership Skills

Decision Making in a Complex and Uncertain World: This course explores how leaders can develop themselves to be able to act in a complex world and under uncertainty using a multidisciplinary approach. From University of Groningen – starts September 5.

Logical and Critical Thinking: This course loos at how to improve your logical and critical thinking skills including how to identify common obstacles to effective thinking. From University of Auckland – starts 26 September.

Influencing People: This course looks at how you can improve your ability to influence people in stations where you cannot use formal authority. From University of Michigan – started August 22.

Selling Ideas – How to influence others and Get your Message to Catch on: This course looks at how to use social media and word of mouth to spread your message and grow your business. From Wharton – starts October 24.

Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance: This course introduces students to mindfulness techniques to reduce stress and improve wellbeing and work/study performance. From Monash University – starts September 19.

Social Wellbeing: This course looks at how measuring and promoting wellbeing can make people, organisations and society more focused, considerate and effective. From The University of Edinburgh – starts September 26.

Designing the Future: This course explores contemporary design approaches that you can use to solve problems in the world around you. From RMIT University – starts October 17.

 

Developing Social Organisations

An Introduction to Public Leadership: This course explores what is distinctive about leadership in the public sphere, rather than senior executives in private sector, profit-making organisations. From The Open University – September 12.

Social Enterprise: Business Doing Good: This course explores different models of social enterprise and the local and global problems that they aim to address. From Middlesex University – starts September 26.

Social Enterprise – Turning Ideas into Action: This course looks at how you can turn your social enterprise ideas into action. From Middlesex University – starts October 24.

Make an Impact – Sustainability for Professionals: This course explores how to integrate a sustainable development strategy into your company. From University of Bath – starts October 10.

Social Norms, Social Change: This course looks at social norms, the rules that glue societies together, and how to diagnose, distinguish them and either create new ones or eliminate harmful ones. From University of Pennsylvania – started August 15.

 

Ethics

Academic Integrity – Values, Skills, Action: This course explores academic integrity and how you can demonstrate it in your work, study and research. From University of Auckland– starts October 3.

Unethical Decision Making in Organisations: This course looks at how strong organisational contexts push good people towards unethical decisions. From University of Lausanne – starts September 19.

Have we missed any? Email to be added to the list.

 

A Selection of MOOCs on Sustainability/Ethics for Fall 2016 (Part 1)

Sustainable Development Goals_E_Final sizes
Every year there is an increase in the number of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available on sustainability topics. These courses are available for free online and open to anyone with an interest in the topic, lasting between three and fourteen weeks and taking three to eight hours per week to complete. Below is a selection of such courses offered this Fall 2016, listed by topic, from PRME as well as some non-signatory schools. The first part focuses on courses that relate to some of the Sustainable Development Goals.

1 No Poverty

Challenging Wealth and Income Inequalities: This course explores the concerns about rising generational and economic inequality in developed countries. From the Open University – starts October 3.

Hierarchy in Property Rights: This course looks at how language can help us to develop our relationship with nature and determine the rights of access and ownership. From University of Leeds – starts October 17.

Subsistence Marketplaces: This course looks at bottom-up understandings of the intersection of poverty and the marketplace. From University of Illinois – starts August 29.

2 Zero Hunger

Global Food Security: Addressing the Challenges: This course introduces the issue of food security, specifically how do we feed an extra two billion people by the middle of the century, with a focus on UK agriculture and on food supply chains in other parts of the world. From Lancaster University – starts August 29.

Agriculture and the World We Live in: This course looks at the world’s population and the crucial role of agriculture in feeding the steadily increasing number of people. From Massey University – started August 9.

3 Good Health and Well Being

Strategies for Successful Ageing: This course explores how we can stay happy, healthy, socially-connected and active as we age. From Trinity College Dublin – starts September 26.

Food as Medicine: This course explores the role of food in health and how to apply nutrition science to guide you on using food as medicine for you and your family. Monash University – starts October 24.

Identifying Food Fraud: This course provides an introduction to modern analytical science techniques and how they can be used to uncover food fraud. From University of East Anglia – starts October 24.

4 Quality Education

Education for All: Disability, Diversity and Inclusion: This course is about how inclusive education can work, especially where resources are limited. From University of Cape Town – starts September 19.

Teaching for Change: an African Philosophical Approach: This course explores teaching and learning in an African context and learn about cultivating pedagogical encounters in relation to Africa. From Stellenbosch University – starts September 19.

7 Affordable and Clean Energy

Elements of Renewable Energy: This course explores renewable energy using the four Greek elements as core theme – power derived from earth, from air, from fire and from water. From The Open University – starts September 5.

Fundamentals of Global Energy Business: This course looks at the diverse and integrated markets for primary energy, and the essential considerations driving business leaders and policy makers in development of global energy resources. From University of Colorado – started August 15.

Our Energy Future: This course introduces students to the issues of energy in the 21st century including food and fuels, as well as energy production and utilization. From University of California – starts September 5.

11 Sustainable Cities and Communities

Re-enchanting the City: Designing the Human Habitat: This course is an introduction to the interdisciplinary nature of city making looking at the interdependencies of the professions at play; urban design, architecture, construction management, planning, landscape architecture and design. UNSW Australia – starts September 5.

Smart Cities: This course explores the role of technology and data in cities and how these can be used to deal with challenges such as rapid urbanisation, climate change and inequality that cities are increasingly facing. From The Open University – starts September 26.

Indigenous Studies – Australia and New Zealand: This course looks at the distinctive stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia and Maori people in Antearoa New Zealand. From Massey University and University of Tasmania – started August 9th.

Designing Cities: This course looks at how cities have evolved, how shape a more sustainable city. From University of Pennsylvania – starts September 5.

Greening the Economy-Sustainable Cities: This course explores sustainable cities as engines for greening the economy. From Lund University – started August 8.

12 Responsible Consumption and Production

Making Sense of Health Evidence – The Informed Consumer: This course helps consumers to understand whether health evidence is likely to be reliable or not. From Cardiff University – starts September 26.

Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime: This course looks into the seedy underbelly of the art world, looking at smuggling, theft, fakes, and fraud. From University of Glasgow – starts October 3.

The E-Waste Challenge: This course looks at what e-waste is and why it is the challenge of our century and how we can turn this challenge into an opportunity. From UNEP and KU Leuven – starts September 1

13 Climate Action

Causes of Climate Change: This course provides the basis for understanding the underlying physical processes governing climate variation in the past, present and future – University of Bergen – starts September 5.

Climate Justice – Lessons from the Global South: This course builds an understanding for how we can balance human needs with caring for the planet. From UNESCO – starts November 14.

Climate Change: This course looks at the biggest global challenge the human race has ever faced, our insatiable demand for energy and how it is changing our atmosphere and our climate. From Macquarie University – started August 8.

Making Sense of Climate Science Denial: This course looks at the social and psychological drivers of climate science denial and how to effective debunk climate misinformation. From University of Queensland – started August 9.

14 Life Below Water

Exploring Our Oceans: This course explores the half of our world covered by deep ocean and how our lives affect the hidden face of our planet. From University of Southampton – starts October 10.

Contemporary Issues in Ocean Governance: This course considers the nature of how the world’s oceans are regulated, how this has evolved through time and how it actually works. From University of Wollongong – started August 8.

15 Life on Land

Environmental Challenges: Justice in Natural Resource Management: This course explores three basic principles when considering natural resource management: the principles of justice, transaction costs, and the problem of aggregating social preferences. From University of Leeds – starts September 5.

Introduction to Ecosystems: This course looks at the natural world, how the web of life works with illustrations from around the world. From The Open University – starts October 24.

16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Environmental Challenges: Rights and Values in Ecosystem Services: This course explores how differences in values can create conflict and how we can learn to manage our natural resources with integrity. From University of Leeds – starts September 5.

Ending Slavery – Strategies for Contemporary Global Abolition: This course looks at the 45.8 million slaves alive today and how we might achieve a slavery-free world. From University of Nottingham – starts October 17.

Corporate Lawyers – Ethics, Regulation and Purpose: This course explores the role and purpose of corporate lawyers, examining how they are regulated and the ethical challenges they face. From University of Birmingham – starts November 7.

17 Partnerships for the goals

Global Systems Science and Policy: This course looks at how Global System Science can inform and model the impact of social, economic, political and environmental policy making including citizen engagement. From UNESCO – starts September 5.

Earth Observation from Space: The Optical View: Discover how optical Earth observation data is gathered and used, for example, to monitor changes to our climate, and natural and build environment. From the European Space Agency – starts September 12.

Have we missed any? Email to be added to the list.

Integrating the SDGs into the Business and Global Society Course – Hult International Business School

HultInt
In response to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), schools around the world are stepping up their activities, embedding the SDGs into their strategies and, most importantly, their curriculum. Last week we learnt more about how Hult International Business School and Ashridge Business School embedded the SDGs into their reporting. This week I spoke with Joanne Lawrence from Hult International Business School again to look specifically at how they integrated the SDGs into one of their core courses.

What is the Business and Global Society Course?

The Business and Global Society course is a required course in the MBA and EMBA programmes at Hult International Business School. Students are first introduced to the “big picture’ of macro-economics (e.g., movement of labor, capital and the role of government) and the global issues (risks, impact) such as those addressed at the World Economic Forum. Against this backdrop, the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact are introduced as a potential universal ‘code of conduct’ for business, along with the SDGs as potential opportunities. To address these global issues, the tools and skills that are interwoven into the course include analytical and systems thinking, stakeholder engagement, and collaboration.

Why introduce the SDGs in the course?

One of the basic questions in economics has been, why do the rich countries seem to get richer, and despite trillions in aid, the poor remain poor? And, as we move through the 21st century, the growing gap between rich and poor has been identified as one of the greatest threat to world security and prosperity.

If companies are going to continue to thrive, they are going to need skilled employees and educated consumers. The pursuit of the SDGs is not just morally right but economically essential.

The SDGs are about bringing the majority of the world—the ‘other’ 6 billion people – into the economy. Addressing the SDGs and business growth and economic stability are integrated.

To be good business leaders is going to require thinking more in systems – understanding how to think about unintended consequences of their actions, how to work more closely with governments, NGOs, and other non-business players.

Everything is interconnected. That is why macro-economics and the UN Global Compact’s Ten Principles intersect. To attract investment, governments need to crack down on bribery. To increase their labor force, companies need to help their employees develop skills. The roles between players are converging. Governments need business resources, business needs government’s access, both need the trust that NGOs bring.

What are some of the ways that the SDGs are incorporated into the course?

Students are asked to select one of the 17 Goals, then to slice it into a manageable chunk, and then ideally within a specific [geographic] place. They consider which industry/company might be appropriate to take the lead as the nodal organization. i.e., which firm makes sense? So, for example, if we look at access to education as a goal, and we think about the need that tech companies have for highly skilled workers in future, is there a way that tech companies can partner with governments to create programmes that build the skills they will need? And at the same time improve the incomes of these new workers, who then become consumers?

The idea is that fulfilling these goals is not about charity. It is about creating a healthier, more prosperous society through enabling people to improve themselves. The proposals need to make business sense. They need to engage the right players – business, government, NGOs and — create an eco-system that benefits each.

I am impressed every year with the creativity students exhibit, and how they get the ‘systems’ piece. We’ve had students addressing how to re-integrate FARC members into society through training; how to provide access to water through introduction of new systems; how to scale a local enterprise in Ghana building bikes of bamboo by partnering with a multi-national corporation; how to improve well-meaning projects of corporations like Coca-Cola to be more effective in rural communities… the list goes on!

Any challenges?

The biggest challenge – and the one I seek to be sure the students are getting –

is that this is not charity. Charity doesn’t work. This is about business partnering with governments, NGOs, etc.to create economic inclusion,which in the end benefits both. A prosperous, stable society is good for business, and business is good for creating that stability. In the end, whether you believe in the moral argument or not, it does make economic sense.

Successes?

Over the years, I have watched as doubting MBAs walk in wondering why they are being required to take a course called ‘Business and Global Society’ as a core course in a one-year MBA programme. It means Hult is saying this course is as important as Finance, Marketing, etc.

At the start of the course, I ask “What is the purpose of business?” Inevitably, they will say ‘to make money’. When I challenge them: but how? They are at a loss- they talk about lowering costs, etc.

At the end of the course, I ask again. Now I am getting different responses, more in line with what I hope they come to realize, i.e., in the end, the companies who make the most money and endure are the ones who serve society best.

It is very rewarding to see the shift, and it also speaks to this generation’s higher sense of purpose: they realize they can succeed by actually having a social impact. They do not have to choose. It is not either/ or, but and.

Are there other classes where students have the chance to explore the SDGs? For example your Social Innovation elective that worked with UNDP staff)?

I also teach Social Innovation as an elective, which takes the Business and Global Society course one step further. In the past two years, as part of this course, I have also worked with UNDP in several countries to identify a challenge, and ask the students to come up with some resolutions. Last year, students were challenged to come up with projects to help with the crisis in Yemen, such as how to engage women in creating social enterprises to generate income despite all the conflict surrounding them. The engagement with UNDP Yemen led to some students being asked to continue working with them to expand their ideas as well as me doing a seminar with young aspiring social entrepreneurs in Yemen via Skype.

Other projects include creating a business opportunity for women across the Arab States that would respect their cultural traditions of remaining in the home even as they allowed them to earn an income, or starting a business in Haiti that would generate jobs beyond tourism that would lead to more sustainable livelihoods. The student solutions were creative, respectful and linked players in ways that did create wealth-generating eco-systems.

Next steps?

Hult’s students are truly global—more than 120 countries represented. These students come from many of the countries where the SDGs are so critical. Our students are literally on the ground — they know what needs to happen.

For me, I’d like to provide them with the ability to implement their life changing ideas, perhaps by working with corporations specifically on the SDGs. Wouldn’t that be a great integration of Global Compact and PRME?

Advice for other schools thinking of doing something similar?

Do it! Business in the 21st century is not separate from the SDGS.

Business needs to address the risks the SDGs pose if not fulfilled. But there is also a huge opportunity for success by addressing them. We need to have the next generation of leaders focused on solving real problems for real people — not just product extensions for the privileged few, but products that work for the masses.

I believe that is the proper role of the business school: to develop global leaders of integrity, courage and purpose, who are capable of building organizations that solve problems plaguing society, improve livelihoods and lives.

In the end, that has always been the role of business: to solve problems that benefit society and move us forward.

 

Integrating the SDGs into PRME SIP Reports

SIPThe operational merger between Ashridge Business School and Hult International Business School gave the PRME teams at both schools an opportunity to come together and review their approach to PRME and sustainability, in particular, in light of the newly agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Part of this process was exploring a new approach to report their progress, taking the SDGs into consideration. The result is a unique approach that will surely provide a benchmark for other schools moving forward.

I recently spoke with Joanne Lawrence from Hult International Business School and Matthew Gitsham from Ashridge Business School about this innovative report.

What role do you think business schools play in the achievement of the SDGs?

We had a good look at the 17 SDGs and all the specific targets underneath them. We think the number one role for business schools to play is to contribute to Goal#4 Target#7 on education for sustainable development. There are also numerous other goals and targets that relate to subjects that should get more priority in business school curricula.

In addition, we believe business schools have four other necessary roles in the process to achieve the SDGs. One role is recruitment: who we recruit into our student body. There are several specific targets in Goal#4 on education that schools can focus on, such as eliminating gender disparities in access to education, ensuring equal access for those with disabilities and those from minority backgrounds and under-privileged backgrounds, and boosting access to education for those from Least Developed States, Small Island Developing States and African countries, as well across developing countries generally. Business schools can also contribute to advancing all the SDGs through their research programmes and research funding.

Through the way schools manage their campuses and operations, they can also make important contributions to goals on health, gender, climate, energy, water, biodiversity and issues like corruption and human rights. Lastly, business schools also have a valuable role they can in convening dialogue among business leaders and other organizations to advance the goals and foster partnerships.

The SDGs have given added impetus to our work on curriculum, research and campuses, and also greater guidance on best metrics to use to measure progress. Probably the area where the SDGs have had the most specific impact is encouraging us to think more systematically about the cohort mix, and how we ensure fair access to multiple groups.

How did you put your SIP together?

First, the team reviewed best practices and the latest guidance, requirements and expectations from accreditors and others, including the SIP Toolkit. On the SDGs, we found the Global Compact’s SDG Compass particularly helpful. Then, we created a template for the kind of information we were looking for and how we wanted to put it together. After, we reached out to different colleagues across the school to ask for help gathering all the different bits of data. The final part was analysing and assembling the data, pulling together the text and design, and getting feedback from colleagues on various drafts.

What parts of the report are you particularly proud of and why?

We’re particularly proud of the analysis of the Learning Objectives for each course on each of the different programmes. We all know that integration into the curriculum is a core objective, but hard to measure. The UK higher education regulator, QAA, published guidance in 2014 that encourages UK Higher Education Institutions to consider good practices to be explicit references to education for sustainable development across all courses in all programmes. Therefore, we did a review of all of our courses, looking for these explicit references, and have been able to publish a baseline from which to measure progress in further integration.

What were some of the challenges in putting the information together? Successes?

Many of the things we were trying to do had never been done in the schools before. Many of the questions had never been asked, and it wasn’t clear who was best placed to get their hands on different bits of data that we knew existed. Thus, tracking down data was a key challenge!

The report has provoked some really useful conversations. A draft of the report was taken to the academic board for discussion, and it has also been discussed as part of the agenda for the annual faculty summits held on each of our campuses. The data on learning objectives, cohort diversity, faculty publications and campuses has prompted productive conversations about doing things differently that weren’t happening previously.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of doing something similar with their SIP?

Make sure you look at all the targets, not just the broader 17 goals, and work out which goals and targets are most sensible to focus on for your institution. You should integrate them into your work focusing on the Six Principles of PRME as well.

What’s next for Hult and the SDGs?

As one of our targets for the 2016-2018 report, we agreed to look more systematically at cohort diversity and the SDGs. We also agreed to establish new work on the SDGs and campus management across all our campuses. We have several research projects underway focused on business and the SDGs, as well as several classroom initiatives on the SDGs. We are in the process of creating a PRME section on our faculty websites where we will give examples of how faculty can integrate the Six Principles of PRME and the SDG into course objectives and content, a way of encouraging faculty ‘development’ on these subjects.

Click here to access the Hult/Ashridge SIP Report.

%d bloggers like this: