Integrating Poverty into Management Education: 10 questions with Milenko Gudic about the PRME Working Group on Poverty (Part 1 of 2)

Designing the CEEMAN/PRME Global Survey for Rio, July 2011, Bled, Slovenia

The PRME Working Group on Poverty as a Challenge to Management Education (Anti Poverty Working Group), launched in 2008, advocates for the integration of poverty-related discussion into all levels of management education worldwide. It is grounded in the belief that poverty is a legitimate topic for discussion and research in business schools and that business can and should be a catalyst for innovation, profitable and responsible approaches to poverty reduction.

According to the PRME Anti-Poverty Working Group, “Business schools, as the main providers of educational services, need to exchange views and ideas, collaborate and develop new ways and means to sustainable development and the development of responsible leadership for a better world. In this context, fighting poverty is not only one of the major Millennium Development Goals, but also a big challenge for management education”.

I recently had the chance to speak with Milenko Gudic, IMTA Managing Director at CEEMAN and co-facilitator of the Working Group, about their current and future activities.

1. Why was the working group created and who is involved?

The suggestion to  establish the Anti-Poverty Working Group came from the PRME Secretariat after the 1st Global Forum for Responsible Management Education in 2008, where the results of the CEEMAN-sponsored global Survey on Management Education: Corporate Social Responsibility and Poverty were presented. The survey, which received 164 responses from faculty and administrators from business schools in 33 countries, demonstrated that it was possible to mobilise management educators around the world to address the question of what business schools, the institutions that create business leaders, could do to help achieve one of the main Millennium Development Goals, poverty alleviation.

Because this project and CEEMAN‘s value platform resonated with the mission of PRME, the Working Group was launched and, in 2010, CEEMAN became a PRME Steering Committee member. CEEMAN now represents a network of more than 200 management development institutions from 51 countries around the globe and continues to support the Working Group, which as grown to include nearly 100 members from 75 institutions in 37 countries representing all the continents.

2. Why did you decide to start the survey?

The 2012 survey is the third in a series. While the 2008 survey showed that 72% of respondents believed that global poverty was a legitimate topic to be included in the management education curriculum, the 2010 CEEMAN/PRME Survey on Poverty as a Challenge to Management Education, which gathered 377 responses from 51 countries, sought to capture innovation and creativity in integrating poverty-related issues into management education. Asked about how they teach about poverty, the respondents said that they preferred action learning rather than theory, and the use of consulting projects and student study trips in order to engage their students. Respondents also indicated that the integration of poverty-related issues into management education requires a broader agreement among school’s faculty and administration, which was not identified as common place.

These results informed the focus of the third survey on challenges, opportunities and solutions. Expected interest in the results by both the management education and business communities resulted in additional support from the International Association of Quality Assessment and EQUAL (the European Quality Link), a network sponsored by PRME Steering Committee member EFMD.

Further encouragement for the solution-focus of this survey/report was the invitation extended by the PRME Secretariat and UN Global Compact Office to present the results on the occasion of the 3rd Global Forum and the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum.

3. What role does management education play in fighting poverty?

Not as strong as it could and should be. Fighting poverty is just one part of a bigger story. In general, business schools need to take a more proactive role in educating responsible leaders for sustainable development and a better world. This is their social responsibility, though it is not yet so widely recognised and/or accepted.

CEEMAN’s Survey on Business Schools’ Response to Global Crisis, carried out in 2009, indicated that business schools perceived the current global crisis not only as financial, but rather as an economic, social, and ethical and moral crisis. When asked about their own responsibility for the crisis, the schools were very reluctant to admit any. The reason being, as the schools stated, that their students and participants came to them with already formed values and attitudes, which business schools cannot change. Even a glance at business schools’ missions and marketing messages would lead to finding the statement a bit hypocritical.

4. What are some of the most interesting results from the Fighting Poverty through Management Education Reports?

The key message from the whole series of surveys is that, in spite of a number of challenges, there are also huge opportunities and already numerous solutions. In this respect, it is important to notice that the presence of one or two faculty champions, strong leadership from the dean and congruence with the business school’s mission are among the key factors that make a difference. It is the same as with any other attempt to make change happen.

Equally, if not even more importantly (at least for me personally), were the findings related to faculty and administrators’ perceptions of market expectations and preferences regarding the inclusion of the poverty-related issues in management education. Instead of accepting the assumption that businesses, and therefore students, are not interested in the topic, the results may instead be interpreted as a sign of insufficient identification of the customer needs and/or lack of dialogue with the major stakeholders.

Of course, the most encouraging are the results that demonstrate high commitment, passion, and capabilities of faculty and administration to find creative and innovative solutions to the challenges they face.

5. What are some of the challenges that were identified in this area?

Amon the main challenges is still the question of the topic’s legitimacy. In turn, this is related to other important issues, including the very understanding of the term “poverty.” What does “poverty” actually mean? We must also overcome prevailing mindsets and attitudes about this issue, address the existence of a “silo mentality”, and recognise the primacy of the quantitative disciplines. There is the additional challenge of integrating new things into an already “over-packed” curriculum and finding qualified experts whose teaching would be based on relevant research. Finally, we must find a method to address external incentives from the major international accreditation and ranking systems and schemes.

– Part 2 will be posted September 14th-


5 thoughts on “Integrating Poverty into Management Education: 10 questions with Milenko Gudic about the PRME Working Group on Poverty (Part 1 of 2)

  1. Great post on an important topic. I think with the discussion of how to implement poverty into the business school discourse, schools also need to consider even more diverse admissions criteria. Admitting more students from a lower socioeconomic background who might have direct experiences with these topics would more realistically allow for successful buy-in of the topic’s “legitimacy,” especially when garnering support for classroom discourse, internships, and research in the field of poverty alleviation.

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