One of the requirements of being a PRME signatory is regular submission of Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) reports. These reports provide a unique opportunity to bring together the different activities, individuals and groups working on campus on topics related to PRME to develop the reports, and to share their activities internally and externally.
The challenge in putting together these reports is often how to bring together and best feature the growing number of PRME related activities, plans and goals happening across campus. For example, at Ivey Business School in Canada as mentioned in the Dean’s letter in their latest SIP report, “Responsible leadership is a shared goal and a mandatory part of every student’s formation, and every single member of the Ivey faculty embraces at least one of the PRME goals in their research, teaching and service.” Ivey Business School’s most recent SIP report provides a snapshot of this shared goal. I recently spoke with Oana Branzei, Director of the Sustainability Certificate Programme and Founder of the Social Innovation Lab at Ivey about the process they used to put together their SIP report and what lessons they learnt.
What approach did you take when preparing your report?
Having been directly involved in developing curricula, certificates and courses in sustainability since I joined Ivey in 2007, I kept an eye on the big picture—especially the bold innovations some of our peer schools introduced, and the small details. Much was going on, and internally we could see the big puzzle and the fine-grained pieces. Conveying this externally however was something else—to help third parties understand how so many efforts fit seamlessly into a greater whole, the report had to catch a glimpse of the way of thinking, learning and being Ivey is famous for. Therefore, I approached the report with three goals: conveying the culture in which our many activities are embedded and the ways in which the Ivey tradition provides coherence and foresight to students and faculty; shortlisting activities but conveying the ways in which we are personally and professionally vested in their impact on Ivey leaders; and showing the ways in which the Ivey spirit takes shape during the programmes and continues to give back after graduation.
How did you go about putting together the report itself?
Both our Dean Robert Kennedy and our Associate Dean Robert Klassen are passionate about PRME and if anything they set a high bar for me. But perhaps the highest bar was set by my predecessor, and in many ways role model, Paul Beamish, who underscored the importance of having someone in this role who is directly involved in as many aspects as possible and who can ‘walk the talk’ as we often say.
The process of putting the facts together took us a few weeks—we reached out to different centres and programmes and poured over their detailed (and beautiful) reports. There was so much we could say, but that would overwhelm anybody, and one of the goals of the PRME report was to distill and share good practices. Picking examples was not easy, so we tried to focus on the ‘so-what’ and explain the linkages between teaching, research and practice. This, after all, is one of the signature strengths of our school, and something that runs deep into the Ivey culture.
I wrote (maybe even rewrote a few times) the report. When I felt it did justice to the bouquet of activities and the unifying themes and threads that brought them together, I shared it with our Deans and the directors of the main centres. Within less than 48 hours I heard back from everyone. They had read it, made suggestions—and all of them took this opportunity to point out how much more I could have said. These conversation also led to a mutual commitment to touch base every term, so for the next report we can provide a time-stamped view of activities that will showcase the range of initiatives as well as the rhythm of innovating at Ivey. I also plan to include excerpts from one-on-one conversations with all these directors in the next report, because I think featuring multiple voices would portray an even fuller picture of what is going on within Ivey.
Is there a part of your report or the process that you are particularly proud of? What parts were challenging?
That’s a great question—the most challenging part for me was deciding what to leave out. The second most challenging part was to showcase as evenly as possible the many foci of activities taking place under the auspices of different centres and institutes without duplicating their own reports, and to find an overarching way to integrate the activities themselves, in a way that boils down to good practices that come through clearly for someone not necessarily familiar with Ivey’s unique pedagogy or structure. I also wanted to balance the facts, and the text, with snapshots that are worth the proverbial thousand words because they capture moments of learning, connection and impact. For the final report I wanted to show people coming together, especially across boundaries, because overcoming these boundaries is so important in bringing sustainability to life in class and beyond. In the end, I wanted this report to delight as much as educate—and I wanted the facts, descriptions and images to draw the reader into our wonderfully Ivey-green world. From that perspective, I hope, the reader gets a deep-seated sense of how these activities fit in and enrich the Ivey experience. Not a mere check-list of innovations, but a lived and believed in way of learning and giving back to the Ivey community and the business community Ivey leaders stand out in.
What advice would you have for other schools putting together their SIP reports?
My first advice is to have a concept that conveys the culture of the place. Best practices tend to be localised, embedded, even customised to the history and the future outlook of each school. Without a clear sense of time and place, a report is just that. SIP reports on the other hand underscore the importance of learning from one another, and I think business schools have a great deal more to learn from their cultures than from their activities. I also think stakeholders reading the SIP reports can better appreciate the purpose, passion and all in all authenticity of what a school does if they can touch and feel the fabric that links different innovations together.
My second advice is to say less, and show more. A lot of the reports I looked at have long, indeed overwhelming lists, and it is hard to determine which practices hit the spot of their core constituencies. I was often lost among strong statements of plans and rarely found that glimmer of hope and possibility that most expect to take away from a class well taught, or a day well-spent doing something worthwhile. Some of the reports included picture-perfect shots of facilities, but the ones that I wanted to learn more about were the ones that capture leadership in the making, those moments where you could just tell something special and memorable had taken place. Those are the ones I keep searching for—because those are the one that will add value at Ivey.
What are your plans for the next report(s)?
We have agreed to create a simple one-picture overview (infographic) of PRME at Ivey that uses a fishbone graph to show the many angles from which sustainability and responsible leadership inform and transform the signature Ivey experience. The goal of this overview is to feature the linkages among many different foci of activities and expertise and direct the interested reader to places where they can learn a lot more about specific themes and topics. Ideally we can update it every term and link in recent video reports, media, or even brand new cases so that we create a real-time sense of the place sustainability and responsible leadership play at Ivey. The goal of this portal is not to duplicate the excellent repositories already available, but to capture new connections among existing activities, and eventually draw the reader into the many wonders of the Ivey world.