La Trobe Business School in Australia has been a PRME signatory since 2008 and an active PRME Champion. They joined forces with several other PRME Signatories to create CR3+ Network. Together the network provides a supportive platform to build international collaboration and enables the participant business schools to work with the PRME and build international and national capacity in Responsible Management Education. I spoke with Associate Professor Suzanne Young, Head of Department and Dr Swati Nagpal, Department of Management and Marketing, from La Trobe Business School, about their participation in this network.
What is the CR3+ Network and how did it come about?
La Trobe Business School has been working with ISAE (Brazil), Audencia Nantes School of Management (France) and Hanken School of Economics (Finland) since 2008 in an effort to exchange ideas, pedagogy, curriculum and research in the area of corporate responsibility. Head of LBS, Professor Paul Mather wrote: “With the support of the Principles for Responsible Executive Education, the CR3+ network’s objective is to promote a debate, inspire changes and propose solutions for challenges related to sustainability and governance, interacting and reaching what UNESCO calls ‘The 5th Pillar of Education: Learning to change and to change society.’”
What are the key features of the programme?
A key outcome of the partnership has been the hosting of an annual CR3+ conference, which has been held at each of the member institutions. Past themes have included governance and sustainability; CSR: expanding horizons, and the power of responsibility. The aim of the CR3+ conferences is to strengthen the partnership and dialogue around sustainability and responsibility, and provide a forum where ideas, developments and concerns in regards to these issues and the work of the PRME can be brought forward.
How is CR3+ different than other similar networks you are part of? How did you meet these specific schools and decide to create a network?
It involves four schools that are strongly committed to PRME, and which later became PRME Champions, so PRME is very much at the core of CR3+. The network has been driven by the will to learn from each other, bearing in mind that the four schools are from very different and distant parts of the world (Australia, Brazil, Finland and France). From a very early point the core idea was to create a platform for these learning possibilities by organizing a conference involving all 3 (later 4) schools.
What have been some of the challenges?
The schools are different and distant, not only in geographical terms but also in cultural and institutional terms. Creating special exchanges for students, for example, has faced a number of practical challenges related to differences in terms of tuition fees, types of study programmes, periods of studies, accreditations, etc. Different expectations about the conference have also caused some challenges but overall the learning opportunities and outcomes have far outweighed the challenges.
We have now done one full round of CR3+ conferences (in all 4 schools) and are about to start a second cycle. The mobilization from the different schools has been on the rise – for example, ISAE/FGV researchers have sent many abstracts to the CR3+ conference to be organized in Helsinki – and there has been growing integration between CR3+ events and PRME chapters – the conference in Helsinki will also be tied to a doctoral course organized by the PRME Chapter Nordic (more specifically Hanken, Stockholm School of Economics, BI Norwegian School of Management and CBS).
The CR3+ network has also enabled joint research projects and resulting publications as well as student and staff exchanges.
In autumn 2011, LBS hosted a masters-level exchange student from Hanken to work on a community development project. Similar student exchanges are currently being planned for LBS students to have the opportunity to extend PRME –related projects at the other CR3+ partner universities.
In 2015, a collaboration between LBS and ISAE tested a new approach to ‘Promoting internationalisation and cross-cultural competency through online collaboration’, which provided opportunities for LBS MBA students to engage in an academic cross-cultural experience with Masters students from ISAE. The students replicated real-world global communication, by collaborating virtually with people from a different cultural background in real time and jointly solving a series of management problems using online software.
What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?
The network’s success is due to the relationships between key academic staff in each of the business schools and is also based in their common belief in and focus on the goals of the PRME mission. Members of the network were all early adopters of the PRME and champions of change in their respective institutions. Each School brings to the network their own expertise and demonstrates the national differences in Responsibility and Sustainability initiatives that are seen in academia, industry and government.
Each of the business schools have supported the CR3+ network as they acknowledge that working collaboratively provides greater opportunities for staff and students than working alone. Benefits in research, teaching, partnerships and dialogue have been demonstrated and the parties remain excited about opportunities that are coming from working with others in the new SDG project
What’s next for the initiative?
A pilot project is currently being led by LBS with support from the CR3+ network focused on facilitating a series of national workshops in each country between PRME higher education business schools and members of the UN Global Compact Network to present and interact on the theme of the SDGs. The outcomes of the workshops will be improved dialogue and networks between universities and other sectors, and the initiating of joint projects on the SDGs.
The 5th CR3+ conference will be held at Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki on 28-29 April 2017. The theme of the conference is ‘Making Corporate Responsibility Useful’, where the dominant logic of the ‘business case’ argument for CSR, and the legitimising effect this has on business engagement in CSR, will be brought into question.