Business Students Discovering SDG Solutions – AIM2Flourish

For the whole month of March, PRiMEtime will be featuring examples of student engagement from across the globe including a more in depth look at PRME’s Student Engagement Platform. 

There are a growing number of opportunities for students to engage in PRME, for example through the recently launched PRME SDG Student Engagement Platform, which contains a growing number of new opportunities for Signatories. One of the Platform’s  is AIM2Flourish, an online database of best practices housed at Weatherhead School of Management-Case Western Reserve University.

The AIM2Flourish.com platform invites students from business schools around the world to identify companies with sustainability innovations, interview the business leaders involved and then write up a short case study about the innovation. These are uploaded onto the platform, which currently has a database of over 425 examples of SDG business solutions from around the world. Students and faculty are then invited to comment on the different cases.

These interviews—and the students’ stories that come out of them—have the effect of jump-starting and reinforcing students’ commitments to being responsible business leaders themselves.” Claire Sommer, AIM2Flourish Communications Director

How this works in practice

Using the Sustainable Development Goals as their lens, and with their professor’s support, students identify a world-benefitting business innovation and interview a business leader about it. They submit their story on AIM2Flourish.com using an online form, along with photos and video links. After the student submits her or his story, it goes to the student’s Professor for review and comments. Finally, each story receives a final review from a member of the 30-person volunteer AIM2Flourish Story Stewards community before publication, to ensure that the story reads well and meets the AIM2Flourish publication criteria.

The AIM2Flourish.com community has more than 2,100 citizen, professor and student members from 58 countries. All AIM2Flourish community members can comment and like on stories, and connect to other members. Additionally, they are invited to submit short “Sightings” of businesses doing good in the world. AIM2Flourish students use these “Sightings” as story-starters for their AIM2Flourish assignment.

Site visitors can browse through the stories and sort them by SDG, Certified B Corp status, location, school and author. To help Professors teach students about the UN SDGs, the AIM2Flourish team has created a resource page that is updated weekly.

Some examples of cases

Since AIM2Flourish’s launch at the 2015PRME Global Forum and GRLI All Gathering Momentum (AGM) events, business students worldwide have published over 425 business innovation stories for good. Many students are writing about business leaders in service to big environmental challenges or positive health innovations, like the Lucky Iron Fish, a social enterprise started by University of Guelph business student Gavin Armstrong. Armstrong’s innovation helps combat iron deficiency in Cambodia with a small fish-shaped iron ingot that, when boiled with a meal for 10 minutes, releases a significant portion of a person’s daily iron intake requirements.

Likewise, a student at Ursuline College in Cleveland, Ohio, shared this reflection about writing the story called It’s About the Chocolate: “Researching this business has truly inspired me to be a better person. Researching all that Askinosie Chocolate does for their employees and cocoa bean suppliers and for the community has definitely made a positive impact on me. My findings help demonstrate that there are successful businesses out there who do not rely on economic growth and corruption to make a profit.”

The impact on students

According to Claire Sommer, the Communication Director at AIM2Flourish, “an essential part of the AIM2Flourish experience is that students leave the classroom and have a positive, strengths-based conversation with a business leader. In these interviews, students discover ‘what’s going right’ in terms of profitable innovations at the leader’s organization that help achieve the SDGs. Students tell us that writing an AIM2Flourish story about a business innovation is transformational—it changes how they think about business’ potential for good, and how they see their own potential to be positive social innovators. The business leaders who are interviewed tell us that they see their accomplishments in a new light, feel recommitted to business practices that do good, and appreciate meeting rising talent. These new relationships have led to jobs, internships and even a board seat offer.”

How AIM2Flourish is being used in the classroom

The platform has more than 150 professors around the world who contribute to AIM2Flourish, including 22 professors who have made it a mandatory part of their programme. Some professors offer AIM2Flourish as part of a semester-long course. Others have modified it for shorter classes of 8 or 12 weeks. The AIM2Flourish assignment is being used for online classes, in-person classes, and a hybrid of both. In some classrooms, AIM2Flourish is a mandatory assignment, and in others it’s elective or for extra credit. Students can work individually or in teams of up to 4 people. The assignment was designed for graduate level students, but is being used by undergraduate students as well, from Canada to Morocco.

Moving forward

The cases submitted by students to AIM2Flourish will be considered to be part of a Global Opportunity Explorer being developed by the UN Global Compact (launch mid 2017). The platform will share opportunities and solutions to advancing the SDGs and how to make them work. The platform is in its early stages but is scheduled to go live before the 2017 PRME Global Forum on 18-19 July in New York.

The best stories published by December 31, 2016 will be recognized at the first 17 Flourish Prizes at the June 2017 Fourth Global Forum at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. There will be one Flourish Prize for each SDG, selected by a jury of business and academia leaders. The inaugural Flourish Prizes will be awarded. All stories published in 2017 will be eligible for the 2018 Flourish Prizes.

How to get involved:

All PRME schools are invited to offer the AIM2Flourish assignment to their students, as preparation for students to become Global Goals business leaders. For more information visit AIM2Flourish.

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