In September 2015, The Principles for Responsible Management Education Secretariat issued a call to action to business schools and management-related Higher Education Institutions in response to the refugee crisis. Over sixty million people have been displaced by conflict. Although the primary responsibility for peace rests with Governments, the urgency of the global refugee crisis is a challenge that requires support from all actors in society on a short-, mid- and long-term basis.
Business Schools have been stepping up, responding to this call to action with a range of new initiatives and programmes. At Hanken School of Economics in Finland, several new initiatives were put in place that target educated asylum seekers and immigrants including, but not limited to, the Business Lead Programme and a Finnish Business Culture course. As Nikodemus Solitander, Director of the Centre for Corporate Responsibility at Hanken puts it, “the issues pertaining to displaced people have been visible for a long time, if anything academia at large, including our own institution, has been slow to react. I would be interested to see what kind of institutions can say they are not affected by this.” I recently spoke with him to learn more about their initiatives in this space.
Why did Hanken choose to engage in this topic?
The way the question of integration of asylum seekers gained strategic priority at Hanken is very clearly traced to the e-mail we received from Jonas Haertle from the PRME Secretariat in September 2015 containing the “Call to Action – Mobilizing Academic Community Action in Response to the Refugee Crisis”. Of course, there had been informal talks about the situation and Hanken’s possibilities to contribute prior as well. Hanken hosts the Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Research Institute (HUMLOG Institute), which has at its aim“to research the area of humanitarian logistics in disaster preparedness, response and recovery with the intention of influencing future activities in a way that will provide measurable benefits to persons requiring assistance”. But in the Call for Action, we saw a possibility for an impetus, a strategic lever, to come up with something concrete and execute it.
What was the result?
In October 2015 Hanken formed a working group to think about possible action and to form a pledge in relation to the call, the most tangible outcome from this was to create a course, Finnish Business Culture, a 2-day live learning course that is geared towards a larger group of asylum seekers who have a high school diploma. The aim of that course was to provide the participants a general overview of factors influencing business operations in Finland (history, political, legal and economic systems, culture), in particular, the operations of companies.
At the same time, but separately Hanken & SSE Executive Education had triggered their own planning processes, largely inspired by ideas around corporate responsibility they got by visiting Slush, an international startup and investor event organized annually in Helsinki. They were able to develop and roll out the plans very quickly; it was rolled out in February 2016, and the programme started in June 2016. Hanken together with the Finnish mobile company Funzi is a partner in the programme, but all delivery and planning have been carried out by Hanken & SSE Executive Education.
What happens in the mes?
The aim of the Business Lead is an integration programme for educated asylum seekers, geared for creating value for both the asylum seekers themselves and for Finnish business in general. It is a joint venture between Hanken School of Economics and Stockholm School of Economics. The programme aims to introduce and integrate educated asylum seekers into Finnish working life. It consists of four live modules delivered over 7 days in total addressing the Finnish and European business landscape and organizational culture, strategic leadership, finance and sales and service mindset. The participants in the programme also had access to a mobile learning service developed by Funzi and will have the opportunity to take part in Entry Point Mentoring arranged by the Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce. The programme ends with a two-month internship in a Finnish company.
The Finnish Business Culture course is an intense two-day programme which focuses on business legislation, Finnish consumer behavior, marketing to Finns, Finnish negotiation style and management styles, and hands-on guidelines on how to establish a company in Finland.
What kind of interest was there?
The Business Lead Programme is targeted towards educated asylum seekers who already have a Higher education degree, speak fluent English and have been working within the business sector or have been an entrepreneur for at least two years. Candidates for the programme were identified through different stakeholders: service centres, Red Cross and Start-Up Refugees project. 64 asylum seekers (also some with resident status) applied to take part in the programme. Applications were received from candidates of 13 different nationalities, with the majority hailing from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia. Having fit programme criteria and gone through the application process, 38 (of which 6 were women) educated asylum seekers were offered a place in the programme.
The Finnish Business Culture course had 12 asylum seekers from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Eritrea. Most participants in the Business Lead Programme and Finnish Business Culture Course were well-educated with an engineering background – IT and Civil engineers, some also had accounting and business background.
What kind of interest are companies showing (for internships etc. or engaging in other ways?)
The initiative was well received and raised immense interest among companies in Finland. The programme partners in Business Lead, who offered internships as part of the programme, are Accenture, Agency Leroy, Ajatar, Amcham Finland, Camaleonte, Dazzle, Elisa, EY, Etera, Federation of Finnish Financial Services, Fennovoima, Fingrid, Finnish Red Cross Blood Service, Folksam, Fortum, Hanken & SSE Executive Education, HUMLOG / Hanken, IBM Finland, Iwa Labs, Juuriharja Consulting Group, Kallio Elementary School, Kone, Konecranes, Lumi Accessories, LähiTapiola, Microsoft, Miltton, Nokia, Ramirent, Roschier, Seedi, SOK, SOL Palvelut, Supercell, Elo, Valmet, Varma, Virala, Wapice, and Wärtsilä.
Upon completion of the programme and internships, around 25% of the asylum seekers who participated were offered employment or continuation of traineeship by various companies (as stated before) which had participated in the internship programme.
Do these students engage within the rest of the business school/other programmes?
Not much to be honest. My personal opinion is that I think several people attached to this have had a wake-up call about the ‘realpolitik’ of ventures that are not historically planned to be attached to the curriculum or initiatives that can be seen to be innovative and different. I think it is evident that there are possibilities for great journeys of learning between the student populations. But, amidst this critique it needs to be said that unlike most other institutions at least the structural barriers were low enough to execute the idea, and I think everyone involved should feel very proud of the venture insofar!
What other projects is Hanken working on?
Hanken has been working on some collaborative projects along with PRME Champions group and locally at the Nordic level, most notably being the Nordic Ph.D. course and the upcoming 5th CR3+ conference.
For the month of June Primetime will be featuring examples around the Special Focus area Equality and Diversity (SDG 10). Click here to see the rest of the articles in that feature.