A Focus on the UK and Ireland PRME Regional Chapter

On the 10th of May 2013, 32 delegates of PRME signatory schools from across the UK and Ireland (UKI) met at Aston University Business School. There, at their first Regional Chapter meeting, they set out the direction and structure of their new Chapter. Now in its sixth year, the Chapter is one of the most active in the PRME network. I spoke with Alec Wersun, the Chapter Chair, about the initiatives being undertaken by schools in this region.

How is the Chapter organized?

We currently have some 70 members in the UKI Chapter, which represents about 50% of all business schools in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Since inception we have operated on a fee-paying model, which allows the Chapter to fund a range of annual activities to support faculty development, stimulate collaborative research in to responsible management education and the SDGs, and encourage student engagement. The Chapter is governed by a Steering Committee (SC) made up of 10 academics from member schools, and an ex-officio member of the United Nations Global Compact Local Network. The Steering Committee is responsible for liaising with the PRME Secretariat in New York, setting the strategic direction of the Chapter, management of the annual budget, and creating a collegial, knowledge-sharing network. The Steering Committee has four officers: Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary and Treasurer, while each of the other six SC members is allocated, where possible, a specific role and responsibilities. For example, we have a lead for membership affairs and local networks; a lead for research; and a lead for our annual PRME writing competition for students. At our 2019 Annual Conference in Leeds we refreshed our constitutional and governance arrangements to include an explicit commitment to gender parity and equal geographic representation throughout the Chapter’s territory. We also introduced a Code of Conduct for Steering Committee members that represents PRME values.

How often does the Chapter meet?

As a Chapter we hold many different events throughout the year, hosted by different member schools. Our main event is our Annual Conference, which in summer 2019 was hosted by Leeds University Business School. The conference attracted some 100 participants over three days from England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, alongside guests from China, Sweden and Australia. The theme of the conference was “Making Global Goals Local ”. In this spirit the conference juxtaposed global challenges with local responses, and drew on the experiences and perspectives of academics, students, business school leaders, business experts, and university sustainability officers.

In pursuit of a model of ‘distributed leadership’, Schools in the Chapter have been organizing themselves into Chapter Local Networks for different parts of the UK and Ireland. For example Chapter Local Networks have been launched in Yorkshire, the Midlands, the South East and North West England. Plans are underway for other Local Networks in the South West of England Wales, Scotland and the ‘Island of Ireland’.

What kind of support does the Chapter offer faculty?

Each year we organize a range of several faculty development events for Chapter members. For example, a Carbon Literacy Training Workshop was hosted by Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University. This workshop was part of a PRME Champions project designed to equip academics and senior managers in business schools with the tools and resources to ensure adequate levels of ‘carbon literacy’ to implement the Principles for RME

Another workshop was organized by Sheffield Business School, Sheffield Hallam University around the topic of plastic waste. Birmingham University Business School had a half day “PRME Day” focused on innovative pedagogy for the teaching of ‘responsible business’.  In line with the Chapter’s aim to collaborate with like-minded organisations, the Chapter has worked with the Schumacher Institute to deliver workshops of post-growth economics, the SDGs and the related need to develop systems thinking to enhance learning. We are also planning to launch a series of webinars in 2020.

What about in terms of research?

In order to incentivise and support research to deliver impact related to the six Principles of PRME and the SDGs, the Chapter allocated funds to a new research competition in 2018-19, developed by colleagues at Kemmy and Winchester business schools. The competition is open to all faculty in PRME signatory schools of the UK & Ireland PRME Regional Chapter, and welcomes research proposals with organisational, policy, practice, or pedagogical orientations. In its pilot year, The Chapter received 16 valid entries. Five awards were made, two to early-career researchers.

The Chapter also supports efforts of members to secure greater ‘airtime’ for RME research by editing Special Editions. Following the success of co-editing a special edition of the International Journal of Management Education (IJME) in 2017 on the first ten years of PRME, the UKI Chapter’s Carole Parkes is co-editing a new PRME Special Issue of the IJME, to be published in 2019-20. The Chapter is also planning to launch an annual Research Paper Development Workshop with talks from senior scholars and journal editors about publishing challenges and how to overcome these.

What opportunities do you offer students to engage in the Chapter?

In 2017 we launched the UKI PRME Writing Competition as a way to recognise and reward student engagement with the PRME agenda. It is organised on behalf of the Chapter by Oxford Brookes Business School and is open to undergraduate and postgraduate students. Now in its fourth year, the PRME Writing Competition is designed to highlight and celebrate the range and quality of student writing related to responsible business, management and the sustainable development goals. A healthy number of submissions from students in Chapter member institutions provides vivid evidence of growing engagement with sustainability, ethics and related subjects across the business school sector. We also launched a new ‘alternative media’ category in 2019.

As a Chapter we are also supporting colleagues at Southampton Business School, who run a student competition called “Green Stories’ which looks to collect human stories as a way of engaging people with the different pillars of sustainability.

How does the Chapter engage with the local business community?

We have developed a strong relationship with our local Global Compact Network. For example, in both 2017 and 2018, UKI Chapter member schools worked in partnership with the Global Compact UK Network to deliver a series of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Workshops in the form of a ‘SDG Roadshow’. The aim of the Roadshow was to raise awareness of the SDGs and motivate business, academic, government, and third sector communities around the UK to contribute to achieving them. Following success of 11 events hosted by Chapter members in May-June 2017, the Global Compact UK Network extended the Roadshow in 2018 with a further eleven events, two of which were co-hosted by Chapter member schools in Winchester and Derby. Roadshow events are running throughout the UK in 2019.

What advice do you have for other Chapters?

I think it is important that Chapters in different parts of the world tailor their approach to the local context as these will inevitably vary. However, based on our experience, key success factors include:

  • Having a small number of academics from PRME signatory schools that have the personal commitment, support from their business school, and time to build and drive the Chapter forward.
  • Putting in place a funding model for Chapter membership to provide funds to support networking, faculty development and student engagement initiatives.
  • Establishing a governance structure that is accountable to members and responsive to its needs.

What’s next for the Chapter?

We are currently developing a strategy and budget for the next three years in order to have more strategic and longer-term planning of activities. Our next annual conference will take place in July 2020 at Lincoln International Business School and will be focused on the Partnerships for the Goals. Join us!

For more visit www.unprme.org.uk


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