The Responsible Management Education Research Conference and Why it is so Important

Research may be the focus of PRME Principle 4, but it is also key part of all of the Principles. Back in 2014, the PRME community created a new platform, the Responsible Management Education Research Conference, to engage the Responsible Management Education (RME) research community, practitioners and other stakeholders, and create a dialogue surrounding the principles of RME and forwarding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Now in its 7thyear, and having been hosted by universities around the globe, this year it is back where it started, in Switzerland. I spoke with Christian Hauser from the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons (formerly HTW Chur) in Switzerland about the upcoming conference and why these events are so important for the RME research community.

What is the Responsible Management Education Research Conference and how/why did it come about?

The Responsible Management Education Research (RMER) Conference was founded as a result of collaborative efforts between the PRME Anti-Poverty Working Group and the PRME regional DACH Chapter. The two networks had spotted a gap whereby there were previously no platforms where the RME research community could meet and discuss its results. Acknowledging the importance of providing scholars with a platform to exchange ideas, the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons (FHGR) sponsored and hosted the first RMER Conference in 2014. After seven years, and having witnessed the RME research community expand in the meantime, the conference has come full cycle and will once again be hosted in October 2020 by the FHGR in Chur, Switzerland. The RMER Conference creates an environment that is welcoming and friendly, yet succeeds in challenging the existing knowledge base and assumptions, and hence drives the debate around RME and the SDGs forward.

How is the event organised?

Since it was founded in 2014, the conference has been held in six different countries worldwide, and hosted by different PRME member schools. This not only helps to involve many members of the RME research community, but also helps to shed light on different global perspectives in relation to topics important to the PRME. We call to members of the RME research community for track proposals and are constantly overwhelmed by the positive response. The colleagues whose track proposals were accepted have a hands-on role in engaging the wider community and encouraging contributions to be submitted to the conference. Moreover, in the programme of the conference itself, we arrange not only academic paper presentations, but also more collaborative sessions and opportunities for dialogue. PRME regional chapter and PRME working group meetings are integrated into the conference, which allows scholars to meet face-to-face, and the progress made by the regional chapters and working groups to be shared amongst the community.

What have been some of the trends in RME research you have seen from conference to conference?

One of the take-aways from the sixth conference that took place in Jönköping, Sweden, was that an ecosystem of RME initiatives, which are resilient, inclusive and collaborative is needed. The PRME principles and the SDGs as well as how RME relates to the SDGs are central themes in the RMER Conferences.  Nevertheless, each conference has a specific theme, which can be used to guide the discussions. We chose to focus this year on the link between digital transformation, responsible management education and the SDGs. Digital technologies and artificial intelligence are becoming ingrained into society, leading to a paradigmatic shift in the ways that enterprises do business and how universities and business schools prepare their students for the business world. Accordingly, there is a growing need to explore how digital transformation can help foster responsible leadership and promote the achievement of the SDGs. At the same time, questions remain as to the challenges that these disruptive technologies pose to responsible management and sustainable development as well as how research can contribute to this discussion. In the current climate, we are witnessing that digitalisation has become even more imperative for organisations and educational institutions to operate in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. The role of digital tools are thus fitting for this conference.

What are some of the challenges researchers in RME have been facing?

One of the key challenges scholars faced was the absence of appropriate outlets, which welcomed research on RME and RM in general. It was therefore necessary to establish a field. Today, the RMER Conference provides a platform where researchers and practitioners can meet annually, have momentum and be recognised. The RME research community has come a long way since seven years ago and has been successful in facilitating academic dialogue on the topics of Responsible Management Education and Learning as well as Responsible Management, amongst others.

2020 has seen the emergence of an extraordinary number of landmark publications for the Responsible Management Education and Learning field. What all of these publications have in common is a move into new territories that extends the field’s boundaries. This research challenges the previous conceptions of RME research, and rather approaches, for instance, the topic of how RME can be fostered beyond the PRME and can be mainstreamed in a broader economic field. Other contemporary works focus on how we can move beyond explicit RME in the academic sector and move towards enhancing Responsible Management Learning in the workplace.

Are there any gaps of where more research is needed?

While the Responsible Management Education and Learning literature base has been growing impressively in recent years, research and publications on Responsible Management as an insular field are still few. This observation lends itself to an interesting, albeit paradoxical question: How can we claim to educate responsible managers, if we know so little about the very responsible management we intend to teach? In this vein, greater research studies on Responsible Management without an educational angle are required to close this gap and advance understanding.

Today, the COVID-19 outbreak is a current challenge, which also has implications for research and RME. Nevertheless, this has allowed for the transition towards stronger digitalisation and creates an opportunity to become more sustainable. Whilst the current situation raised new challenges for the academic community, opportunities have also be created to see how these technological developments will affect RME.

Next steps?

The submissions window for contributions to the conference will open on the 1st May and will close on 31st May 2020. Successful contributors will be notified on 10th July 2020. Individuals can register at the early-bird rate until 31st August 2020, and registration at the standard rate will close on the 9th October 2020. The conference will take place between 18thto 21st October 2020. Should it not be possible to hold the conference in Chur, the organizing committee will check for virtual solutions. Furthermore, the organizing committee will offer a full refund of the conference fee for anyone who must cancel his or her registration due to COVID-19-related travel bans. For more information visit this site.

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