Making an Impact Through Experiential Learning – Experiences from the Institute of Management Technology (Part 2)

img-20170111-wa0007What kinds of partnerships have you developed to make this course possible?

For execution of the social projects we have developed partnerships with several local-level government agencies, and a number of renowned national-level NGOs, such as Agewell Foundation, AROH Foundation, Asha Deep Foundation, Empowering Minds, Lakshyam, Project KHEL, Social and Development Research and Action Group (SADRAG), Smile Foundation, Sshrishti India Trust, Teach For India, and Udayan Care.

Our model brings business, government and the civil society all together. In various cases our students are working as part of programmes run by our NGO partners wherein an NGO is working as an ‘implementation agency’ for the CSR initiatives of some big Indian or multi-national companies. As you may be aware that India is the first country to introduce a ‘mandatory’ CSR provision in the Companies Act 2013, according to which big corporates are ‘obliged’ to spend certain portions of their net profit on CSR.

Our students have been involved in contributing towards certain flagship initiatives of the Government of India including (i) Swachh Bharat Mission (for anti-open-defecation campaign); and (ii) Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana which has the dual objectives of adding diversity to the incomes of rural poor families and cater to the career aspirations of rural youth. In collaboration with the local-level government agencies our students are working with government schools as well as Missing Children’s Homes situated in Ghaziabad.

What have been some of the challenges?

There have been many challenges, given that we are doing it for the first time. We are learning as we are developing the programme. First the programme involves a large batch of students, around 450, working on the ground and the programme had to be implemnented within a couple of months! But we have been able to convert that challenge into an opportunity, because it allowed us to work at scale and on diverse areas, with potential for greater impact. I have had intellectual and moral support in the development and delivery of the course from Dr Anurag Danda my colleague in the Initiative,. Our director and dean-academics, Dr Ravikesh Srivastava have extended whole-hearted support to the programme. Above all, we could not traverse the hurdles without constant support from my students, particularly Ayush Gupta and Udit Mathur who have been relentlessly working with me to make it happen!

Another challenge is physical safety and security of students, particularly girls. It has been a major cause of concern and demanded a no-compromise approach as and when students shared their concerns and worries.


It is gratifying to share that we have been able to conceive this unique model and bring it to fruition for the entire batch within a very short span of time. It is also delighting to see the impact that we can have and the extent of interest there is among the stakeholders to work with our students. In September 2016, I met with the local municipal commissioner of Ghaziabad to collect a list of slum areas in Ghaziabad where or students could work. When he got to know about our initiative, he proposed that our students could work with the Municipality to perform street plays (‘nukkad natak’ in Hindi) to generate awareness on harmful effects of open defecation on the opening day of the Swachh Bharat Week that was scheduled just two days from then. We brought together a group of 16 students who managed to stage it in slum areas of Ghaziabad with just few hours of preparation. People in the slum areas shared their concerns and plight to such an extent that these students came back motivated to do their bit for these under-privileged. One of our students created a video of that day (click here to view the link).

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

We are being contacted by other leading intiatituions in India who are interested in our programme and the lessons that they can learn from it, especially in terms of pedagogy which is very gratifying! Some advice I give them is;

  • Have someone lead the initiative who believes in it and is passionate about it. Otherwise it’s very difficult to make it happen!
  • Be clear about your objectives and deliverables.
  • If you decide to work with partners then choose your partners and corresponding projects in such a way that these are in alignment with your objectives.
  • Have your well-thought-out implementation plan in place well in advance. That said, when you are going out of the secured corner of your classroom and trying to work at the grass-roots, things may not go the way you plan as you will not have control over most of the external factors. So, be prepared to deal with unforeseen challenges and unexpected contingencies which may crop up out of the blue moon.

What’s next for the initiative?

The initiative is mid-way. Our first goal is to bring it to its conclusion to the best of our ability. We are also collecting in-depth feedback from students and all our stakeholders. The endeavour will be to take it to its next level in the next academic year by learning from the rich experiences we are already gathering in its maiden year. We are also in the process of including it in other programmes. For instance, we have just now introduced SSR in the curriculum of our Executive Programme. However, rather than replicating the model of the Two-Year Programme, we are trying to come-up with a tailor-made model to suit the architecture, timeline, deliverables and participants of that programme, as one size may not fit all!


Creative Sustainability – Aalto University School of Business

It is widely thought that a multidisciplinary approach is needed in order to teach sustainability effectively. Aalto University School of Business has used this idea to create an innovative master’s degree that brings together three different schools, and the students, faculty and courses from the three different disciplines, to enable students to think about, explore and develop innovative solutions to business, environmental and societal problems. I had the chance recently to speak with Minna Halme and Armi Temmes about this unique programme.

What is the Creative Sustainability Master’s Programme?

Our Master’s Degree Programme in Creative Sustainability is a joint programme with the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, the School of Business and the School of Engineering. It is a multidisciplinary learning platform in the fields of architecture, business, design, landscape planning, real estate and urban planning. The programme is also offered as a minor for master-level students at Aalto University.

The programme is unique because it brings together students from different fields to study in multidisciplinary teams to create new sustainable solutions for human, urban, industry and business environments. The pedagogical approach is based on integrating teaching and research, problem-based learning, blended learning and a strong connection to practical outcomes.

The programme began in 2007 before Aalto University was even in operation. At the time, key individuals from the different departments came together to create this programme as a minor study programme. When Aalto University was formed in 2010, the programme became a master’s level programme.

What are the key features of the programme and how does it work?

Students have access to a wide range of elective courses from across the different schools involved in the programme. We have several critical academic reading seminars but also courses like “How to Change the World: Innovation toward Sustainability,” where sustainability challenges are taken as starting points for innovation of new forms of individual action, economic activity, business models, and organisational forms. There are also project courses that offer the opportunity to work with real-life sustainability questions of companies, NGOs or public organisations.

Why have a Master’s in Creative Sustainability? Why make it interdisciplinary with science, art, technology and business?

The interdisciplinary Master’s Programme follows directly the aims of Aalto University itself – to combine technology, business and design. We believe this is knowledge any business needs to have.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

Cooperation is an investment; it takes time and patience to develop a common Masters’ Programme with other schools. The programme takes place across different schools that all have their own study structures. In order to make this work a lot of time was needed to circumvent the existing bureaucracy and lobby for special rules for interdisciplinary studies. The rewards, however, are great.

Why Rio+20 was still a success – the contribution of the private sector and academic institutions in support of sustainable development and the Rio+20 process by Jonas Haertle

On my first day after returning from the Rio+20 conference – officially, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development which took place 20 years after the 1992 Rio Earth Summit – I spoke to a group of MBA students at Fordham University in New York. Admittedly, the instructor had asked the class to read about the Rio+20 outcomes prior to the session, but I sensed there was a genuine interest to hear what I thought about the outcomes of the weeklong series of events in Rio de Janeiro.

Quite obviously, the main headlines and media stories about Rio+20 focused on the outcomes of the negotiations by governments. In the opinion of many stakeholders, foremost NGOs and the media, but this was also voiced by some government representatives, the official outcomes document The Future We Want fell short of the expectations in light of the environmental and social challenges we face. Many stakeholders had expected or hoped for more concrete and ambitious decisions by governments. And although the outcomes document includes some important decisions (for example, to launch the process to create Sustainable Development Goals which are supposed to come into effect in 2015 when the Millennium Development Goals expire; the decision to take action on ocean acidification, fishing subsidies and overfishing to reverse the decline of oceans; and the decision to strengthen the UN Environmental Programme), many observers criticized that the 193 United Nations member states had missed an important opportunity to agree on a more ambitious plan of actions.

However, apart from the government negotiations there were a lot of other stakeholder groups who met at Rio+20 and who, in fact, committed to far-reaching actions in support of Rio+20’s objectives. Here are some of the outcomes which you might not have read or heard about:

Prior to the arrival of heads of states and governments for the official part of Rio+20, close to 50.000 people representing NGOs, farmers, youth, scientists, business, academia and other sectors convened for numerous action-oriented meetings.

For example, the UN Global Compact, in cooperation with the Rio+20 Secretariat, the UN System and the Global Compact Local Network Brazil, convened over 2,500 participants for the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum. In over 100 sessions participants discussed how business representing all sectors and based in all parts of the world can help to make sustainable development a reality through their own actions. While business was at the sidelines of the original Rio 1992 Earth Summit, the 2012 Rio meeting clearly showed that businesses are committed to sustainable development. More than 200 concrete commitments for sustainable development were made by companies. Obviously, it is necessary that governments, in light of these commitments, also take further steps to incentivize the right behavior, for example through embedding environmental and social considerations into legal frameworks. One government that did so was the UK’s which announced that it would require all publicly listed companies in the UK to report on their carbon footprint as of next year. This is a step into the right direction.

Another group of actors which was clearly more visible at this year’s Rio+20 conference was the academic sector.

Similar to the businesses, academic institutions were all but absent from the original Rio 1992 Earth Summit. At Rio+20, the 3rd Global Forum for Responsible Management Education of the PRME initiative was convened as the official meeting for management-related Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). While the PRME initiative provides an ongoing platform for dialog and action for the growing community of academic institutions and stakeholders committed to sustainable development, this year’s 3rd Global Forum clearly marked a new stage in PRME’s evolution. Five years after the initiative’s launch, participants at the 3rd Global Forum agreed on a concrete strategic outcomes plan to help develop the initiative further for the years to come. Apart from individual steps which each PRME signatory school committed to take, some of the main recommendations for PRME as an initiative are to form a leadership group to incentivize the most engaged PRME signatory schools to go further in their implementation of sustainability principles while keeping the initiative open to institutions at all levels of engagement; to delist those signatories that fail to regularly share information on progress made in implementing PRME in order to increase the accountability of the commitment to the Principles; and to launch PRME chapters to better engage management education communities on a local and regional level. One of the objectives of the Global Forum was to give voice to PRME signatory schools. The agreement by participants on the Rio Declaration on the Contribution of Higher Education Institutions and Management Schools to The Future We Want: A Roadmap for Management Education to 2020 showed that the Global Forum successfully provided this opportunity.

Further, based on the discussions of last year’s PRME Summit in Brussels, another objective of this year’s Global Forum was to highlight the role of external stakeholders on management education. In that regard, I was encouraged to see the frank discussion among representatives of accreditation bodies, namely AACSB, EFMD and AMBA, about the ways they are planning to embed sustainability criteria into accreditation. Also, the statement by Della Bradshaw who is responsible for the Financial Time’s business school ranking made clear that we have to encourage more schools to put greater emphasis on sustainability issues in curriculum and research so that the FT’s and other ranking systems gradually adapt to reflect responsible education and research in the ranking criteria for business schools.

Finally, the majority of participants I spoke to after the Global Forum said that they had gained some new insights as to how to further enable responsible management and leadership education as well as research in their institutions. Many told me about the new insights they had gained during coffee breaks and at the round table discussions with other participants. It is good to hear that the meeting method, which was based on a pragmatic inquiry, was so well received. Going forward, on behalf of the PRME Secretariat, we are committed to support and to work with many people in the PRME community to make the promising proposals at the Global Forum a reality.

While the 3rd Global Forum for Responsible Management Education was not the only forum at Rio+20 for academic institutions, the presence of the over 300 leaders and representatives of Higher Education Institutions and business schools contributed to the fact that the UN’s leadership clearly took notice of the role that educational institutions have in enabling sustainable development. One of the other driving forces for this was the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative. Together with UN organizations dedicated to educations for sustainable development (UNESCO, UNEP, and UNU) as well as the technical support by Euromed Marseille, the UN Global Compact and the PRME Secretariat had invited Higher education institutions to sign up to a declaration on higher education and sustainable development and to make concrete commitments in support of Rio+20. At the close of Rio+20 almost one third of all voluntary commitments at Rio+20 were received through this initiative, i.e. from academic institutions. I will probably never forget the moment, while already in Rio, when the office of the Rio+20 Executive Coordinators called me to ask if we could provide on a very short notice a speaker from one of the academic institutions which had signed the declaration for the official Rio+20 closing press conference. It was fitting that Antonio Freitas of FGV Rio, one of the leading business schools in Brazil, participated in this press conference on behalf of the initiative, as he, in his previous role as a member of Brazil’s National Commission for Higher Education (CNE), had successfully advised the Government of Brazil to pass a law that will require the entry level exams for all university students in Brazil to include questions on sustainability. The law had been passed a few days prior to Rio+20 and had been announced in presence of Brazil’s Secretary of Education at the PRME Global Forum. Also, and as another direct outcome of the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative, UNESCO agreed with the Global Compact Office and the PRME Secretariat to continue to collaborate on this initiative.

What did Governments agree on regarding the role of education?

The official outcomes document stresses the important role of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) to enable the necessary transition to sustainable development. Further, Governments agreed to advocate ESD beyond 2014 which is when the Decade for Education for Sustainable Development will officially expire. My hope is that ESD will be an important building block of the Sustainable Development Goals which governments agreed to develop by 2015. For academic institutions engaged in PRME this would mean that their actions are directly aligned with the UN’s goals on Education for Sustainable Development.

To sum up, while I think that the criticism about the relatively low level of ambition in the outcomes document of governments at Rio+20 is justified, I also believe that one equally important aspect of Rio+20 were the discussions and agreements by the many non-governmental stakeholders. In a way, Rio+20 made clear that the world’s most pressing challenges can only be solved through better cooperation and collaboration between governments and non-governmental stakeholders and by giving a greater role to the later in upcoming UN conferences on global issues. Governments clearly have an important role to play, most importantly by agreeing on global governance frameworks. However, as Rio+20 made clear, currently there is little to no political will to agree on far-reaching decisions on a global level between governments.  Yet, if we take the many non-governmental stakeholders into account who participated in Rio+20 and who committed to clear actions for sustainable development in their own spheres of influence, I believe that Rio+20 actually had a positive effect.

Jonas Haertle is Head of the PRME Secretariat at the UN Global Compact Office.

P.S. At this stage I would also like to thank everybody who contributed much time and efforts to the 3rd Global Forum for Responsible Management Education. The list of individuals is too long for this post but I would like to let everybody, including the Discussion Leaders, the core group, the speakers, the many people who worked on preparing the valuable reports and deliverables which were launched at the Global Forum (, and of course all participants as well as the PRME Steering Committee know that your work and dedication is much appreciated! We look forward to continuing to work with you.



Welcome to PRiMEtime!

Business students represent an incredible untapped resource to bring about real change. We often hear accusations that management education is training future leaders to be the exact opposite of what we need to build a more sustainable society. This is not necessarily the case.

The challenge is that the majority of business students although increasingly aware of sustainability issues in general, are not aware of how sustainability will affect their future jobs and businesses. At the same time, while business schools are keen to bring sustainability and responsible leadership into the curriculum, they are not always sure how to do so.

So how do we mainstream sustainability into business education in a way that is meaningful and effective? How do we develop the next generation of globally responsible leaders?

The Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) was launched as an initiative of the United Nations Global Compact in 2007 and aims to inspire and champion responsible management education, research and though leadership globally. The set of Six Principles have been adopted by over 400 academic institutions globally. A few weeks ago I had the chance to meet up with the team at the PRME Secretariat in New York. We discussed the challenges that educational institutions face when putting the Principles into practice. We discussed how there are, on one hand, many universities around the world testing out some really interesting and innovative ideas that others could learn from and, on the other hand, many others that are interested in these issues but are not sure where to start. We wanted to create an interactive space to gather, share, and discuss these issues, and PRiMEtime was born.

PRiMEtime brings together and shares best practices on how to mainstream sustainability and responsible leadership into management education globally. The blog will serve as a platform to share and discuss inspirational activities that promote the development of responsible leaders. The blog will feature examples from around the world and will include both success stories and lessons learned. Posts will cover a wide variety of activities, ranging from efforts to embed sustainability and responsible leadership into curricula, student led initiatives, and the outcomes of partnerships with business, NGOs and other schools.

PRiMEtime will also highlight the hidden “i” in PRME, by:

  • Representing our INTERNATIONAL network through a growing collection of examples from across the globe,
  • Exploring INNOVATIVE ideas that are being tested in management education,
  • Taking an INTERDISCIPLINARY approach by both looking across the business school environment and learning from other industries and disciplines,
  • Featuring INDIVIDUAL change makers who have transformed their institutions from within
  • Focusing on IMPLEMENTATION through practical examples, from lessons learned through “failure” to inspirational examples, and
  • INSPIRING business schools to get more involved in mainstreaming responsible management education.

There are several ways to get involved:

  • Follow the blog by subscribing to the RSS feed or have it sent directly to your email box by subscribing,
  • Take part in the discussions by contributing to the comments section at the end of each blog entry,
  • Suggest examples from your institution by emailing us,
  • Share your thoughts on what kinds of examples you would like to see moving forward.

We hope you enjoy the blog and look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,
Giselle Weybrecht

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