The Benefits, and Challenges, of Teaching Mentorship – Cass Business School

Cass Business School in London has made a major investment in mentoring projects for staff and students. Mentoring and coaching is a key part of the school’s flagship programme as a UN PRME Champion institution sitting alongside their research work on responsible business (led by ETHOS), their ongoing commitment to teaching business in an ethical context and other projects including dissertation placements and work with Social Enterprise. The programme also links to their Widening Participation activity that sees students volunteering in the community as well as the award winning staff and student mentoring scheme. I spoke with Rob Compton and Paul Palmer about the importance of teaching mentorship as well as the challenges.

Why do you feel that mentorship is important for students?

People skills are essential for any manager and prospective leader in business, yet they can present a challenge for Business Schools and left for employers to develop in the workplace on a largely ad hoc basis.

We believe that Business Schools should develop knowledge and skills in this area to complement more technical or operational aspects of business studies and economics. Mentoring and coaching brings together many of these skills and can be presented in a format that undergraduate students can digest and relate to in a business context.

Also, these “life skills” can be presented in the context of other aspects of students’ lives and open up the opportunity to be practiced outside of their peer group and the University setting.

What is the mentoring project and how it came about?

The mentoring project started in 2015 and aims to develop our curriculum, enhance our teaching methodology and demonstrate a firm commitment to responsible management education.

The idea of using community engagement to develop skills and enhance the way undergraduate students learn as an accredited element in their study programme was a logical extension to Cass’s work over many years within its Centre for Charity Effectiveness and our placement projects with charities and social enterprise. The idea is to deliver social purpose through our core activity of introducing students to the very best critical insight from the world of business and civil society.

How do you teach coaching and mentoring in the classroom? 

Teaching mentoring and coaching is a challenge as it involves development of practical skills and is more naturally suited to an interactive workshop approach with relatively small groups of students. We do primarily use this approach with a high number of practice exercises and role-playing alongside a critical examination of the theoretical frameworks.

This innovative pedagogical approach is a new challenge for many second year undergraduates who have not previously experienced workshop learning. The module also requires a new (for Business Schools) assessment method that combines literature review, reflective essay and observation.

The main distinct feature is how the practical element operates with students either developing mentoring and coaching skills by working with pupils from London schools in deprived communities or supporting first year university students.

We currently work with four schools and have two options for supporting first year students. School activities vary, but focus mainly on helping 16/17 year old students plan for the next phase of their academic, vocational studies or work options. First year mentees from the Business School are either coached through a specific study module or more widely supported as they settle into the study programme and integrate into university life.

How do you measure the impact of your work?

We are committed to demonstrating the impact of the programme over time on our beneficiaries (in schools and university), our student mentor/ coaches and on the institution as a whole. This involves presenting evidence of the benefits over time (impact) rather than immediate outcomes through a longitudinal study over a minimum of 5 years following the Theory of Change model. A research-led evaluation function is integral to the design of the project.

The project is co-funded by the Sir John Cass Foundation, a three hundred year old Education Charity who require an evaluation report at the end of their initial funding commitment. To ensure longer term funding sustainability both from Foundations and the University there needs to solid academic evidence of the financial and social impact of the programme following Social Return on Investment (SROI) principles.

The range of stakeholders and timescales involved presents a challenge for empirical based metrics and we have had to utilise a number of impact evaluation methodologies to enable us to provide a practical evidence base to demonstrate the true value of the programme and its replicability.

What have been some of the challenges?

There have been many challenges in getting the project up and running including the time constraints of both the university and school timetables.

Specific points include:-

  • School partners are very busy and time poor with limited (and decreasing) resources for new projects.
  • Identifying the right key contacts within schools to influence and communicate the benefits to colleagues and pupils.
  • Developing the right assessment process to test the development of skills and meet rigorous academic standards including assessment by observation rather than examination.
  • Delivering a project outside of the core processes for the university that often doesn’t fit with established systems (e.g. may need to rely more on visiting lecturers with experience as mentors and coaches). We are not part of the Widening Participation programme and are different from other core teaching activity.
  • Additional cost involved in small group teaching and the development and delivery of sustainable external partnerships.
  • Time delay in seeing the true benefits of the programme. From project development to the first mentors in the workplace is c.4-5 years. For the first mentees in the workplace, this may be 6-7 years.
  • Developing appropriate impact evaluation methodologies

Successes? Have students reported benefits from this training in the post graduation careers?

We are starting to see evidence of the benefits to students, initially through feedback from their work placements and internships. The first cohort of students are now entering full time work although it may be some time before they are fully able to report the impact of their mentoring and coaching learning. We are committed to tracking this and will be reporting on examples of how students take this learning forward in the workplace.

More immediately, benefits to mentees in schools can be tracked in their academic progress as well as other actions they take to support their longer-term career development. For example, more informed decision-making as they progress into higher education and secure work experience.

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

It is best to order this under the three headings of internal and external stakeholder as well as curriculum or teaching:-

Internally, it was important to engage the leadership of the Business School by presenting the ethical (responsible management education) as well as the pedagogical case for the project. This appears a very “nice” win-win situation, but it is important to remember that this is new and requires additional investment.

This kind of project has to involve external partners. Charities and schools in particular will be understandably reticent about working with a Business School or indeed a private sector partner offering “in kind” rather than financial support. They need to understand how they will benefit and have a say in how the mentoring will work to benefit their school or charity.

In terms of teaching, the learning needs to clearly link into the curriculum at the right stage in the undergraduate pathway. We have found that this requires teaching as an elective module spread across the Autumn and Spring Term in the second year of the Management and Business Studies BSc study programme.

What’s next for the initiative?

Our focus now is on scaling up the programme to increase the numbers of students and beneficiaries of the programme by making it an option for all Cass undergraduates. This will mean setting up many more mentoring partnerships across more schools.

At the same time, we will start to report the impact of the project to demonstrate the long-term benefits and provide toolkit guidance and support for other universities looking to replicate the programme.

 

An Overview of MOOCs offered by United Nations Agencies (Part 3 of 3)

Every year there is an increase in the number of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available on sustainability topics. These courses are available for free online and open to anyone with an interest in the topic, lasting between three and fourteen weeks and taking three to eight hours per week to complete. But Universities are not the only organisations offering these MOOCs. A growing number of UN agencies are developing MOOCs as a way of not only raising awareness about the issues that they focus on, but also training individuals around the world who are working on these sustainability issues and the SDG on the ground. Most of the courses are self-paced and available in multiple language. (Click here to read Part 1 which focused on UNWomen, World Bank and IMF or  Part 2 which focused on UNITAR, FAO, UNFMEA and UN.)

 

Most of the UN initiatives do not have their own online learning platforms and instead offer courses on various platforms and often in partnership with different organisations. This makes them a bit trickier to find so it is worth signing up for the newsletters of the initiatives you are most interested to get more up to date information.

For example, current courses offered by UNESCO include:

  • Inequalities in Latin America and the Caribbean: This course, which is also available in Spanish, addresses the current regional landscape of inequalities, warns of its dramatic consequences, and offers transformative strategies that can be designed to improve social policies and public management.
  • Climate Justice Lessons from the Global South: This course will deal with some of the key issues related to the ethical dimensions implied by climate change – learning especially from the problems faced as well as the resilience models formulated by the marginalized sectors of society or the so-called “Global South”.

 

United Nations University currently has a course in partnership with The Nature Conservancy that aims to build awareness of the importance of Mangroves to healthy ecosystems and human communities. This multi part course is designed to build expertise in mangrove biology, ecology, assessment, management, and restoration and is predominantly aimed at young academics, professionals, managers, and any other interested individuals, especially from developing countries

 

Specific UN initiatives also offer a range of e courses to help partners in the implementation of their frameworks. For example the UN-REDD Programme (UN Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) provides a range of 12 courses in English, French and Spanish that cover the topic of forests, carbon sequestration and climate change.

 

The UN Environment Programme’s Environment Academy usually offers online courses. At the moment they are offering:

  • From Source to Sea to Sustainability:This course will offer a holistic conceptual and practical approach to the issue of land based sources of pollution and their impacts, covering the scientific basics of nutrient cycling and pollution impacts, methodologies and assessment tools, financial mechanisms to protect our waters, policy and governance issues, as well as technologies for turning waste into resources.

 

Last but not least, the UN Global Compact offers some courses in collaboration with other partners including:

  • Ethical Cities: A course developed in collaboration with RMIT University and Future Learn, it introduces the notion of the ethical city and examines it from the perspective of ethical leadership, urban development and planning, ethical local business and engaged, ethical citizenry.
  • Human Rights and Business: This learning tool provides an introduction and overview to human rights for a business audience, developed in collaboration with UN Human Rights.

An Overview of MOOCs offered by United Nations Agencies (Part 2 of 3)

Every year there is an increase in the number of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available on sustainability topics. These courses are available for free online and open to anyone with an interest in the topic, lasting between three and fourteen weeks and taking three to eight hours per week to complete. But Universities are not the only organisations offering these MOOCs. A growing number of UN agencies are developing MOOCs as a way of not only raising awareness about the issues that they focus on, but also training individuals around the world who are working on these sustainability issues and the SDG on the ground. Most of the courses are self-paced and available in multiple language. (Click here for Part 1 on UNWomen, World Bank and IMF – Part 3 will be posted next week).

UN CC: e-Learn offers free online climate change courses. Each course is developed in collaboration with different UN agencies depending on the specific topic. Courses are available in eight languages and are all self-paced and take approximately an hour to complete. Courses include:

  • Human Health and Climate Change: This course, in partnership with the World Health Organisation, provides an introduction to the health challenges, as well as the opportunities, that can by associated to climate change.
  • Cities and Climate Change: This course, developed in collaboration with UN-Habitat, focuses on climate change in urban areas, covering how cities are affected by climate change, how they contribute to it, as well as how they plan for it.It contains one module which takes around 2 hours to complete.
  • Introductory e-Course on Climate Change: This course, developed in collaboration with UNITAR, provides “everything you need to know” about the basics of climate change, from climate change science to governance.
  • Children and Climate Change: This course, developed in collaboration with UNICEF, presents how children and youth can be impacted by climate change, how their resilience to climate change can be strengthened, and how they can act on climate change.

 

AGORA is UNICEF’s global hub for learning and development. Courses are available in six language including Chinese, French, Arabic and Portuguese. You need to sign up in order to view the courses but there are dozens covering the whole range of focus areas that UNICEF covers including

  • Child Rights and Why They Matter: This short course will transform and/or refresh your understanding of child rights and a child rights approach, introduce you to UNICEF’s mandate as it relates to child rights, and inspire you to apply a child rights lens to your everyday work and life.
  • Performance Assessment at UNICEF: How should we assess individual performance? And when should we assess individual performance? In order to increase our impact as a results-based organization, we need to apply a consistent approach to individual performance assessment. This course aims to help you understand how and when to effectively assess individual performance at UNICEF.
  • Introduction to Ethics in Evidence Generation: In this course, you will explore the importance of Ethical Evidence Generation at UNICEF, the principles and requirements of the UNICEF Procedure for Ethical Standards in Research, Evaluations and Data Collection and Analysis and how this applies to the work that is undertaken across the organization.

UNICEF also provides MOOCs in collaboration with Universities and available on commonly used MOOC platforms. For example Social Norms, Social Change is a 2 part courses developed in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania that looks at social norms, the rules that glue societies together. It teaches how to diagnose social norms, and how to distinguish them from other social constructs, like customs or conventions. These distinctions are crucial for effective policy interventions aimed to create new, beneficial norms or eliminate harmful ones. The course teaches how to measure social norms and the expectations that support them, and how to decide whether they cause specific behaviours.

 

InforMEA.leaning is part of the United Nations information portal on multilateral environmental agreements. It has a range of courses on agreements relating to biological diversity, chemicals and waste, climate, international law, and oceans and freshwater. Courses include:

 

UNITAR offers a range of free courses including

  • Conflict Analysis: This one-day course looks at conflict including what it is, sources of conflict, complexities of conflict, evolution and the different actors involved.
  • Human Rights and the Environment: This 3 hour self-paced course provides a general introduction to the relationship between human rights and the environment including procedural and substantive obligations relating to the environment.
  • Mainstreaming the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: This course provides an in-depth and wide ranging guidance on how to mainstream the 2030 Agenda into national strategies and policies with case studies.

 

The FAO E-learning Centre has a range of courses including a demo class if you want to test out their format. The catalogue is extensive and includes courses on the SDGs that the FAO is focused on (in particular SDG 2 Zero Hunger) including:

An Overview of MOOCs offered by United Nations Agencies (part 1 of 3)

Every year there is an increase in the number of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available on sustainability topics. These courses are available for free online and open to anyone with an interest in the topic, lasting between three and fourteen weeks and taking three to eight hours per week to complete. But Universities are not the only organisations offering these MOOCs. A growing number of UN agencies are developing MOOCs as a way of not only raising awareness about the issues that they focus on, but also training individuals around the world who are working on these sustainability issues and the SDG on the ground. Most of the courses are self-paced and available in multiple languages. (Part 2 will be posted next week)

 

The UN Women Training Centre offers a range of courses in English, Spanish, French and Arabic, all free of charge. Courses are either self-paced, have fixed set dates and many of them can be customized for specific audiences. Many of the courses focus in on Sustainable Development Goal
5 on Gender Equality as well as Gender issues which are an important part across all of the SDGs. The self-paced courses take approximately 50 minutes to complete and current courses include:

  • Women’s Leadership and Decision Making: This course provides an introduction to the concepts, international framework, and methods for working toward gender equality and women’s empowerment. It also offers users the opportunity to make links between gender and specific thematic areas such as work; education; political participation; emergencies; peace and security; sexual and reproductive health; sexual and gender diversity and human rights; and violence against women.
  • Gender Equality in the World of Work: This course provides an introduction to the concepts, international framework, and methods for working toward gender equality and women’s empowerment. It also offers users the opportunity to make links between gender and specific thematic areas such as work; education; political participation; emergencies; peace and security; sexual and reproductive health; sexual and gender diversity and human rights; and violence against women.

 

The World Bank Open Learning Campus aims to provide learning that will build the leadership and technical capabilities of all development stakeholders-partners, practioners, policy makers, staff and the public. It offers a range of courses, also in several languages. You can choose from courses that are facilitated online or self paced. Courses include:

  • Introduction to the Global Environment Facility: This e-course provides an overview of the GEF, a unique international organization that is dedicated to safeguarding the global environment.
  • Introduction to the World Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework for External Audiences: This self paced courses provides an overview of the Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework which sets out the mandatory requirements for the World Bank and for Borrowers to address environmental and social risks and impacts in investment projects.
  • Fundamentals of Disaster Risk Finance: This course looks at how governments have to make difficult trade-offs in the aftermath of a disaster. Gain key insights into a range of innovative Disaster Risk Finance (DRF) projects across the globe.
  • Basics of Health Economics: Health economics play an important role in making health systems more effective, efficient, and equitable. This e-Learning course provides the foundations for participants to better understand health economics and its potential contribution to decision making in the health sector.
  • Greenhouse Gas Accounting 101: Accounting for GHG emissions allows the World Bank and its clients to estimate the impact of projects on GHG emissions early in the project cycle. This knowledge can help task teams and client countries mainstream climate change mitigation action in the project design, and thus is a key step in managing and reducing GHG emissions in a cost-effective manner.

 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) provides its courses on IMFx again free of charge and available in several languages. Its courses focus on financial stability, international trade and sustainable economic growth. Current offerings include:

  • Debt Sustainability Analysis: This course explores what tools can be used to assess debt sustainability and how countries can effectively manage their sovereign debt with a range of hands on exercises and theories.
  • Financial Programming and Policies: Available in English, French, Spanish and Russian, this course looks at the macroeconomic accounts, their interrelationship, and the analysis of economic development.

Empowering Female Entrepreneurs in Ukraine – Lviv Business School


Lviv Business School
of Ukrainian Catholic University, Ukraine, launched a programme aimed at providing skills to female entrepreneurs. Their aim is to  develop new, or further develop existing female-led businesses across the country. I spoke with Svitlana Kyrylchuk who works at the Business School about this programme and the impact it has already had in the country. 

 

Why did you decide to start a Women’s Leadership Programme?

Ukrainian women own 22-23% of small and medium-sized enterprises and only 2% of big ones. As involving of women is fundamental for democratic government, it is important that these numbers increase. This means empowering more women to be able to start and grow their businesses. We believe that we can have a significant impact in increasing these numbers through educational programmes and public discussions on the topic of women’s leadership here in the Ukraine.

What is the Women’s Leadership Programme?

Lviv Business School of UCU (LvBS) and the Center for Leadership of UCU have developed an educational programme called «Women’s Leadership and Change Management». The programme is aimed at women-leaders from business, public and non-profitable sectors. This variety of students creates a special dynamics and synergy within one group and also establishes partnerships between different sectors.

The programme is based on the concept «Leadership based on character» that was developed by several researchers in Canada from Ivey Business School. According to this concept, leadership involves a character that is made up of 11 virtues and competencies. This can be divided into four categories: organizational, human, strategic, and business competencies, as well as commitment. The participants use this model to analyze their actions and behavior in order to develop their values and virtues.

The programme is practice-oriented and we focus on using case studies to teach the students. We believe that only through studying real examples can participations start to understand the role of a leader’s values to the utmost. The programme also includes several case studies from Ukrainian leadership research that has been undertaken by the Center for Leadership here which help students to understand the peculiarities of Ukrainian leadership and compare it to the leadership in other countries. For instance, according to this research, Ukrainian leaders mostly underestimate virtues such as accountability and humility, so in this programme much attention is focused on their study and analysis.

What do you hope to achieve through the programme? What have you achieved so far?

Throughout the programme we cover a range of topics including but not limited to character development, personal branding, networking and negotiating. The focus is on building the different competencies that are essential for a true leader. Since 2016 we have held 6 Women Leadership programmes that have involved 200 participants from across the country. In November last year the programme won the award of top 3 new management programmes at a Management executive and Professional Development conference in the US which we are very proud of.

What have been some of the challenges?

We didn’t have any difficulties with the program. The challenges are more focused on the difficulties for business women in Ukraine in general and what impact we can have on changing that. For example, recent research from the Center for Leadership of UCU looked at the differences of emotional intellect between men and women entrepreneurs. Preliminary results show that the differences in emotional intellect between men and women are minor. In particular, this is true when it comes to traits such as vocation, self-effectiveness and persistency. Despite this, Ukrainian women are seen as being less able to start and succeed in business than men. This is something we are hoping to change.

What have been some of the successes?

Among the program’s graduates there are successful women-entrepreneurs, administrators and leaders of social projects and non-governmental organizations. Some of our alumni include the founder of a social enterprise that recycles flowers from ceremonial events and uses the proceeds to finance charity projects called «Flowery Happiness». Another is the Chief Operating Officer of «Teple Misto», an innovative platform for creating opportunities and social transformations in Ivano-Frankivsk city. Other alumni have prominent roles at Transparency International, in national government and at the National Bank of Ukraine. One of the brightest, most active and determined participants of the program is Maryana Petrash, who is one of the co-founders of the initiative «Woman for Woman». This is a social project founded in 2017 to support and revive «The Walnut House» (Center of Integral Care for Women in Crisis). The project aims to raise money to restore the building in Lviv where the center for women has to be located and drawing more attention to its activities.

What’s next for the initiative?

As the program is in big demand, especially in Ukrainian context, we continue holding it twice a year.

What about female leadership in Lviv? What kinds of initiatives does your business school have and what is the state of women leadership within the School?

Sophia Opatska, the Founding Dean of Lviv Business School of Ukrainian Catholic University, is now UCU’s Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs. In the ten years since its founding, Lviv Business School, under the leadership of Sophia, has developed from a small start-up company to a truly successful institution with European values which is educating a responsible business community within Ukraine. Starting with only one program, the Key Executive MBA, in 2008, we have now developed to 4 master programs (Key Executive MBA, MSc in Technology Management, MA in Human Resources and Organization Development and MSc in Innovations) and up to 20 open-enrollment programs of Executive Innovation run every year in different cities of Ukraine. Much has been achieved so far and even more is to be done, but this time led by a new CEO, who is also a woman.

Meditation in the Classroom (Part 1 of 2) – Chiang Mai University Faculty of Business Administration


Chiang Mai University Faculty of Business Administration in Thailand, is committed to producing social conscious students. They aim to instil sustainability in their students through a growing range of courses (for example a course on Accounting and Climate Change), sustainability assignments in all core courses as well as a focus on sustainability outside of the classroom in extracurricular activities.

But one of their methods is not traditionally used in business schools, although perhaps it should be. All students at the Business School are given opportunities to meditate in the classroom, either through daily practice supported by faculty of core courses or through a specific elective. I spoke with members of the team at Chiang Mai University about their how they embed meditation into the curriculum.

Why meditation?

According to our mission to produce socially conscious students and produce graduates with morals and ethics, our faculty realizes the necessity of meditation practice. Meditation leads to Samadhi (state of mindfulness) which, in turn, increases the power of mind. Through meditation, our students will be able to control their minds. They will also be wiser, more highly responsible, more deeply mindful, and more caring.

For business managers this is particularly important because of the fast paced business enviornment of today. With Samadhi, the power of mind becomes stronger. This benefits their self-interest and common interest. It helps create a peace of mind which enables managers to have better insight and decision.

How is meditation brought into the curriculum?

We have put in place a course called Meditation for Business Leaders (MGMT 330) that is based on Meditation for Life Development course developed by Venerable Viriyang Sirintharo, the abbot of Wat Dhammamongkol Temple. Venerable Viriyang Sirintharo is the one who initiated and disseminated meditation courses throughout Thailand and other countries and he is now the great meditation teacher.

The Meditation for Business Leaders course is an elective course for students majoring in Management and a free elective course for students in other majors. It is a three-credit course with 2 credits for theory and 1 credit for practice. The course content covers meaning, objectives, methods, processes of meditation. It also includes benefits of meditation and how to apply meditation to daily life, work and business.

What kind of meditation is practiced during the course?

Learning activities under this course include both lecture and practice. The practice includes walking and sitting meditation. Students have to do meditation practice for at least 60 hours, including 7.5 hours a month at home. The activities also include a reflective session at the end of the course.

How are students not part of the elective benefiting from meditation?

Our faculty is the first faculty that allow students to do meditation practice before class. The practice takes only five minutes. Different methods were used such as finger counting, 4-7-8 breath counting, and breathing. This was the foundation of meditation for our students which allows them to gradually practice. We have several videos that help guide students (see above). This practice helps students’ mind to be ready and prepared for upcoming lessons. Students had better concentration on lessons, which resulted in better learning. Many times students sign up for the Medication for Business Leaders course after experiencing and seeing the benefits of these daily meditation practices.

What have been some of the challenges? Successes?

Our main challenge is we are not sure whether our students regularly and seriously do meditation practice. If they do not, the objective of doing meditation cannot be achieved. Students will not attain Samadhi which causes them to be wise, mindful, responsible and kind-hearted.

At a reflective session at the end of the course, students gave positive feedback about meditation. They noted that their behaviours had changed in a positive way, that they were more focused, calmer and more mindful. Some students agreed to continue doing meditation practice. Many of our students recommended the course to other students which has led to an increase in numbers of students registering for the course.

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

We believe that all business schools should teach their students how to practice meditation to help enhance students’ learning effectiveness and prepare them to become effective business leaders who have high responsibility, reasonability, and kindness and can handle difficult situations with their peace of mind.

 

Developing a Sustainability Disposition – La Trobe Business School

In 2008, La Trobe Business School in Melbourne, Australia was one of the first schools to become a Signatory to PRME. The Business School, which also has campuses in Sydney, China, France and Vietnam, has been actively engaged in both embedding responsible management within its school as well as contributing to the PRME network. They are starting their second term as a PRME Champion, Ten years on, they were selected to be a PRME Champion along with 38 other business schools from across the world who are taking transformative action on integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into three key areas: curriculum, research and partnerships.

In 2015 the School put in place a second year subject focused on Sustainability which is mandatory for all students enrolled in any Business Degree. Because of its focus on developing a sustainability disposition in students rather than just educating them about the issues, the course has been very well received by students and continues to be an exemplar of cross-disciplinary subject content within the School. I spoke with Dr Swati Nagpal about this innovative course. 

What is La Trobe Business School’s approach to sustainability in the classroom?

LBS understands the obligation as an institution to advocate for responsible management education throughout the school; in its four departments and its research centres, and by advocating and supporting responsible management initiatives and operations across the university.

A patchwork of subjects addressing Sustainability Education in Business degree courses at La Trobe was replaced in 2015 by a core second year subject entitled ‘BUS2SUS – Sustainability’, for all students enrolled in any Business degree. More than 2,500 students are now enrolled in this compulsory subject every year. This includes students from a range of business majors, including management, human resource management, marketing, accounting, sport management, finance, event management, tourism and hospitality, economics, international business, and agribusiness.

The subject is based on a blended learning design that allows for greater scalability across the entire portfolio of majors within Business and across all our campuses in Australia and abroad. With sustainability as the lens or context for change, students are introduced to systems thinking, tools for solving wicked problems, and the role of advocacy in managing change for sustainability.

How have you approached the design and delivery of this core course?

The process of embedding sustainability thinking into the core business curriculum presented a number of challenges, including distinguishing sustainability from related streams of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and non-financial measurement and reporting. The curriculum design was ultimately guided by the need for a future set of skills, rather than by identifying disciplinary content that business graduates might require. These skills include critical thinking, creative problem solving, ethical awareness and teamwork. For example, by working in small groups in class, and engaging with ‘wicked’ global sustainability issues such as climate change, global poverty and renewable energy, students are required to apply a systems lens to examining the true nature of the issues and potential solutions.

There is also an emphasis on creating a ‘safe space’ in classes to tackle often controversial social and environmental issues such as indigenous disadvantage in Australia, the refugee crisis and the potential for a sugar tax. This has required class teachers to be briefed and trained in pedagogical techniques that require reflexive practice and approaches to manage conflict.

The course puts a focus on developing a sustainability disposition. Why do you think this is important?

Research on education for sustainability, student surveys and teaching feedback have taught us that developing graduate skills for sustainability is not enough to create the impetus required for students to be change agents for sustainability, there also needs to be an emphasis on creating a ‘mindset’ change. This is enabled in the subject through use of a range of pedagogical design elements to create a learning environment that seeks to bring about this change. For example, through the use of case studies, examples and problem-based scenarios that require students to reflect on their underlying values base and question the status quo in management thought.

As such, this subject places a focus on both generic graduate skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, while also creating the disposition towards sustainability and ethical decision-making.

How are the SDGs embedded into this course?

Using the SDGs as a guide, students are introduced to the interplay between the social, environmental and economic pillars of sustainability, and the implications for ethically complex decision-making.

Ultimately, educating students new to the SDGs places us in a unique position as the entry point in their educational experience. We believe this is critical in developing their awareness of global issues and challenges so that they can enter the workplace fully equipped to advance and implement policies and practices that will contribute to sustainable business.

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

The question of whether business schools should approach embedding sustainability into core curriculum or as an elective has not been resolved to date. Our experience at LBS in taking the ‘core subject’ approach has been positive since we have the institutional support in terms of the University’s focus on sustainability and our historical emphasis and ethos of social justice. Therefore, gaining institutional support for furthering the sustainability agenda is key, along with the resources to make it happen.

The challenge in any modern business subject in sustainably is an emphasis on both the development of graduate skills and students’ disposition towards sustainability and ethical decision-making. This requires modern educators to span the boundary of the classroom and identify opportunities to engage with industry partners and other stakeholders to continuously produce innovative teaching materials and approaches that inspire and motivate students to pursue business ideas that align with the SDGs. 

What’s next for the class?

Next year, a major piece of assessment will focus on students (in groups) generating a business idea to be in contention for the Hult Prize. One of the challenges with a large enrolments in the subject are the limited options to create authentic assessments. An international student competition that requires students to develop an actionable and scalable business idea is both practical and allows for gamification/competitive elements to be built into the subject design.

What other initiatives at your school you are particularly proud of in this area especially in relation to the SDGs.

In 2017, LBS embarked on a series of workshops that brought together delegates from business, local government, education, not for profit and community sectors to discuss what the SDGs mean for them, and create opportunities for collaboration among the sectors towards implementation of the goals.

This outreach project on the SDGs is an international effort by our CR3+ network which includes LBS and PRME Champions Audencia Nantes School of Management (Nantes, France), ISAE/FGV (Curitiba, Brazil) and Hanken School of Economics (Helsinki, Finland). All four business schools have committed to hosting similar workshops in their countries.

Two Australian workshops were held in Wollongong and Albury-Wodonga on 15/11/17 and 29/11/17 respectively. In addition to the original aims as set out in the project proposal, the choice to focus on regional areas was two-fold; firstly, to develop our regional campus’ capacity to build and sustain cross-sector engagement and partnerships on the theme of the SDGs, and secondly, to focus on areas where UN Global Compact Network Australia presence is limited.

This post is part of a special feature throughout the month of February focused on schools in Australia and New Zealand. 

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