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.

 

Empowering Refugees through training and funding – Monash University Malaysia (Part 1 of 2)

The School of Business at Monash University Malaysia has been actively engaged for several years now in programmes aimed at assisting and empowering Refugees through capacity building, funding and partnerships with multiple organisations. In this two part post, I spoke with Priya Sharma, Coordinator and PRME Ambassador at Monash University Malaysia to look first at the School’s programmes to educate refugees and in the second more about a fund to support refugee community-based organisations, both in collaboration with multiple partners including the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia.

Provide some background about the urban refugee population in Malaysia

Malaysia is home to one of the largest urban refugee populations. According to the latest UNHCR statistics, Malaysia hosts over 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Most of them (90%) are from Myanmar, and the others are from diverse countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan or Sri Lanka. Urban settings pose a host of real and difficult challenges for refugees, in particular refugee children. In Malaysia especially, refugee children and youth do not have access to institutionalized schools and thus obtain education via an informal parallel system of community-based learning centres.

What is CERTE and how it came about?

CERTE stands for Connecting and Equipping Refugees For Tertiary Education. It is a task force that aims to support young adult refugees in accessing tertiary education opportunities through knowledge and resource sharing, a bridge course, school readiness preparation, and mentorship. The task force is supported by Open Universities for Refugees (OUR) and UNHCR Malaysia and Teach for Refugees (T4R). It’s mission is to provide quality education to refugees globally and international universities in Malaysia. CERTE Malaysia was established during the OUR-UNHCR 3 C Forum-5/6 -August 2016- in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and is led by Jessica Chapman, Managing Director of T4R and Dr. Robin Duncan from OUR. The 2nd session for 2018 will be held at Monash University Malaysia in October and is supported by the PRME team in the School of Business.

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

The aim of CERTE is to identify refugees who can demonstrate the motivation and academic potential to access further education and to equip and empower them to gain a place at university or college. The course is run over 3 weeks, during weekdays so that the refugee students are exposed to university campus life. Through this course, students are equipped with the basic knowledge of the application process of higher education institutes; have a better understanding of areas of knowledge and different academic disciplines; develop basic research skills in writing and presentations. On the last day, a graduation ceremony is held and a certificate of completion is awarded to the students by Richard Towle, UNHCR’s country representative in Malaysia. This certificate not only endorses their participation but also serves as a unique stepping stone to future learning opportunities in Malaysia or elsewhere. In addition, students who successfully complete the course are given the opportunity to sign-up for a continued mentorship program that will provide continued support in their university application process.

Who are the students?

Fifteen refugee youth from different refugee communities across Kuala Lumpur are selected through an interview process. They are Rohingyas, Sudanese, Yemenis, Pakistanis, and Middle Easterns. They have completed their IGCSC or certain level of academic qualification from their home country but had to leave their country in a haste. Their education is abruptly halted and are unable to continue in Malaysia due to their status. Since this program, the students have taken part in other initiatives to improve their education, like online learning and education-focused projects initiated by T4R.

What have been some of the challenges? 

One of the major challenges is that the CERTE bridge course does not guarantee admission into universities. In addition, due to conditions by which the refugees leave their country, most often they do not possess the necessary documentation needed for access to education, informal or otherwise. One suggestion is to perhaps seek the assistance and collaboration of respective embassies to find ways to overcome this issue.

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

We think this is an important initiative. Having other institutions take on similar initiatives will have a strong impact on the community. It takes education to another level by engaging with a vulnerable sector of the community and offering it to children and youth. This is crucial as refugee children and youth most often have their education disrupted. A lack of education can disempower those who need an opportunity the most and can lead to extreme poverty for generations. Education is often a lifesaving intervention that offers protection and preserves their futures. Although a temporary predicament, providing education through workshops and trainings like these instill a positive attitude, gives them hope and prepares them for future opportunities. It is therefore crucial to supply them with information that will allow them to explore the world and use the full capacity of their brains while maintaining their interest and enthusiasm.

What’s next for the initiative?

We are continuing with this initiative for the next batch of refugee students and youth. Meanwhile, this initiative has also sparked a conversation and discussion within the senior management of the University on access to education through various platforms and scholarships. A working committee has been established to discuss ways of achieving this and overcoming the challenges and obstacles faced.

Training the next generation of impact investing professionals through the Social Finance Academy – Smith School of Business

The Centre for Social Impact at Smith School of Business, Queen’s University in Canada educates students and fosters research and advocacy on issues of social impact. The Certificate in Social Impact programme is one of its sought-after programs. The Certificate allows over 500 Smith graduate and undergraduate students to earn a designation alongside their degree. Enabling business students to gain foresight into how social issues are affecting business and society while gaining relevant skills needed across today’s changing landscape is one of the focuses of the Centre and its newest programme, the Social Finance Academy narrows in specifically on the topic of impact investing.

I spoke with Joanna Reynolds, Associate Director of the Centre for Social Impact at Smith School of Business, Queen’s University Canada about this programme.

Why is impact investing important?

Increasingly, people in their professional and personal life want to be part of social and environmental solutions. Whether through our purchasing power as customers or in how we make investments. The appetite for social finance is growing across Canada and globally. Examples, such as impact funds and green bonds are two of the many new and innovative ideas gaining momentum in the marketplace, and inspiring organizations and consumers to think differently about our investments.   An example of the growth of impact investing globally is the 2017 Global Impact Investing Network’s annual survey which continues to report increases in the size of the global marketplace at USD 114 billion in managed impact assets across geographies and sectors. Professionals today want to know how to gain the skills that open opportunities for themselves and their organizations in this area.

What is the Social Finance Academy?

The Social Finance Academy is a unique opportunity for professionals to gain insights into a growing global field that now includes Social Responsible Investing, Impact Investing, and Venture Philanthropy. The Academy came about to meet this rising demand for professionals within finance, capital management, public and the not-for-profit sectors to understand emerging opportunities in this space.   Investors involved with foundations, endowment boards, or who manage assets for individual private wealth are increasingly seeking to align their investments with purpose and need advisors who can work with them to create customized solutions; while, not-for-profit organizations are seeing that social finance can enable their public benefit mission to thrive; and, governments recognize that social finance and social enterprise can meet multiple public policy objectives. Professionals across these sectors are seeking to enhance their skills sets and distinguish how they add can value.

Why offer a programme specifically focused on social finance?

Currently, programs like the Social Finance Academy are rare opportunities to learn from the trailblazers who have shaped the landscape and marketplace in Canada and globally.   As the appetite for social finance and impact investing continues to grow, the professional skill set requires more technical knowledge. Such as skills found in traditional finance and capital management now need to be combined with a rigor of impact measurement. Additionally, social finance often brings together people from across the public, private, and community sectors. Therefore, understanding public policy levers, community missions, and diverse investor values are essential contexts to creating a social finance solution. Educational programs such as these aimed at cross-sector collaboration with a focus on social outcomes are exceptional opportunities.

What is the content of the Social Finance Academy?

The Academy is a two-day program offered this November in downtown Toronto. Participants gain practical knowledge to apply social finance tools within their organizations to transform outcomes and investment models while achieving measurable financial returns and valuable social impacts. Sessions are led by professionals from the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, BCorp Canada, City of Toronto, Ministry of Economic Development and Growth, Purpose Capital, Centre for Social Innovation, CoPower and top faculty from the Smith School of Business. Smith faculty and session leaders use a combination of insightful teaching, breakout sessions, and tutorials to examine case examples that provide participants with a local and global understanding of the marketplace. Session topics include outcomes finance, impact measurement, social procurement, solutions finance, community bonds, insights into public policy levers, and designing decision frameworks that guide social finance strategy.

What has been the response?

The response has been excellent. The 2016 inaugural session had a wait list of over 50 people. A great example of how institutions are taking advantage by sending their teams to engage and learn is our continued partnership with the Ontario Government who has sponsored ten Social Finance Fellows across departments to earn a full Certificate in Social Impact. By earning a Certificate, participants take a second program call Leading with Impact that help them gain the skills to affect change from within an organization. Participants then work individually or in teams on an applied project. The two in-class programs combined with the applied project has been well received as a way for professionals to bring value into their organization. Bmeaningful, Canada’s leading go to platform for career’s with impact is our promotional partner.

What’s next for the Social Finance Academy?

The Social Finance Academy is part of the Certificate in Social Impact for Professionals.  We expect to continue to partner with leading organizations to offer the Academy in subsequent years as the field continues to evolve.

Any tips for other schools looking to engage in this topic.

Impact investing and social finance present exciting opportunities for business school students to learn about an emerging field that crosses geographies and sectors. From mainstream capital markets through to development and community finance, this field is active, and demand is growing. A tip for other schools is to articulate the demand for social impact education across sectors and to identify the unique skill sets required by professionals to succeed in their areas of expertise. No longer are social impact considerations on the fringe for business success. It is now imperative for the resiliency of business and society as a whole to be part of the solutions that our world is grappling with.   Therefore, business education that is offered at the Smith School of Business is critical to developing outstanding leaders in business and society.

 

Business Schools Engaging Business in the SDGs Nationally – Lagos Business School

The 17th goal of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is partnerships. But it isn’t just a goal in itself; it is also a key component of the other 16 goals. In particular it is partnerships that engage the business sector that will be key in pushing these goals forward. Business schools can play an important, and much needed role in providing a platform to bring business together, guide collaboration efforts and provide training. This is exactly what Lagos Business School in Nigeria is doing with their new Private Sector Advisory Group. I spoke with Oreva Agajere, Sustainability Associate at Lagos Business School about this new programme.

How is LBS engaging/planning to engage in the SDGs in Nigeria?

At Lagos Business School, it is our mission to create and transmit management and business knowledge based on a Christian conception of the human person and of economic activity relevant to Nigeria and Africa at large. The school continues to promote sustainable and responsible business by being a hub of learning for entrepreneurs and managers. Since the launch of the SDGs, LBS has designed new executive programmes which speak to particular SDGs. For instance, our Agribusiness Programme is directly linked to goals 1, 2, 8 and 12. The programme trains experienced and budding entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector and is aimed at reducing poverty and hunger through job creation, economic opportunities and responsible consumption and production. LBS also engages with the SDGs by being a centre for sustainable thought leadership. Research and initiatives carried out by the school’s faculty and sustainability centre serve as conduits for mainstreaming the SDG conversation in the business space in Nigeria. Lagos Business School is also partnering with leading businesses to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals at a larger scale across Nigeria.

What is the Private Sector Advisory Group and how it came about.

The Private Sector Advisory Group Nigeria (PSAG Nigeria) is a local coalition of businesses formed to better align public and private sector partnerships for sustainable development in Nigeria. The group was inaugurated in February 2017 by the Office of the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a mandate to mobilise private sector organisations willing to partner on ventures to help the Nation achieve the SDGs. This group came about with the recognition at various levels of the public and private sector that Nigeria didn’t achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) because there was no clear working model for private sector participation to aid the achievement of the MDGs. The PSAG is a solution to this problem.

The role of the group is to inspire and organize renewed public-private collaboration to promote inclusive growth and development in Nigeria. Working in cluster groups focused on various SDGs, the PSAG will assist in identifying areas of common interest and promote business driven strategies, projects and initiatives around the 17 SDGs. Another primary objective of the PSAG is to establish productive partnerships between the public and private sector by offering policy recommendations on developmental issues which affect Nigeria and the everyday Nigerian. Thus, the group works closely with the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs to ensure a real connection with the arms of government and policy makers. The group will also support its members and the wider private sector in reporting on the SDGs to provide reliable data sources for policy and decision makers.

Who is part and how are they engaged?

The group was inaugurated with five organizations as co-chairs on the board. This includes Lagos Business School (LBS), Growing Businesses Foundation (GBF), Sahara Group Limited, Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and PricewaterhouseCoopers Ltd. (PwC). Other members and key partners include British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN), Google, Unilever Nigeria, Airtel Nigeria, Standard Chartered Bank, General Electric (GE), Siemens Nigeria, Dangote Group, Coca-Cola, Channels Television, Chamber of Commerce- Lagos/Kano, and National Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI). As the work progresses, the number of organizations that make up the PSAG is expected to rise.

Members have been engaged in several meetings and participate in SDG engagements at an international level. These include the High Level Political Forum which was held in New York in July 2017. The cluster groups structure of the PSAG is the main avenue of engaging member organisations. Companies join the cluster that focuses on the SDGs that are most material to their business and in that way, have the opportunity to collaborate with organizations that have similar sustainable development objectives. The group is still growing and is open to all private sector players who would like to make an active contribution to the achievement of the SDGs in Nigeria.

What are the key features of the programme and how does it work (what is planned).  Why have a group like this? What are you hoping it will accomplish?

The PSAG’s activities will include joint private sector SDG projects, businesses reporting on the SDGs, capacity building for business executives and policy recommendations to government.

Lagos Business School is leading the group’s capacity building initiatives. The focus is to increase private sector involvement in socio-economic change by providing a platform for active participation, partnership, advocacy and awareness. Through the PSAG, we hope that there will be an overall promotion of the development of practical and sustainably impactful business models; improvement of capacity building for stakeholders; midwifing relevant dialogues between public and private stakeholders to provide real solutions to Nigeria’s challenges and opportunities for improvements where necessary. LBS has developed new training programmes for C-Suite level business executives and implementing managers. The programmes focus on the integration of sustainability and the SDGs into the strategy, operations and reporting of businesses in Nigeria. A group like the PSAG is necessary in an emerging economy like Nigeria, because businesses are a key part of the society’s desired growth and advancement

What have been some of the challenges and successes (or expected)?

Some of the challenges so far have been around ensuring proper implementation and governance; the PSAG has had to spend a good amount of time working out the structure of the group. The group has also had to gradually build stakeholder’s interest and commitment.

Since February, the PSAG has gained commitments from leading business in Nigeria. Their commitment is one step in the right direction for Nigeria in advancing the SDGs. The group is also working collaboratively with the office of the special adviser to the President on SDGs and has been able to share its working model with other countries. The PSAG model has also drawn interest among other countries in Africa and the Middle East which face similar sustainable development challenges.

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

Our advice would be that management education institutions adopt a corporative approach to advancing the sustainable development goals in their spheres of influence. Partnership with the private sector and other stakeholder groups can ensure that the goals are met faster and more effectively.

What are 2 other initiatives at your school you are particularly proud of in this area?

  • Sustainable Business Models for Delivering Digital Financial Services (DFS) to Lower Income Unbanked Citizens of Nigeria (Research Project): This is a two-year research project of Lagos Business School (LBS), supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). This project’s core objective is to establish the supplier side constraints to sustainable DFS in Nigeria and develop economic models for addressing identified constraints. The project also aims to recommend market-enabling policies for the sustainability of DFS in Nigeria.
  • Nonprofit Leadership and Management (Certificate Program): The course will provide a detailed introduction to Nonprofit Management through a highly practical, experiential and interactive series of faculty-facilitated lectures, guest lectures, case study discussions, videos and field visits. The programme is designed to meet the pressing need for effective and impactful management competence in Nigeria’s nonprofit sector. This programme, which commences later in 2017, is supported by the Ford Foundation. The Ford Foundation is the funding partner and LBS is the executing partner.

Students Driving the Reporting Process – Boise State University (part 2 of 2)

At the 2017 Global Forum for Responsible Management Education, several Signatories were recognized for their efforts in reporting. The reports that received recognition represent different approaches to reporting on progress against the Six Principles of PRME. One of the Schools to receive recognition in the First Time Reporters category was the College of Business and Economics at Boise State University (COBE) in the USA. But what makes this impressive report unique is that the whole process of putting together the report was lead by student volunteers.

This is the second part of a two part interview with former MBA Student, Graduate Assistant and Sustainability Report Project Lead Taylor Reed about their report. Click here to read part 1.

What impact does this kind of experience have on the students involved?

The experience was challenging and meaningful. The best way I can describe the reporting process in the first year is driving a car down the road while also building it. At least four of the members of the team now work in industries related to sustainability, and I’m confident that all of the graduates are now working in roles where they have to perform research, synthesize and communicate information, or develop buy-in from colleagues, consumers or business partners—these are all skills team members were able to develop by participating in this project.

One of the most valuable lessons that came from this process wasn’t necessarily the data gathered, but rather the conversations that arose throughout the research process. Many students were frustrated that key metrics like the amount of waste generated or carbon footprint did not yet exist. However, by meeting with campus officials, discussing their purpose in creating a sustainability report, and posing questions related to sustainability, students were able to begin to educate campus staff and faculty and empower employees to begin considering social and environmental impacts. Those initial conversations helped build a foundation for the development of systems to capture improved sustainability data.

What were some of the successes?

Three years later the college continues to produce an annual sustainability report and our efforts have inspired Boise State University’s College of Health Sciences and the Student Union Building to publish their first sustainability reports. The reports have driven sustainability achievements such as more sustainable procurement policies, the installation of solar panels, the college’s strategy for inclusive excellence and a taskforce focused on increased inclusion, and increased awareness of environmental and social issues across campus. And of course we were thrilled to receive recognition from the PRME for our work!

The final piece of the report presents sustainability recommendations for the Dean and Associate Deans to consider. After COBE’s leadership deliberates and discusses strategies with student reporters, many of the recommendations are implemented over time. This part is especially meaningful because it’s where the research and analysis performed by students becomes actionable and translates to social and environmental impact—that’s the best part in my opinion.

Why should schools engage their students in the reporting process?

According to the Deloitte 2016 Millennial Survey, 87 percent of millennials believe that “the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance.” Millennials judge the performance of a business on what it does and how it treats people— both of which are data points in COBE’s sustainability reports. More than 60% of millennials believe businesses achieve long-term success by putting employees first, and developing a solid foundation of trust and integrity. Finally, millennials choose employers whose values reflect their own— 56 percent of Millennials have “ruled out ever working for an organisation because of its values or standard of conduct.”

Projects like the sustainability report are the secret sauce to motivating, developing, and retaining millennial employees. By producing a sustainability report COBE achieved all of the following:

  1. Creating a healthy culture that exists to achieve more than financial results
  2. Identifying the values of students and providing an opportunity to practice those values in their profession
  3. Providing hands-on opportunities for millennials to take on leadership roles and gain critical thinking skills that will make them more competitive in the job market and equip them with the skills needed to effect real change

What advice do you have for other schools looking to engage students in the reporting process?

Do it. If schools think that tomorrow’s leaders should understand the social and environmental impact of their business decisions, and take responsibility for them, then students must learn these skills and have the opportunity to practice them.

Create a safe space for students to fail—if they do, coach them through the steps needed to get back on track. When they’re faced with a similar scenario in upon graduation they’ll know how to succeed.

What’s next? Any plans for the next report? Things you will be doing differently?

This fall, students of Boise State University’s College of Business and Economics (COBE) will publish the College’s third sustainability report measuring the social, environmental and economic impacts of the College (we produce reports annually). Student reporters continue to implement recommendations made in the College’s first two reports, and continue to develop new targets based on the feedback of internal and external stakeholders. In line with COBE’s sustainability initiatives, student reporters have transitioned to an interactive online format, rather than a printed report. We have a collective aspiration to produce a university-wide sustainability report in the near future.

 

A few highlights of the report:

  • A summary of percentage of responsible business faculty research organised by department (p. 26)
  • An overview of the new College of Business and Economics Building, built in 2012, designed to have minimal environmental impact and maximum environmental efficiency (p.42).
  • An overview of how they assessed materiality and what their material issues are, organised by stakeholder group (page 49)
  • A detailed timeline and process map for the sustainability report (p. 50)

Students Driving the Reporting Process – Boise State University (part 1 of 2)

At the 2017 Global Forum for Responsible Management Education, several Signatories were recognized for their efforts in reporting. The reports that received recognition represent different approaches to reporting on progress against the Six Principles of PRME. One of the Schools to receive recognition in the First Time Reporters category was the College of Business and Economics at Boise State University (COBE) in the USA. But what makes this impressive report unique is that the whole process of putting together the report was lead by student volunteers.

I recently spoke with former MBA Student, Graduate Assistant and Sustainability Report Project Lead Taylor Reed about their report.

What was the driver behind the Sustainability Report?

In 2014, COBE underwent a strategic planning process to establish the collective values that ground the work done at the College. These values—relevance, respect, and responsibility—are not truly lived if we don’t measure, analyse and publicly report the results. A sustainability report, which covers issues such as climate change, health & wellness, community engagement, and transparency, helps us live those values rather than simply posting them on a webpage. The annual report serves as a thermometer for how the college is doing in terms of living its values and creating a healthy culture for students, faculty, staff and the broader community.

COBE firmly believes that sustainability reporting is a best practice, so before engaging its business community partners to pursue this type of analysis, the College needed to get some skin in the game and develop its own expertise. Producing the COBE report allowed the College to gain empathy and discover the challenges and opportunities that arise from this practice.

Why involve students in the reporting process?

The College recognised that if it identified sustainability reporting as a best practice, COBE graduates should not only be familiar with sustainability reporting, but have firsthand experience in creating one. COBE is one of only a handful of colleges and universities globally to integrate students fully into the management, research, writing and publication of its sustainability report. The students that participated on the reporting team did so as a volunteers.

How was the report produced?

The reporting process was broken up into five phases:

  • Focus: In the first phase of the project the team of student reporters engaged three stakeholder groups (students, college faculty/administrators, and community business leaders) to define the college’s material issues.
  • Coordinate: Next, the topics found to be material in the Focus phase were assigned to student reporters. I purposefully matched topics with students’ interests or area of study. For example, equal remuneration was assigned to a student studying human resources.
  • Research: Team members then gathered quantitative and qualitative research across departments through a series of interviews and collaboration with faculty and staff to gather data.
  • Synthesize & Write: In this phase of the project, students synthesized and analyzed collected data and collectively outlined a rough draft of the report. A majority of the writing and revising was done by a few individuals to maintain style and tone throughout the report.
  • Review & Publish: In the final phase of the project students worked with relevant stakeholders such as sources and key administrators to revise and finalise the report. In addition, the college’s first report was audited by a team of graduate students studying accounting. Finally, the team’s leadership worked with an external firm to design and publish the report.

What were some of the challenges? 

Finding answers to all of our research questions was our main challenge. We found that the systems for collecting much of the data we were seeking did not yet exist (i.e. waste metrics). Another challenge was developing buy-in from data sources—some of our sources found it challenging to make time to fulfill our data requests, or didn’t understand the concept of sustainability reporting.

This was a volunteer project that many students took on in addition to part-time jobs, rigorous coursework, and other demanding activities. Given these circumstances, there were times when responsibilities such as enforcing deadlines and motivating team members was difficult. However, the lessons learned during production of the first report helped facilitate smoother operations in year two.

How was your experience using the GRI framework (especially since it isn’t specifically geared towards education?). Any tips for others looking at using these in their report?

Using the GRI G4 guidelines helped build our team’s awareness and understanding of the concept of materiality, along with a variety of social, environmental and economic metrics. GRI isn’t geared towards educational institutions, however its focus on materiality helped inform our process. The team performed several stakeholder engagement sessions to pinpoint material issues, such as rising tuitions costs and sustainability curriculum—topics that may not have been identified in the GRI framework. It also served as a useful source to cross check that our stakeholders weren’t forgetting any fundamental issues.

GRI also helped the team identify leaders in nonfinancial disclosure—seeing these examples helped us better understand nonfinancial reporting and frame expectations. Although the framework wasn’t a perfect fit for our industry, it was useful for students to gain experience using this framework, especially as it continues to be recognised as one of the highest standards of nonfinancial disclosure.

 

(Part 2 will be posted on Thursday)

 

Universities Collaborating with Cities Around Sustainability – UWE Bristol

In 2015, the Bristol became the first city in the UK to achieve the honour of being named European Green Capital. The award is given to a different city yearly by the European Commission and aims to promote and reward sustainability initiatives in cities, to spur cities to commit to further action, and to showcase and encourage exchange of best practice among European cities.

UWE Bristol played a key role in the year, not only working closely with Bristol City Council and others in supporting the bidding process for the award, but also as a founding member of the city-wide Bristol Green Capital Partnership (now made up of 800 local organisations). The year provided an opportunity to weave sustainability into the curriculum, undertake focused research on sustainability and celebrate and get people thinking and inspire action for sustainability.

I recently spoke with Georgina Gough, James Longhurst and Svetlana Cicmil from UWE Bristol about the insitution’s engagement in progressing SDG11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities and their involvement in Bristol’s Green Capital year.

How is UWE Bristol engaged in the topic of sustainable cities?

UWE Bristol’s teaching and research mission explicitly supports the development of sustainable cities. We have a number of degree programmes and research centres located across the university academic portfolio that focus on this topic. A few examples include our

World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Healthy Environments which is part of the European Healthy Cities network, the Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments which aims to develop understanding of how to achieve places that are environmentally sustainable, socially just and economically competitive: the Centre for Transport and Society which aims to to improve and promote understanding of the inherent links between lifestyles and personal travel in the context of continuing social and technological change; and the Air Quality Management Resource Centre which is widely recognised by air quality and carbon management practitioners, nationally and internationally as a leader in this field. The Bristol Leadership and Change Centre is further internationally and locally recognised for developing leadership practices driven by the vision of sustainable cities and the global sustainability agenda

How was UWE Bristol involved in the European Green Capital in 2015?

Our campuses were buzzing in the Green Capital year. Social media channels were used extensively to connect students and staff and promote activities. Budget allocations encouraged engagement and innovative action from academic departments, professional services, the Centre for Performing Arts, the Students’ Union at UWE and others, embracing research, teaching, music, work in schools, volunteering, internships and extra curricular activities. Over 5,300 staff and students attended presentations/stalls specifically about Bristol Green Capital 2015 including 200 events either led, co-ordinated or facilitated by UWE. Over 3000 students engaged, volunteered, interned or undertook Green Capital projects. We had some 600 students sign up to be part of UWE Green Team working on student-led sustainability projects on campus. This is just a brief snapshot.

What was the Whole Earth Exhibition?

One of UWE’s busiest thoroughfares was transformed into an outdoor art gallery for The Whole Earth Exhibition, a powerful visual statement of the environmental and sustainability challenges facing the world as we struggle to provide for the needs of more than 10 billion people while safeguarding our planetary life-support systems and conserving the non-human lifeforms that make up those systems. The Hard Rain Project and the National Union of Students (NUS), who curated the Whole Earth exhibition, invited students and universities to share the sustainability work that they are doing and approaches they are taking that might underpin future security for all. Embedded in the exhibition were a series of challenges to the university sector. When UWE Bristol opened its Whole Earth Exhibition, the President of the Students’ Union at UWE formally requested that the university publically respond to the University Challenges presented in the exhibition.

What was the MOOC on ‘Our Green City’ and how did it come about?

Our Green City celebrated and showcased UWE academics and Bristol based sustainability organisations to develop public understanding of sustainability issues in Bristol’s year as European Green Capital 2015. Based on a free, open, online course format, c2000 learners signed-up to gain insight into themes of food, nature, energy, transport and resources through a range of video presentations, tasks, quizzes and community discussion forums.

Our Green City featured the work of 14 academics, 24 organisations including The Bristol Green Capital Partnership, Bristol 2015, Bristol City Council and the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

We have archived all the materials for future use, including by schools and will soon be creating a series of school engagement and outreach products from the learning materials that will form part of our BOXed project, an outreach programme of STEM related activities aimed at youth aged 11-18.

Did that year change the way the institution interacts and works with the community?

UWE is an initial funding partner of Bristol Green Capital Partnership (BGCP) and serves on the Board of Directors of this Community Interest Company. The 800 organisations who are part of BGCP work together in pursuit of the Partnership’s aim to develop a sustainable city with a high quality of life for all. The research activity of the university supports the work of the Partnership and current activities include Urban ID, a study diagnosing the sustainability issues and challenges in the city region. An innovative multinational Horizon 2020 project ClairCity is exploring solutions to air pollution in 6 cities including Bristol. UWE is actively engaged with and supports (with financial and in kind support via time of students and staff (including very senior staff)) the work of sustainability minded organisations and networks in the city (which in Bristol are many in number!).

What have been some of the challenges? Successes?

Delivering enough support, given the extremely high demand for knowledge, research and action, is a key challenge. Aligning the rhythm of the academic year to the needs of the city and its communities can also be challenging at times.

UWE’s activities to support Bristol Green Capital complemented those in and around the city and our commitment was recognised by key Green Capital players. UWE staff have produced a number of research papers and reports on the Green Capital year which are available in our Research Repository.

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

Consider the strengths of your institution and the needs of your potential partners in order to identify the most fruitful project partners. Have an open mind and willingness to work through challenging situations. Commitment to the objectives of the project by senior management is important in working through challenges. A diverse project team is useful for enabling action across the institution.

What’s next for the initiatives?

The Green Capital Student Capital project has formally ended. However, much legacy work continues. The project team continue to disseminate their experience via publications and conference presentations in order to support other HEIs to undertake similar projects. An online portal, SkillsBridge, has been established by the project team to facilitate the development of opportunities for students to support sustainability work of organisations in the city of Bristol. This work is being undertaken in conjunction with the Bristol Green Capital Partnership. UWE, Bristol’s sustainability work is ongoing, in accordance with commitments made in our Sustainability Plan.

For the month of May Primetime will be featuring examples around the Special Focus area Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11). Click here to see the rest of the articles in that feature.

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