2016 Good Practices in Responsible Management Education (Part 1)

It is once again it’s time for PRiMEtime’s year-end review. 2016 was another exciting year with a lot of innovative new initiatives and approaches at business schools around the world embedding responsible leadership and sustainability into their programmes. PRiMEtime provides an extensive and growing database of examples from schools around the world on how to embed sustainability, ethics and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into management education as well as tips on how to move forward.

This year, 60 new articles were posted featuring over 143 examples from more than 65 schools in 38 countries. In this 2-part year-end post we review the examples featured this year, organized roughly around the SDGs, and what we have to look forward to next year. (Click on the links to read the full article).

SDG1SDG2SDG3The Hong Kong Polytechnic University has developed an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Business School and the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, call the Wellness Clinic. It provides preventive care programmes designed, promoted, administered and implemented by students. IEDC-Bled School of Management partnered with members of the UN Global Compact Local Slovenia to organize workshops around the theme of “Health promotion in the workplace as part of the corporate social responsibility and sustainable business development’.

For one week in March, EADA Business School’s campus transforms into a model refugee course where students taking the Managing Humanitarian Emergencies elective learn about the main components required to respond to humanitarian emergencies and extreme situations in general.

 

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La Trobe Business School (Australia), ISAE (Brazil), Audencia Nantes School of Management (France) and Hanken School of Economics (Finland) founded CR3+ Network, a new program that provides a supportive platform to build international collaboration and enables the four schools to work together to build capacity in responsible management education. In the USA, Western Michigan University (USA) partnered with Christ University in Bagalore in India to create an experiential experience to engage students in sustainability discussions in India. Reutlingen University in Germany shared their experiences with the Ethikum Certificate awarded to students who complete a number of special experiences and courses during their time at university. Hult International Business School shared their experiences integrating the SDGs into the core Business and Global Society course. Hult International Business School and Ashridge Business School also shared their experiences integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into their PRME Sharing Information on Progress Report. The University of St. Gallen and oikos work together to offer the PhD Fellowship Programme, a unique opportunity to support international PhD students writing their thesis on sustainability in economics or management.

PRiMEtime also explored a range of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available on sustainability topics. These courses are free online and open to anyone with an interest in the topic. A series of posts provided an overview of the MOOCs available in the Spring (Part 1 and Part 2) and summer (Part 1 and Part 2).

 

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The American University of Beirut’s University for Senior Programme aims to redefine the role of older people in society by providing them opportunities to remain intellectually challenged and socially connected through a range of lectures, study groups, educational travel programmes, campus life and intergenerational activities. The American University of Beirut also paired up with Citi to provide crucial support and mentoring for female entrepreneurs in Lebanon and the MENA region with the goal of increasing their numbers significantly. Altis Postgraduate School of Business and Society in Italy introduced us to E4Impact, a special programme aimed at training a new class of African leaders who will be able to create jobs in the sustainability sector in their country.

 

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Ryerson University (Canada) designed a unique interdisciplinary programme that brings together faculty from all of the university’s six department called the Environmental Applied Science and Management (EnSciMan) with a focus on environmental management. In Italy, the University of Bologna’s Launch Pad aims to leverage the know-how of the hundreds of PhDs and post-docs studying at the university to facilitate its transformation into valuable products and services, many focused on social and environmental topics. PRiMEtime also looked at a range of global student networks engaged in sustainability that are active within and across business schools.

 

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Antwerp Management School’s ID@Work research programme aims to support organisations in attracting, developing and retaining employees with an intellectual disability. The Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience at the University of Wollongong is an educational programme that supports Indigenous students through high school and into university, employment or further education. Also in Australia, Deakin University has been exploring how to encourage and train more Indigenous Australians to become accountants (currently of the more than 180,000 Australian professional accounting body members, only 30 identify as Indigenous). The Northwest Aboriginal Canadians Entrepreneurs Programme at the University of Victoria Gustavson School of Business is a partnership between several organisations including regional and provision government to offer first class entrepreneurial learning to the Indigenous people of Northwest British Columbia with the aim to enhance the self sufficiency and full economic participation of Indigenous people

Sustainable Business Examples from Around the World – Hong Kong, Kenya, and Canada

img_4721As businesses become more and more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of examples of active companies. However, when I speak with students and faculty, they say that they often hear about the same examples from the same international companies over and over again.

In an attempt to share some new best practice examples, I asked a handful of faculty members from around the world about their favourite classroom examples of local companies that are actively involved in sustainability. Here are some examples from Kenya, Hong Kong, and Canada.

Jessica Vaghi, E4Impact Foundation, ALTIS Postgraduate School of Business and Society, Italy (examples from Kenya)

Continental Renewable Energy (Corec) is a Kenyan based company that recycles waste plastic into eco-friendly building material and sell the hardware to developers whose problem is high material cost by providing affordable and durable construction products. It prevented 700 tons of waste from landfills, made 26,000 posts and signed orders over 10.000 roofing tiles by customers across Kenya in 2 years of operations.

Stamp Investment is a Kenyan enterprise that distributes briquettes and multitasking fuel efficient stoves, which enables schools and households to have access to safe drinking water with a reduction of 75 % in water borne diseases. The business won the Grand Challenges Africa “pitching your innovation” competition in 2016 and has been national winner of the most innovative business idea during Enablis Chase bank, ILO business launch pad competition in 2011.

NUCAFE – National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farm Enterprises is a sustainable market-driven system of coffee farmer organisations empowered to increase their household incomes through enhanced entrepreneurship and innovation in 19 districts of Uganda. NUCAFE Contributed in influencing the development of a National Coffee Policy and to improve gender relations among coffee farming households and was nominated by AGRA best Africa farmer organisation of 2013 in income diversity category.

Click here for more information about E4Impact Foundation and their work in Kenya.

Pamsy Hui, Hong Kong Polytechnic University Faculty of Business, Hong Kong

It is often a misconception that interesting work in the field of sustainability can only be done by companies with a lot of resources.  In Hong Kong, many small and medium enterprises are doing very interesting things with limited resources.  For instance, Diving Adventure Ltd., a company providing training services and products related to scuba diving, has always put the environment in the forefront of its business decisions.  They regularly collaborate with NGOs, the government, and other organisations on environment protection initiatives (e.g., underwater cleansing activities, reef check).  What is impressive is that for such a small operation, they go far beyond just caring about environmental sustainability.  They are also committed to create employment opportunities to minority groups, released prisoners, and reformed drug users, to help integrate them into the society.  On the service side, they regularly provide training to underprivileged children and individuals with disabilities, providing a sense of inclusiveness for people who are often overlooked, if not discriminated, by the society.

Another example is Baby-Kingdom.com, a parental online forum for parents to share information and experiences related to bringing up children.  In addition to donating to NGOs, they help NGOs advertise on their forum, bringing awareness among their large number of users. They set up the Baby Kingdom Environmental Protection Education Fund in 2008 to support programmes in primary schools to educate school children on concepts such as greenhouse gas reduction and green diet.  Consistent with its family-friendly image, Baby-Kingdom.com started family-friendly practices well before they became a trend in large corporations.  The well-being of children is central to its human resource practices, and the company is often recognised for being a socially responsible employer.

A third example of a company doing interesting things related to sustainability is 4M Industrial Development Limited, a toy design company specialising in educational toys.  In designing their products, 4M consciously favors sustainable materials and supply chains with lower carbon footprints.  In addition, 4M partners with NGOs in multiple ways.  With the Spastics Association of Hong Kong, they adapt part of their manufacturing process to support the disabled.  It also works with different NGOs to promote their causes.  Many of 4M’s products have a green message behind them (e.g., Paper Recycling Kit, Trash Robot Kit).  For each box of the Clean Water Science Kit, for example, 4M donates a portion of its profits to NGOs to fund water-purifying projects in the third world.  Meanwhile, children buying the kit would get a message about the project in the box.

Click here to read about the Interdisciplinary Wellness Clinic at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Deborah De Lange, Ryerson University, Canada

Our Horizon is a national not-for-profit organization led by Robert Shirkey that works with governments to require climate change labels on gas pumps. The idea is a low-cost, globally scalable intervention to communicate the hidden costs of fossil fuels to end users and drive change upstream.

ZooShare is a biogas plant led by Daniel Bida that turns animal waste from the Toronto Zoo and food waste from grocery stores into fertilizer and renwable power for the Ontario grid. The process aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10,000 tonnes of C02 each year. The biogas plant is starting construction now and will be operational in the summer of 2017.

Purpose Capital is an impact advisory firm that mobilises all forms of capital – financial, physical, human and social – to accelerate social progress. Alex Kjorven is the Director of Corporate Development and is a graduate student in the EnSciMan programme at Ryerson.

Click here to learn more about the interdisciplinary EnSciMan programme at Ryerson University.

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Business and Business Schools Working Together at the Local Level (Part 1)

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 20.50.41Goal 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) focuses on revitalising global partnerships for sustainable development. Two key stakeholders already working on issues relating to the SDGs are PRME and the United Nations Global Compact. Both groups operate as a network of networks, with local offices focusing on rooting both the Principles of PRME and of the Global Compact within different national, regional, cultural and linguistic contexts. Together they can have a significant influence at the local level.

In fact, business schools and companies are increasingly working together to further sustainability goals within different national contexts as well as facilitating outreach learning, policy dialogue and collective action. Partnerships between Global Compact Local Networks and PRME signatories have been, and increasingly will be, an important tool in moving the sustainable development agenda forward.

For the next couple of weeks we will feature a very small selection of some of the many ways that both works can work together.

Business Schools Working with Global Compact Offices Locally

Business schools are increasingly connecting with their Global Compact Local Network offices in a range of ways. The first is in assisting the Global Compact locally to be as effective as possible. For example, schools are involved in the following ways:

  •  Strengthening the operations of the Global Compact Local Network: A cross-disciplinary team of students from Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley (USA) engaged with the UN Global Compact Local Network in the US to refine the organization’s value proposition and expand its membership and partnership engagement levels. They also proposed a new funding mechanism, which was taken into consideration.
  • Assisting in preparing Communication on Progress Reports (Global Compact’s SIPs): The American University of Cairo provides a full day training session for students to qualify to assist the Global Compact’s participants in generating their Communication on Progress reports. In Canada, students at Ivey Business School worked with UN Global Compact LEAD companies to document their sustainability goals and progress in real time.
  • Maintaining an advisory role: ISAE/FGV plays an active role in the UN Global Compact Local Network in Brazil. The President of ISAE, Norman Arruda Filho, is also the Vice President of the Global Compact Brazilian Steering Committee. They coordinate the Education Group of the Global Compact Brazilian Committee and held a series of lectures to promote PRME and the Global Compact. ISAE was also involved in reviewing and redesigning the organizational structure and governance model of the UN Global Compact Local Network in Brazil, including researching Brazilian members’ perceptions of UN Global Compact Principles and how to improve the performance of the local committee. The American University of Cairo also sits on the UN Global Compact Egypt Board.
  • Actively participating: Business schools are encouraged to engage with their Global Compact Local Networks. For example, Sabanci University in Turkey is a member of the Global Compact Local Network Turkey Task Force on Women’s Empowerment Principles, which ties in well with their extensive programmes in this area. Universidad EAFIT, a leading member of the Global Compact Local Network Colombia, participated in a national working group on the UN Global Compact’s Anti Corruption Principle in collaboration with some of the largest companies in the country.

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Training a New Generation of African Entrepreneurs – ALTIS and E4Impact

2-GraduationCeremony 2Sub-Saharan Africa is a region with enormous growth potential, but there are significant challenges to assure this growth is inclusive. In Africa, SMEs generate only 17% of the GDP and 30% of employment, while in OECD countries figures ram up to 50% and 60%, respectively. The «migration phenomenon» from the African continent is, in part, a consequence of the lack of local businesses able to generate sustainable employment opportunities and wealth for communities.

In response to this, ALTIS Postgraduate School of Business and Society launched E4Impact, a special MBA programme aimed at training a new class of African leaders who will be able to create jobs in the sustainable private sector in their countries. This perfectly fits ALTIS’ mission to foster impact entrepreneurship and management for sustainable development. I recently spoke with Jessica Vaghi, Communications Manager at E4Impact Foundation, about the impacts of this initiative.

What is the E4Impact MBA

E4Impact, launched in 2010, became a Foundation spin-off of Università Cattolica (ALTIS) in 2015 with the contribution of Securfin, Mapei, Salini-Impregilo, Always Africa Association, ENI and Bracco. The Foundation offers the Global MBA in Impact Entrepreneurship in collaboration with Università Cattolica and a local university from the host country. The first MBA was offered in Kenya in 2010; now it’s also offered in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Ethiopia.

The MBA is a unique 12-16 month executive program that guides active and aspiring entrepreneurs in starting or scaling their businesses, providing them simultaneously with an academic and business acceleration experience. It is comprised of a flexible blend of class lessons, distance learning, mentoring and networking events. Furthermore, participants are supported by a Business Coach: a dedicated business consultant that assists them in developing their business plan and establishing an industry network. There are also several occasions for participants to pitch their project to investors and the financial community in order to foster relationships of trust with these actors.

How did it come about?

Would-be entrepreneurs, owners of existing SMEs and successful impact entrepreneurs are hindered in various ways in Sub-Saharan Africa. They lack the business acumen necessary to have dialogue with financial institutions and struggle to find the structure and guidance to systematically test their ideas in the marketplace. Most MBA programs for African people are not aimed at entreprenuers and focus more on theory than on practice. African universities need to enhance their ability to offer educational programs for entrepreneurs, thus becoming a long-term driver of change.

The E4Impact MBA helps attenuate these problems and weakens the probability of collapse of new enterprises. It supports local universities in offering action-oriented entrepreneurial education and in becoming part of a pan-African system. The MBA is not an academic exercise, but applied learning, where entrepreneurs are guided in verifying the feasibility of their business project and in drafting an investor-ready business plan. The program is built around entrepreneurs’ business ideas and each academic module works on a particular aspect of running a business (Strategy, Marketing, Accounting & Finance, Operations, HR).

The first iteration of this course was set in Italy. In 2005, ALTIS launched an MBA program for African entrepreneurs. However, many students remained in Europe after the course instead of going back to their countries. Therefore, the program was moved to Sub-Saharan African countries and E4Impact was born with the goal of becoming the leading Pan-African university alliance for training and coaching a new generation of impact entrepreneurs capable of combining economic success with positive social impact.

What have been some of the challenges of E4Impact MBA? 

The biggest challenge has been finding an academic formula that suits not only to country’s context, but also to the entrepreneurs’ needs. The first two MBA editions in Kenya had a full-time formula. Although entrepreneurs liked the programme, it was soon clear that this wasn’t the right formula because they had no time to work on their businesses.

Moreover, the old editions followed a continental approach in the sense that people from all over Africa moved to Kenya to attend the MBA. However, creating a network around the entrepreneur and his/her business was not easy if he/she was out of the country.

In its third edition, E4Impact implemented its current academic formula: always aiming to assure students have an African CV that meets International standards.

The current formula is part-time (39 working days in class and distance learning modules) and has a country approach (participants are residents in the country where they attend the MBA). It enables entrepreneurs to keep on with their daily jobs while working on their business projects and helps establish a solid network of partners that are useful for business development, model testing and validation.

What about some of the successes? 

E4Impact counts 196 impact entrepreneurs under training and 185 already trained, 35% of which are women. We calculated that the 73% of alumni have a business in place and they provide 497 jobs.

There are seven local university partners: Tangaza University College (Nairobi), Catholic Institute of Business and Technology (Accra), University of Makeni, Uganda Martyrs University (Kampala), Centre de Recherche et d’Action pour la Paix (Abidjan), Saint Augustine University of Tanzania (Mwanza) and Institute Supérieur the Management (Dakar). E4Impact has trained 35 people among local university staff and professors; in 2017 this figure will rise to at least 63.

In 2012, E4Impact was the first non-American program awarded with the Ashoka Innovation University Award.

E4Impact’s greatest success, though, is represented by its entrepreneurs and their impact businesses. For example, Jacqueline Kiage, entrepreneur from the 2nd edition of the MBA in Kenya is the co-Founder of Innovation Eye Centre, a health social enterprise that offers high quality, affordable and accessible eye care services to the community in the South Western Region of Kenya and beyond. Osei Bobie, entrepreneur from the 2nd edition of the MBA in Ghana,is Chief Operation Officer & Founder of Farmers’ Hope, a Ghanaian enterprise that produces a potent and affordable organic fertilizer with local raw materials that improves the soil structure over long period of time. Similarly, Jody Ogana, entrepreneur from the 4th edition of the MBA in Kenya, is General Manager of The GoDown Arts Centre, a non-profit enterprise that provides the first Kenyan multi-disciplinary platform for arts, and there are many more.

How are these shared in Italy with students as well?

In 2012, E4Impact launched an internship program for students of the Università Cattolica in Milan to take part in the E4Impact programme. Twenty-four Italian students have already been sent to different African partner universities during the MBA academic year. They have assisted business coaches in his/her job and helped the African entrepreneurs transform their business ideas into bankable business plans. Some of the students also worked on their theses, developing case studies based on successful businesses of E4Impact impact entrepreneurs.

Given the relevance of the experience, E4Impact aims at extending the internship programme to students of other universities focused on sustainability and sustainable development.

What’s next for the initiative?

E4Impact aims to offer the MBA in at least 15 African countries by 2020. The final objective is to become the leading Pan-African alliance of universities focused on sustainability, able to support a growing basin of African impact entrepreneurs. In 2017, E4Impact MBA will be offered also in Ethiopia, Rwanda and South Africa; by 2020,in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Congo DR and Angola.

Thanks to its MBA, E4Impact facilitates the expansion of African and International SMEs oriented to sustainability in the sub-Saharan area. By matching them with reliable local entrepreneurs, E4Impact offers small businesses a low cost, low risk opportunity to enter African markets in countries where the MBA is offered.

E4Impact launched the first pilot project, “First-Step Africa,” in the 2014/2015 academic year with the Italian enterprise, SIPA, which is interested in exploring Ghana’s market of plastic containers. They are currently working with 5 companies and there are already 20 interested companies for the upcoming academic year.

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Adamawa Peacemakers Initiative and the American University of Nigeria

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The American University of Nigeria sees its role as a “Development University.” It focuses on the traditional roles of repository and transmitter of culture and knowledge as well as the creation of new knowledge. But, it also focuses on the practical role that universities must play in the development of a nation. One such role is to promote peace in their region. I spoke with Dr. Vrajlal Sapovadia, Dean at the American University of Nigeria about their projects in this area.

What is the Adamawa Peacemakers Initiative and how did it come about?

The Adamawa Peacemakers Initiative (API) is non-profit, non-political organization working to foster unity, harmony and prosperity in Adamawa state. After a nationwide strike against the removal of fuel subsidies in 2012, AUN President Dr. Margee Ensign and then Chairman of the AUN Board, Ahmed Joda reached out to religious and community leaders of Yola to understand the sources of tension and find ways to defuse them and promote peace and stability. API members identify “vulnerable youth” in the community who are then offered training and support in a number of AUN funded and organized initiatives. As at-risk youth are frequently targeted and recruited by Boko Haram, API’s peace model focuses on bringing youth back into the fold, enhancing their tolerance across social, ethnic and cultural divides through sports and peace workshops, and preparing them for education and practical training programs.

Who is involved in the Initiative?

The Adamawa Peacemakers Initiative is a partnership that unites academic leaders of the University and religious and community leaders of API in the pursuit of peace and reconciliation. Members of API are drawn from religious groups, business and government across Adamawa State, including representatives of the Lamido of Adamawa, the Traditional Ruler of the Adamawa Emirate, the Society for Support of Islam, Christian Association of Nigeria, Inter-Faith Mediation Center, Muslim-Christian Forum, Muslim Council, Traders’ Associations, and the American University of Nigeria.

OurPeace work derives from the philosophy of the university that is to set itself as the first development university in the country where students are trained to understand and solve problems in accordance with their deepest values and beliefs, using interdisciplinary approach to education.” This philosophy commits the university to helping its community and society achieve equitable and sustainable prosperity, where all have the freedom and opportunity to pursue their dreams, based on respect for the traditions, religion and cultural heritage of the students.

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

API has a number of ongoing projects, including:

  • Peace through Sports: Recruiting marginalized youth to attend peace studies workshops and participate in soccer and volleyball tournaments in order to promote cross-cultural communication and understanding.
  • IT Training Programme for students from at-risk communities at the AUN’s African Center for Information and Communications Technology Training & Innovation
  • Entrepreneurship Training Program teaches students the basics of entrepreneurship, including financial literacy, market research, entity formation and proposal development
  • Grand Alliance for Employment coordinates and develops projects that will increase employment in the region, especially for the vulnerable

API has ongoing projects such as “The Peacemakers” television show, annually celebrated Peace Day, Peace Lecture Series, IT training and literacy programs, tutoring programs aimed at combatting high illiteracy rates in the state and a programme to motivate students towards science-related careers.

What have been some of the challenges?

One big challenge is local language. Few faculties know Hausa or Fulani. Local volunteers are used to translate key messages during conversation. Transport to interior part of the region is another challenge, particularly under security threats. The roads, electricity and telephone work also contributes to our challenges..

Successes?

The university has made a huge investment in information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure. It has one of the best data centre in the world. The programme leverages this excellent ICT infrastructure through a range of programmes aimed at providing ICT-based entrepreneurship training. Youth from the community take part in an 8-week free training course where they learn basic ICT skills and training to set up small businesses. So far, over 2000 youth have been trained through this programme. It also provides training principals and teachers in ICT. Likewise, over 100 teachers have been trained on how to use ICT in the classroom. We just recently completed a six-week literacy programme for staff (drivers, cleaners, gardeners) and members of the community identified through our poverty programmes.

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

The world is so big and problems are many. No one institute can cater to all the needs of the community. Any school can do what AUN is doing. We all need to be willing to learn from the experiences of others and willing to share our own. Everything is replicable. If we cannot eliminate poverty, literacy and environmental problems, at the very least we can reduce it and Universities and business schools play such a key role in this.

What’s next for the initiative?

We have several plans moving forward. We are looking at providing training and coaching of women entrepreneurs as they really have the potential to greatly contribute to the development of our communities. We are also looking into putting in place a programme to help commercialize local low cost innovations that often go unnoticed. We would also like to reach out more to small businesses in the community to identify problems that they have and work with teams of senior students to come up with possible solutions.

 

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Redefining the role of older people: American University of Beirut’s University for Seniors Programme

During the past few decades, the number and proportion of older Lebanese individuals has been rising steadily. It is estimated that by the year 2050, the proportion of people aged 65 years and over will approach 20 percent, the highest among its Arab neighbouring countries.

In general, older people have more free time than their younger counterparts and possess an incredible amount of wisdom, as well as life and professional experiences, that they are eager to share. The University for Seniors programme at the American University of Beirut (AUB) was developed in response to this, providing an opportunity to redefine and defy the negative stereotypes associated with the ageing process in Lebanon and greater the region. I spoke with Dr. Cynthia Myntti, Director of the AUB Neighbourhood Initiative, and Dr. Abla Mehio Sibai, Professor of Public Health and an expert on aging, about AUB University for Seniors.

What is it the University for Seniors (UfS)?

The University for Seniors is a pioneering programme, initiated in 2010. It addresses the aspirations of many older adults to remain intellectually challenged and socially connected. The programme aims to create a new and positive image of aging in Beirut, Lebanon and the Middle East: one that offers visible proof that engaged aging is possible in the Arab world, and that it contributes to healthy and successful aging.

The programme offers lecturers, study groups, educational travel programmes, campus life and intergenerational activities, in addition to social and cultural events over two terms per year. The programme is open to anyone 50 years and older.

How did the programme come about?

Public health studies have shown that meaningful social engagement has a positive effect on the physical and psychological health of older adults. In 2007, the AUB Neighborhood Initiative learned from interviews with residents of Ras Beirut that prospects for older residents are largely lacking, with few occasions to leave their homes, not enough mental stimulation, and virtually no opportunities to give back to their communities. In response, Cynthia Myntti and Abla Sibai joined forces to create an educational and cultural programme at AUB designed with and for older adults.

How does it work?

Adult education programmes typically cater to adults seeking to improve their careers with additional skills and certificates. In contrast, learning in the University for Seniors is sought for pleasure. The programme rests on three unique principles:

  1. Peer-learning: seniors learn from one another rather than from a paid professional instructor;
  2. Community building: seniors join a community rather than paying for one-off activities; and
  3. Intergenerational connections: seniors have multiple opportunities to connect with AUB faculty and students.

Over the years, the programme has developed beyond expectations and has grown exponentially: from 50 enrolled members in three courses offered in 2010 to this term with 21 courses, 30 lectures, and 5 trips within Lebanon and abroad. The UfS currently has over 260 enrolled members and close to 1,600 subscribers on its mailing list.

What impact has this had on the University itself? The other students?

The University for Seniors has had an impact on AUB in a number of ways, such as: engaging alumni and attracting people from outside the AUB community; creating good will and great publicity for the University (extensive media coverage); offering AUB the opportunity to pioneer lifelong learning in Lebanon and the Middle East; changing the concept of learning to include all ages; inspiring younger people, both faculty and regular students, with the image of active, curious older people who they see on campus and in classes; creating an opportunity for AUB students to give back to their community by volunteering in classes to UfS members, mainly on social media; and offering AUB students the chance to welcome their own parents, aunts, uncles and even grandparents to campus as learners like them.

Challenges?

A major challenge is the labor intensity required to organize the term offerings. In regular universities, courses mostly remain the same and the students change. In the University for Seniors, most of the “students” remain the same (new members do join), but the courses change. Courses and lectures are run by volunteers, so the UfS always needs more interested persons to give courses and lectures. To keep offerings new and fresh, all leads are pursued.

Another challenge relates to finances. The UfS does not see itself as a programme for elites, so every effort is made to keep membership fees affordable and to attract members of different backgrounds from all over Lebanon.

Successes

Words such as ‘your programme is life changing;’ or the ‘UfS has become our reason for being’ are a testament to the programme’s value in the lives of its members and its success. Members take real pleasure at being on campus, rubbing shoulders with AUB’s ‘regular’ students and faculty, and being part of the AUB learning community. Members participate in the programme’s governance and strategic planning (the steering committee, Curriculum Committee and Social Committee), and some act as lecturers and study group leaders. Everyone has something to share in the University for Seniors; members feel that their experience and wisdom are valued and that they still can achieve new things.

Beirut has few places where people of different backgrounds meet, but the UfS has created such a place, becoming a strong and diverse community. Psychologists and geriatricians are even prescribing UfS membership for their patients!

What advice do you have for others thinking of putting in place something similar at their schools?

  1. In a world that is aging, recognize the remarkable resource that are older people and the power of the older a University for Seniors-like programme within your university and in the community at large.
  2. Embark on a feasibility study to identify the target population and its needs to tailor the programme accordingly.
  3. Start with an experimental phase to try out different modalities and elicit feedback from members about what is working and what is not working.

What’s next for the programme?

The University for Seniors is now one of AUB’s premier community outreach programmes. In the coming years, it intends to:

    • Expand its reach to serve a wider community
    • Maintain its affordable status with low membership fees and the establishment of a scholarship fund
    • Document the effect of the programme on individual members’ health and well-being
    • To position the programme as the platform for change in ageing-related issue.

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Supporting Female Entrepreneurs in Lebanon – American University of Beirut

IMG_7893Increasingly, women around the world are starting businesses, but the numbers are still low. Female entrepreneurs face unique challenges when trying to start a business; they are less likely than their male counterparts to receive funding, discover crucial mentors, and find the necessary confidence and time while balancing work and life. In the MENA region in particular, total women entrepreneurship activity is as low as 4%, with an average business lifespan of 10 years.

The American University of Beirut in Lebanon has successfully paired up with Citi to provide crucial support and mentoring for female entrepreneurs in Lebanon and the MENA region with the goal of increasing their numbers significantly. I spoke with Dr. Dima Jamali, Kamal Shair Endowed Chair in Leadership, and Ms Fida Kanaan, Director of Executive Education the Olayan School of Business about this initiative.

What is the Citi OSB Women Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEP)?

Women constitute more than half of the Lebanese population and their contribution to the entrepreneurship arena has direct implications for Lebanon’s economic development. Yet in the MENA region, total women entrepreneurship activity is as low as 4%, with an average business lifespan of 10 years. The Citi OSB Women Entrepreneurship Initiative aims to fill the women entrepreneurship business education gap by supporting female entrepreneurs in formalizing their businesses and entering new markets while assuring their company’s sustainable growth. It was designed to cover both gender-related core concepts and key strategies of growing the entrepreneurial firm.

Why did you start the initiative?

The Citi OSB Women Entrepreneurship Initiative was initiated from a keen interest by the OSB Executive Education programme? to extend its services not only to larger organizations, but also to start ups and, more specifically, to women entrepreneurs looking to expand and grow their businesses but struggling with the low support provided by the ecosystem. This intent was matched with a grant by Citi Foundation, which came in support of Women Entrepreneurs. OSB pulled from its different resources focused on gender, entrepreneurship and CSR and ran a focus group session with stakeholders from the ecosystem to identify the underserved segment and understand its needs. The programme stemmed from this session.

What happens during the programme?

Programme features include:

  • Direct application of concepts learned through opportunities to apply knowledge
  • Bridging women entrepreneurs with networks of organizations supporting women and entrepreneurs in the region
  • Connecting participants to other active stakeholders supporting women entrepreneurs (during and after the programs)
  • A clinic-like post-program follow-up one year after the programme

Programme graduates are also invited to all CSR, Gender and Entrepreneurship-related activities organized by AUB OSB.

What have been some of challenges?

Initiatives like WEP cannot be self-financed, hence their sustainability depends on available funding. The school is looking to generate new revenue streams to support future programs like the WEP. Additionally, local SMEs are finding it difficult to thrive in the current economic environment. Unfortunately, 2 out of the 24 participating companies closed their doors in the past year due to this.

What have been some of successes of the programme?

The programme, as well as our partnership with Citi, has been quite successful. In the follow up done a year after the program was completed, we discovered that many participant’s business models had undergone a pivotal change due to what they learned during the programme. Many also moved to new markets and expanded their portfolio. Two of our participants were featured in Jordanian Venture Magazine as leading Lebanon’s start up scene. Many of the entrepreneurs also collaborated on projects and provided mentoring and support to each other’s businesses.

Two of the women participants were selected for the 2015 Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women-U.S. Department of State Entrepreneurship Program for Women, in which they completed a program at Harvard and the U.S. State Department. Additionally, two participants were finalists in the World Bank Women for Resilient Cities Entrepreneurship Award and Abillama Eco-Entrepreneurship Award. More than half of the participants’ companies now belong to mentoring/women networks, such as the Blessing Foundation and the Lebanese League of Women in Business

What advice do you have for schools exploring similar ideas?

Entrepreneurship education needs to assure application-focused concepts and tools. It also needs to address the challenges of the targeted companies based not only on their organizational maturity, but also their business contexts. Understanding their business maturity stage and unique challenges is critical for designing and delivering a program with impact.  We are looking for further funds to finance this initiative’s next round and plan to infuse the next round with modules focused on responsible leadership, business social responsibility, subjects related to women in business, HR strategies and value propositions in support of women’s needs in business.

Are there other initiatives you are working on that you would like to share?

We have an on-going initiative on gender and sexuality, entitled the Knowledge Is Power (KIP) Programme and led by Dr. Charlotte Karam.  KIP is focused on examining issues relating to gender and sexuality with the aim of positively contributing to the empowerment of women and other marginalized groups. The project is research-oriented, seeking proposals that focus on either gathering data/information or generating knowledge relating to the following five thematic areas:

    • Sexual harassment and other forms of abusive behaviors or discrimination disproportionately targeting women and other marginalized groups at work, at school, in universities, and in other traditional or nontraditional structures in Lebanon
    • Barriers and facilitators affecting participation and representation of women and other marginalized groups at work, in government, in management and leadership as well as in other decision making roles in traditional or nontraditional structures in Lebanon
    • The current health and wellbeing practices and perceptions around gender and sexuality in Lebanon
    • The next generation: the perceptions, attitudes and current practices of youth and young adults in relation to gender equality and sexuality in Lebanon
    • Conceptual etymology and legal genealogy of gender, sexuality, and bodily rights in Lebanon

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