Impact Investing at Business Schools – 7 Impact Investing Competitions for Students

Last week, as part of this month’s special series on impact investing, we looked at ten ways business schools are engaging their students in impact investing on campus. An eleventh way is through a range of mostly new impact investing competitions open to business students globally. These competitions, mostly based at US schools, offer students the opportunity to not only learn about impact investing but to apply this knowledge to real cases that often impact actual businesses. Here is a selection of seven such impact investing competitions either run by or with participants from PRME Signatories.

 

  • The IESE Impact Investing Competition is an all day session that simulates an investment process including entrepreneurial pitches, due diligence, term sheet preparation and investment committee meetings, followed by intense negotiations with the entrepreneur of their choice. The event happens annually as part of the Doing Good Doing Well Competition at IESE’s campus in Spain. Participants this year included CEIBS, Cranfield School of Management and IE Business School.

 

  • UBC Sauder School of Business hosted the National Strategy Consulting and Conference event that brought students from across Canada and the United States to compete on an impact investing case based on Brighter Investment, a social venture supported by the Centre for Social Innovation and Impact Investing. Competitors were judged based on their strategy recommendations, as well asthe potential social impact their recommendations would yield. Students across different disciplines were challenged to integrate their financial, marketing and impact measurement skills into a coherent strategy for a social enterprise.

 

 

  • Duke University was one of the schools that recently participated in the Invest for Impact Competition, hosted by UNC Kenan-Flagler in the US. The invitation-only Competition is an experience that includes a wide variety of challenges that bring together top MBA students, sustainable entrepreneurs and successful impact investors, who have an opportunity to learn from and network with each other. Student teams from around the world play the role of impact investors and review business plans of three companies and select the ones they would invest in based off of both financial viability and their social and environmental impact.

 

  • INSEAD in France and Schulich School of Business at York University in Canada both take part in the MBA Impact Investing Network & Training (MIINT). MIINT is an experiential lab designed to give business students knowledge and skills around impact investing. MBA students create teams at the start of the academic year and identify an impact company that they will focus on during the programme. They then present recommendations to a judging committee composed of industry leaders for a potential investment of up to $50,000 in the companies that they chose to represent during the process.

 

  • Cornell University was one of the finalists in the first Impact Investing in Commercial Real Estate Competition hosted by the University of Miami School of Business Administrations in the US. The Competition focuses on investments made in commercial real estate projects with the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside an appropriate financial return. The competition takes place yearly in the US and is open to teams of business schools globally.

 

  • Lagos Business School in Nigeria organised its Impact Investing Competition in 2016 as part of the Lagos Business School MBA Entrepreneurship Investors Forum. The Forum is a new initiative introduced by students as part of their entrepreneurship course and coordinated by Dr Henrietta Onsuegbuzie, Impact Investing Project Director at the school. During the event, students present business ideas that bridge the gap between economic growth and lagging social development through profitable businesses that solve social problems. Judges are post MBA students who are currently working in this field or have developed businesses that have a social impact.

Impact Investing Series – 10 Ways Schools are Bringing Impact Investing to Campus

Tsinghua University Net Impact event on Impact Investing

This month PRiMEtime is focusing in on the important and increasingly popular topic of impact investing. So far we have looked at what impact investing is and summed up a range of resources on the topic and have looked in depth at the Social Finance Academy, a new programme coming from Smith School of Business at Queen’s University in Canada.

There are a number of ways that business schools are bringing impact investing to campus. Here we look at ten ways that business schools are specifically engaging students in impact investing on campus.

1. Events that bring impact investing actors onto campus to discuss the state of the industry: The University of St. Gallen in Switzerland organises an Impact Investing and Social Finance Conference. For its first three years the event was held in Sao Paulo and focused on Latin America, but has since moved to the St. Gallen campus in Switzerland. The event brings together impact investing practitioners to meet and discuss with students. The business school also offers students the course Impact Investing 2.0: Building the Impact Economy, a course focused on the fundamental context for impact investing and its requirements, that aims to train students to be able to spot impact investing opportunities.

2. Student engagement through clubs: The Net Impact Club at Tsinghua University in China organised a special session on impact investing for students, inviting experts and practitioners to campus to share their knowledge with students. The University has also recently partnered with UNDP and other leading universities to develop a research agenda around impact investing that will better leverage private investment to finance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This includes undertaking research to improve the analytical frameworks, evidence, and policy environment that encourage and guide commercial capital flows in support of the SDGs.

3. Funds for students to invest: The Haas Social Impact Fund at Haas School of Business University of California Berkeley is the largest of the student-managed socially-responsible investments funds with more than USD$2.5m of assets under management. Student fund managers are chosen yearly from the business programmes to evaluate investment opportunities by analysing traditional indicators of business quality and valuation metrics along with environmental, social, and governance policies and practices. Students that participate also have the opportunity to receive a certificate in Social Investing upon graduation.

4. Selecting MBA students to be Impact Investing Fellows: SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell University’s Environmental Finance and Impact Investing Fellows Programme aims to train students for emerging opportunities at the intersection of sustainability and finance, including project finance that addresses climate change, ecosystem services, and poverty alleviation. Through a series of courses, coupled with applied projects, Fellows learn how to invest in, manage, or regulate businesses or projects seeking financial, environmental and social goals.

5. Engaging students in consulting projects with business: Duke Fuqua School of Business’s CASE i3 Fellows are selected second year MBA students who complete coursework in impact investing, support the centre’s research and operations, and complete a consulting project and apprenticeship. The fellows work with a broader set of CASE i3 Associates, often first year students, in teams for their Consulting Programme which pairs students with leading organisations on impact investing projects, including developing impact due diligence guidelines for investors, doing market analysis, and investment landscaping.

6. A selection of elective courses focused on impact investing: Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia in Canada offers a course on Impact Investing: Social Finance in the 21st This course provides an introduction to the impact investment sector. It describes the evolution of impact investment, the growth of new asset classes, and the opportunities and challenges faced
by investors seeking meaningful impact investment vehicles. Through a combination of readings, discussions, guest lectures, research, a pitch competition and a portfolio allocation project, students will gain deep insight into the different perspectives brought by the impact investor who is concerned with stimulating social and environmental impact while generating financial return.

7. Providing a regional focus: The Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town offers a course on impact investing in Africa aimed at wealth managers, consultants, funders, lawyers and other financial intermediaries looking to gain an understanding of the field. The workshop is (next sentence addresses them) led by a diverse group of leading experts in the field. They have also collaborated with the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Oxford to create twelve teaching case studies on impact investment in Africa.

8. Creating MOOCs on impact investing: ESSEC offers a MOOC (‘Massive Open Online Course’ – a type of free online course) about impact investment available in French. The course explores what impact investing is, which companies are involved and what are they investing in, what kinds of solutions are proposed and the ingredients necessary to create a favourable impact investing ecosystem in the north and the south. The latest offering of the course started on September 25th, 2017.

9. Creating new courses aimed at an executive audience: The Fundamentals on Venture Philanthropy and Impact Investing  at ESADE Business & Law School is a new executive education programme aimed at providing managers with effective tools for a high-engagement approach to social investing and grant making across a range of industries. The course combines online learning materials with two days of face-to-face interaction at ESADE’s campus in Barcelona with leading lecturers and practitioners. The programme is taught jointly with the European Venture Philanthropy Association, a network of 2010 investment firms, banks, business schools and other organisations committed to creating positive societal impact.

10. Pushing Impact Investing forward through Research: The Impact Investing Lab at SDA Bocconi School of Management in Italy focuses on scalable business models that can create economic and social value through innovation in products, services, and processes. The lab acts as a platform and point of reference at a national and international level to support the development of impact investing as a new asset class able to attract public and private capital. It generates research, organises seminars and workshops, and contributes to the spread of a culture and a knowledge of impact investing.

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.

 

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)

 

Action-Oriented Research on Diversity and Inclusion at Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University (Part 2 of 2)

Results from DiversityLeads

“Diversity and inclusion” is one of the four values of the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Canada, guiding its pursuit of excellence and its goal of ensuring that management education is accessible and every student is empowered to achieve his or her full potential. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Through their Diversity Institute, the school is involved in numerous projects that are having a significant impact nationally.

To continue our special themed month focused on diversity and inclusion, I spoke with Dr. Wendy Cukier from The Diversity Institute about this initiative, which she founded in 1999, and the impact it is having. To read the first part of this article click here.

What have been some of the challenges?

There are significant ideological barriers in the diversity and inclusion space – many equality seeking groups in the community and on campus do not see business or business schools as their natural partners and allies. Building common goals and frameworks for collaboration can be challenging. Language often matters.

There are also significant gaps between rhetoric and practice regarding diversity in universities, in business and across sectors with serious systemic barriers and discrimination persisting. Work on diversity and inclusion is often viewed as “fluffy” or subjective and does not have the legitimacy or status of work on strategy, finance or technology. This is reflected in the allocation of resources and research funding which tend to privilege Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) and allied disciplines at Universities and even within business schools. Similarly, work focused on practice or using action-oriented research methods tend to be marginalized. Scholars working in this area (and interdisciplinary areas generally) are less likely to get funding and tenure or to publish in top tier journals and are especially disadvantaged at schools which focus on Financial Times rankings.

Another challenge we encounter during our work is that even when organizations express commitment to diversity and have diversity strategies in place, unconscious bias, or the unconscious assumptions based on gender, race, ethnicity, etc., remains as an obstacle. A recent report found that Asian-named applicants applying to high-skilled jobs have a 32.6% lower rate of selection for an interview compared to Anglo-named applicants, even when both groups had equivalent all-Canadian qualifications (Banerjee, Reitz and Oreopolous, 2017). Applicants with some or all foreign qualifications experienced a 45-60% lower rate of interview selection than Anglo-named applicants. This phenomenon has been observed in other jurisdictions as well.

When it comes to data, there is less data on the representation of groups other than women and racialized minorities in leadership roles in part because of issues around disclosure. While race and gender are difficult to conceal, individuals may choose not to disclose other aspects of identity – aboriginal status, disability, sexual orientation, or whether they were born outside of Canada. Our research shows clearly that reported rates of these groups are directly affected by the level of comfort people have disclosing these aspects of their identity rather than levels of representation.

Finally, industry partners often find research in this area challenging – it may produce findings that they do not welcome or which confront sensitivities. Seeking partnerships and funds are challenging as well.

Successes?

Over the last 6 years the Diversity Institute has attracted more than $5 million in direct funding for projects as well as approximately $10million in indirect funding to the university. In addition, more than 40 organizations have partnered with the Diversity Institute on a range of projects.

This project has also produced concrete changes in policies related to the appointment of diverse judges and members of boards as well as practices in organizations ranging from hospitals to police agencies to banks. The research coming out of the Diversity Institute has also helped to support policy change through invited deputations and government budget consultations. In Canada, the federal government’s proposed Bill C-25 is an important piece of legislation for the first time requiring all large corporations to report on diversity and the Diversity Institute was invited to comment on the legislation as well as the processes related to judicial appointments and many other major policy initiatives.

The Diversity Institute has produced more than 200 publications and has pushed the boundaries of knowledge on new approaches to advancing diversity and inclusion drawing on models of social innovation.

The Diversity Institute led the creation of the Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge which raised $4.7 m and mobilized 1000 volunteers to sponsor and resettle 400 Syrian refugees in one year. (http://www.ryerson.ca/lifelinesyria/)

The Diversity Institute has partnered on or incubated over 10 social innovation initiatives including: Scadding Court Community Centre’s Business Out of the Box (BoB) project, which uses shipping containers to provide affordable commercial spaces to low income and newcomer business owners in downtown Toronto.

What other programmes/initiatives do you have at your school in the area of diversity?

There are multiple curricular programs across Ryerson University that the business school participates in related to diversity and social innovation – too many to mention –as well as courses addressing different dimensions and aspects of diversity.

In 2015, the Diversity Institute created the Global Diversity Exchange bringing together three additional programs from its partner the Maytree Foundation including on that showcases good ideas in immigrant integration, one that works towards ensuring governance boards of non profits and public bodies represent the population they serve, and one that provides businesses with the tools to better recruit, retain and promote skilled immigrants.

In partnership with the Diversity Institute, the seven-year Partnership for Change: The RBC Immigrant, Diversity and Inclusion Project at Ryerson University is also providing a total of $1.75 million in funding towards supporting student and faculty-led projects that address key themes relating to diversity and inclusion

The University itself has an overall EDI plan, which sets overall targets in terms of hiring, as well as for individual schools. Similarly, major initiatives such as Canada Research Chairs sets diversity targets. The University also conducts self-identification and employee engagement surveys to track diversity and inclusion processes and has a number of affinity groups and special programs

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

Diversity and inclusion are very context specific but there is much that can be shared. International Inclusion and Innovation Network (IIIN) is a new initiative by the Diversity Institute intended to promote sharing of best practices, research and innovative approaches across educational institutions, employers, community and social innovation partners. Currently, 100 partners have joined the IIIN from more than 30 academic institutions and 60 organizations across 15 countries and we welcome additional collaborators.

The IIIN will build on our DiversityLeads project to advance evidence and understanding of complex challenges and experiences of the diverse workforce across Canada and globally, including the unique experiences of immigrants and refugees, by developing an international network of interdisciplinary researchers, industry, government, community organizations and social innovators. In addition, we will be putting a greater emphasis on building innovative and practical solutions to promote inclusive labour markets in Canada and globally.

For more information, please contact the Diversity Institute at diversityinstitute@ryerson.ca.

For the month of June Primetime will be featuring examples around the Special Focus area Equality and Diversity (SDG 10). Click here to see the rest of the articles in that feature.

Action-Oriented Research on Diversity and Inclusion at Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University (Part 1 of 2)

DiversityLeads Findings

“Diversity and inclusion” is one of the four values of the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Canada, guiding its pursuit of excellence and its goal of ensuring that management education is accessible and every student is empowered to achieve his or her full potential. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Through their Diversity Institute, the school is involved in numerous projects that are having a significant impact nationally.

To continue our special themed month focused on diversity and inclusion, I spoke with Dr. Wendy Cukier from The Diversity Institute about this initiative, which she founded in 1999, and the impact it is having.

Introduce the Diversity Institute and how it came about

The Diversity Institute is an action-oriented research centre – a “think and do” institute in Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management. The initial focus of the institute was gender in the ICT sector and management and over time it expanded to include other dimensions of diversity. In Canada, there are four designated groups addressed in employment equity legislation: women, visible minorities, Aboriginal peoples and persons with disabilities – that are historically disadvantaged both in terms of employment and advancement in corporations. Recent court cases have drawn additional attention to similar disadvantages for LGBTQ individuals. Additionally, discussions of diversity and difference have focused on the importance of intersectionality and overlapping identities including refugees, immigrants and specific religions. Policy makers and forward-thinking private sector companies have advanced the notion of the “business case for diversity and inclusion”, shifting the focus of discussion from equality, social justice and human rights, and as a result, drawing in more than the usual suspects and partners to the Diversity Institute.

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

We work with organizations across sectors to develop customized strategies, programming and resources to promote new, interdisciplinary knowledge and practice about diversity. We also work with partners to develop and scale evidence-based innovations with the capacity to effect change across sectors and at the individual, organizational, and societal levels.

The Diversity Institute leads the DiversityLeads project (2011-2017), which aims to benchmark and assess the progress of diversity in leadership; examine barriers at the individual, organizational, and societal levels; explore leadership representation in media; and develop an integrated approach across groups, sectors and levels for sustained change.

The work and reputation of the Diversity Institute has enabled it to attract and retain strong partnerships both locally and globally. The Diversity Institute collaborated with Catalyst Canada to survey 17,000 mid-career managers on their perceptions and experiences related to career advancement in corporate Canada using a diversity lens and with Maytree Foundation and Civic Action to track rates of diversity among leaders in the GTA in 2009, 2010 and 2011 through the DiversityCounts project.

What is the role of business schools in promoting diversity and inclusion?

Business schools have an important role to play in increasing diversity and inclusion across sectors through their key function of training leaders of tomorrow. Diversity, inclusion and human rights are core UN sustainability goals and fundamental to corporate social responsibility (CSR) although they are often overlooked (in contrast, for example, to environmental goals).

Organizations are becoming more diverse and as are their markets. To be effective leaders and managers, business graduates need to understand, value and advance diversity and inclusion. The “business case for diversity” needs to be understood in the context of developing the workforce, enhancing innovation, meeting the needs of diverse markets, improving corporate performance and minimizing risks.

Multiple perspectives provide better solutions and research shows ethnically diverse groups produce better ideas when brainstorming. While contexts differ, there are increasing legal and regulatory requirements related to diversity and inclusion. Multinationals must understand how to navigate these across markets.

Business schools are well-positioned to shape organizational policies, practices and culture. Business schools also have longstanding connections to the corporate sector and ought to play a role in helping business achieve their diversity and inclusion goals which are increasingly becoming important to key stakeholders. Currently, in most countries businesses have relatively low levels of diversity among senior management and corporate boards of directors. Often unconscious bias and systemic discrimination pose barriers to recruitment and advancement of women, minorities and persons with disabilities. Business schools can raise awareness and provide evidence and tools need to advance diversity and inclusion policy and practices.

It is also important for business schools to understand that their diverse student body may need additional support and tools and others in their community need to understand and value diversity to create effective learning environments and workplaces.

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