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.

A Students Initiated Consortium Engaging Refugees – Leeds School of Business

In 2015, 2,250 refugees and refugee eligible populations were resettled in Colorado with the majority coming from Burma, Bhutan, Somalia and Iraq. Colorado saw an additional 3,000 refugees arrive in 2016. This, as well as the Principles for Responsible Management Education Secretariats call to action to business schools and management-related Higher Education Institutions in response to the refugee crisis, prompted Colorado based Leeds School of Business in the USA to engage.

As we continue on with our special theme month focused on Diversity and Equality in Management Education, this week I spoke with Mark Meaney, Executive Director of the Center for Education on Social Responsibility at Leeds School of Business (and also a lead of the PRME North American Chapter) about their work in this area.

Why did Leeds answer the call?

At the Center for Education on Social Responsibility, we feel it is important that business schools assist in the integration of refugees into local economies. This makes sense both from the point of view of economic development and because it is the right thing to do. As to the former, studies have shown the extent to which refugees are entrepreneurial. As such, they contribute to economic development in local communities. As to the latter, Denver and Boulder are sanctuary cities with a commitment to maintaining an infrastructure that helps refugees in the integration into local communities.

How did Leeds respond?

Leeds answered the call because a group of students (CESR Fellows) wished to do something to address the global refugee crisis, to take action to try to diminish the suffering of people forced to flee conflict, and to work toward solutions for the widespread disruption.

I worked with the Fellows to assemble a consortium of stakeholders around the topic of refugee issues, including local, state and federal government officials, NGOs, business leaders from the Boulder/Denver business community, and regional business schools. Members of the consortium began to meet monthly in October of 2015. Over the course of several months, we reached consensus that the focus of our efforts in addressing refugee issues would be twofold: (1) to make connections among the various stakeholders in government, NGOs, businesses, and business schools in order to effect synergies in becoming more effective; and (2) to influence business schools in developing programming to meet the needs of refugees in assisting them in their integration into local economies. To these ends, we resolved to begin the process with a Regional Summit on Refugee Issues. We then continued to meet in planning the Summit.

What were the results of the Regional Summit on Refugee Issues?

On October 26th, experts from local, state and the federal government, NGOs, business leaders, and universities gathered at the University of Colorado at Boulder for the Regional Summit on Refugee Issues, to discuss the role of businesses and business  schools in integrating refugees into communities and local economies. By all accounts, the Summit was a smashing success.

The Summit succeeded in confirming the positive narrative that refugees do contribute to local economies. According to government officials and NGOs, studies demonstrate that refugees are much more likely to start new businesses that create wealth, employ local residents, and stimulate investment. Following upon this discussion, speakers and panelists also related that refugees also pay back their loans at higher rates than other disadvantaged populations.

CESR Fellows wanted to use the Summit to generate ideas about how stakeholders could work together to assist Colorado b-schools in assessing and meeting refugee higher education needs. We then reached consensus on how all stakeholders can partner with b-schools in mitigating the constraints that prevent refugees from integrating into local economies. We also accomplished precisely what we intended in joining federal, state and local government officials, leading NGOs, business leaders from the Denver/Boulder business community to work together with Colorado business schools.

What have been some of the challenges of engaging on these topics at Leeds? Successes?

As a result of the Summit, students and some faculty are now fully engaged in understanding the root causes of the refugee crisis. The challenge has been in engaging the administration and some faculty in embracing the HEI needs of refuges, and then in approving the development of programming to meet those needs.

Assembling the consortium is clearly one such success. Members have committed to continuing to work together to assist refugees in their integration into local economies. Another success is shown in relation to students from various regional b-schools who have fully committed to raising awareness of the plight of refugees among their peers. Effecting synergies among stakeholders who participated in the Summit must also count as a success. NGOs were able to place refugees as employees with employers who have a commitment to hire refugees, such as L&R Pallet and Knotty Tie. NGOs were also able to network with banks with a commitment to micro-finance and then help to secure loans for some of their refugee clients. Employers with an explicit policy to hire refugee are left feeling much more of a part of a larger community. They felt supported by other stakeholders. Finally, the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management at the University of Denver has developed a program to assist refugees in learning the culinary skills needed to work in restaurants and hotels.

How can business schools help on refugee issues?

Do not try to do this on your own. Take the time to cultivate relationships in the community in building a consortium of relevant stakeholders who can support one another in a variety of ways. Business schools can help in three ways: (1) develop    programing to meet the education needs of refugees, particularly in area of entrepreneurship; (2) support research among faculty that focuses on the truth about the root causes of the refugee crisis and on the ways in which refugees contribute to economic growth in local economies; and (3) encourage service work that brings faculty and students together with refugee populations so that they can learn about the plight of refugees.

What’s next?

To build on the success of the pilot at the University of Denver in demonstrating how programming that addresses the HEI needs of refugee populations can be cost effective for other business schools in the region. To continue to galvanize support on the CU Boulder campus among administrators, faculty and students in support of refugees. The CESR Fellows have continued to build on the momentum of the Summit in reaching out across the CU campus in support of various refugee student groups to demonstrate solidarity.

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.

Integrating Sustainability into Core Courses – University of Fraser Valley

University of the Fraser Valley’s Faculty Training Workshop on PRME

University of the Fraser Valley in Canada, recently submitted their first Sharing Information on Progress Report. As a new Signatory, the University of the Fraser Valley has spent the past few years exploring how to embed the Six Principles of PRME into their curriculum and activities. They have been conducting regular faculty workshops to discuss opportunities to integrate PRME into curricular and extra curricular activities.

A common way of integrating the Principles is by creating new courses on the topic but the School of Business at the University of the Fraser Valley took a different approach. Associate Professor David Dobson has been exploring these issues for several years now and has integrated sustainability topics into his existing course Business Research Methods which is mandatory for all students.

I spoke with Frank Ulbrich, the Director of the UFV School of Business, and Associate Professor David Dobson who leads the student research project about this initiative.

Introduce your student research projects and the place they hold in the curriculum.

Within our program we have a mandatory Business Research Methods class where students complete a major research project to learn the process, methodology, and applicability of various business research problems. This class is placed in the program to ensure that our students have the skills to conduct thorough and critically developed research in their upper level classes and future careers. It was felt that this would be the perfect platform to introduce various topics of social and corporate responsibility for the students to research. Depending on the professor, research topics vary widely from year to year, but the majority of instructors instigate the study of PRME related topics.

Why was the topic of ‘Fair Trade Coffee’ chosen as one of the topics?

I had heard a lot of people talk about Fairtrade and organic foods within the Fraser Valley. And I thought since Fairtrade was actually an organization it would be interesting to have the students find out more about them, their cause and how customers react to their label. Additionally, I was unaware of any systemic research done on this specific topic and since it wouldn’t be a very complicated research topic for undergraduates to deal with, it aligned perfectly with my course.

What were some of the questions that students explored?

Within this particular semester all the students had the same basic research question, which was to find out what customers’ willingness to pay for Fairtrade Coffee was. However, within the separate teams, the groups developed additional research questions around this topic. Some of the questions that came out were: What are the barriers to purchasing Fairtrade? What are the perceptions existing among society about Fairtrade? And how should the companies selling ‘Coffee’ market Fairtrade coffee? As an instructor I am always pleasantly surprised at the diverse angles and lenses different student groups tackle a similar project with. I am constantly learning from my own students, which I love.

How did the students react to this project? What were some of the lessons? Impact?

Most students were unacquainted with the Fairtrade movement and to be honest probably thought studying coffee for a semester wasn’t going to be very interesting. I usually find that the social and corporate responsibility topics I choose, are initially received with chagrin. But as the weeks progress, combined with the nature of the course it ends up creating a lot of awareness and interest among the students. I would say that the take away impact varies among the classes. At a minimum they are now aware of Fairtrade, some will now choose a product with a Fairtrade label over one without if they are similar in price point, and at the other end of the scale there are those students who really become impassioned for the topic.

What have been some of the challenges? 

The biggest challenge in choosing a social or corporate responsibility topic to ask students to research, is taking into account the limited time frame, and sample sizes and populations. You need to remember that they are undergraduates being exposed to the research process for the first time, and that the class is really in place for them to learn about how to conduct research and not necessarily what are the results of their research. So you need to be able to give them an interesting topic that can be studied in around three months or less and take into account that because of this time based restriction, their sample sizes and diversity might be low. Additionally, this is a huge learning curve for the students. Not only is the topic of study a foreign subject, but the research process itself is all new to them.

Successes? 

I think the success of combining these types of topics into a research class, is that you are not only teaching them skills, but creating positive awareness. If you pick the right kind of topics, ones that are interesting and prevalent, the combination usually creates a buzz. It’s something that the student can take away and remember not just how to conduct solid research, but how to be a better-rounded and informed citizen.

Are other sustainability related topics explored in student projects?

I usually choose new research topics every time I teach the class, which keeps the marking interesting for me. Over the years my classes have studied topics from researching companies marketing practices for various products, to plastic dumping in the sea, and willingness to pay for and perception of various products like Fairtrade coffee, or Organic foods.

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

Choosing research topics based on sustainability or social and corporate responsibility appears to be this big challenge for professors. But it is actually very easy to find interesting and contemporary topics that students can get on the bandwagon with. After you experience the first semester running a class with these topics, you will find that students are very receptive to do something different. Plus they will surprise you with the topics they come back with and trust me you will always be learning from them. I know that a lot of my colleagues are also including social and corporate responsibility into their classes, which is great as students are constantly engaging in positive material.

What’s next for the initiative?

Since this is an area of interest for me the foreseeable future is filled with my Business Research Methods classes being framed around these types of topics. I find it is easier for the students to relate to and conduct research that is somehow based on consumer behaviour and/or consumable goods. While I haven’t fully decided what my research questions will be for next year, I am leaning towards environmental framing for environmental products, or source credibility for these types of products.

What else is happening in this space at University of the Fraser Valley?

April 4, 2017 marked the 5th Annual School of Business Student Research Day. Students present their research to a panel of judges and field questions on academic rigor and research design. Topics are usually sparked from subjects taught in various classes that feature sustainability and or corporate responsibility. Presentations this year included titles such as, “Effects of Valence Framing on Eco-Friendly Seafood Purchase Decisions.”; “Green Trends Among Fortune 500 Companies”; and “Gender at University: Analysis of Gender Equality in Public Universities Across Canada”. We are proud to provide platforms and opportunities for our students to pursue their research interests further in their undergraduate degree. It is extremely gratifying to observe our students taking interest in topics that are related to social and corporate responsibility.

We also have a number of faculty workshops organized by the School of Business to discuss opportunities to integrate the PRME Initiative. This is a new initiative for us. As committed participants of PRME we are continually looking for ways to improve the learning environment for our students. These faculty workshops are wonderful collaborative spaces where as a department we can learn about new initiatives, and also take the time to cross reference with one another about what we have been finding successful in our classrooms. Faculty learning is just as much of a necessity as student learning. When we have informed and passionate professors, we create that knowledge and awareness on PRME related topics, which results in sparking initiatives within our student body.

For more about the University of the Fraser Valley read their latest Sharing Information on Progress Report.

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.

 

SDG4

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).

 

SDG5

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.

 

SDG6SDG7

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.

 

SDG8

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

Sustainability Study Abroad Programme – Haworth College of Business

michiganThe Haworth College of Business is the first college at Western Michigan University to require all students to have a course in sustainability. Through the school’s sustainability faculty learning community, faculty share best practices and pedagogical techniques to faculty who don’t teach sustainability to ensure that all students are learning about these important topics.

The school also offers additional experiential experiences to engage students in these discussions, in particular focus on the Sustainable Development Goals. One example is their Sustainability Study Abroad Programme in partnership with Christ University in Bangalore India. I spoke with Timothy B. Palmer, Professor of Strategic Management and Director Center for Sustainable Business Practices at Western Michigan University about this initiative.

What is the Sustainability Study Abroad Programme?

One of my deepest convictions is that business should be used to make society and communities better. I have therefore designed this study abroad to show students the great potential they have to use their professional skills to solve both business and social challenges. The two-week trip is interdisciplinary. We integrate social work students with business students because both disciplines study sustainability’s social pillar, however they do this from different vantage points. Social work students have keen insights into social challenges while business students understand scalable business models that might be leveraged to address these challenges. Indeed, India’s recent “CSR Mandate” essentially requires cooperation between business and social work professionals. By bringing both groups of students together in India, the trip’s rich context provides opportunities for significant student development.

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

The aim of this study abroad is to expose students to opportunities firms have to not only achieve lower costs of business in India, but to improve peoples’ lives while there. India has two very different sides: unbridled growth and prosperity alongside poverty. Our trip exposes students to both these sides. We visit firms such as Dell, Infosys, Toyota, Himalaya Drug Company, and the ITC Gardenia Hotel, Asia’s only LEED platinum hotel. Through these visits we hear about their sustainability initiatives including CSR programs. We also visit NGOs and women’s self-help groups; those organizations providing direct services to many of India’s most marginalized populations.

What impact has the program had on the students? The community?

The study abroad provides students an opportunity to experience the cultural delights of India. Students work with culinary arts students and make a five course meal. They take a yoga class. They tour temples and botanical gardens. However, they also obtain first-hand experiences with struggles faced by India’s poor. While it’s hard to know the long term impacts of these experiences, we collect data one year following the trip. Students report that their experiences in India have had a significant impact on “having conversations with colleagues about business’ role in addressing social issues,” “defending populations that have far less than others,” and “taking on a work responsibility related to a social issue that I might otherwise not have done.” It’s certain that sitting with a women’s self-help group hearing about members’ hopes for their children, or meeting with an NGO working to ensure the safety of children who are vulnerable to trafficking, impacts how students think about both their citizenship responsibilities as well as the responsibilities of leading firms.

What have been some of the challenges? 

The primary challenge with a study abroad of this nature is ensuring you recruit students who are open to the experience. We’re not studying Shakespeare in England. Students are exposed to really tough challenges and it’s not for everyone. However, effective recruiting and doing your best to provide a realistic preview of the trip helps ensure students who are energized by a trip like this and are therefore most likely to get the most out of the unique experience.

Successes?

When recruiting students, I always talk in depth about our visit to a rural Indian village. Organizing a tour of India isn’t terribly difficult. However, getting access to residents of small villages just couldn’t happen without being part of the connections through a study abroad.

I vividly remember one meeting in a cinderblock community center. Twenty of my students were sitting on rugs eating lunch with eight women in the village’s self-help group. The conversation meandered from community investments made by the women to the mechanics of running such a group. However, at one point questioning moved to more personal matters. A student asked, “What are your hopes for your children?” One by one, the women talked about career aspirations for their kids. Several wanted their children to become engineers. Others hoped their kids would become medical doctors. Others, teachers. Sadly, none hoped they’d become a professor! However, I could see the lightbulbs go off in my students’ heads. While we are worlds away, figuratively and literally, parents worldwide have very similar aspirations for the next generation.

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

I personally believe that having a partnership institution in the location of the study abroad is extremely helpful. One option is putting the trip together entirely on your own. However, the partnership I have with Christ University is indispensable. They organize all our site visits, line up transportation, identify restaurants, provide our housing, and organize cultural activities. I give them plenty of input on what has worked from previous trips and what has been less effective. Having them do the legwork frees me up to focus on my students’ learning.

What’s next for the initiative?

The first trip in 2014 integrated business students from Western Michigan University with social service-human development students from Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. Future trips will cross-list the class at WMU as both a business class and a social work class co-led by faculty from each. Both disciples study CSR but from their own unique perspectives. Bringing students from both disciplines affords an opportunity to leverage learning for our students because they can learn from each other.

 

Universities Bringing the Business Community Together – Examples from Denmark, Iceland, Argentina, and USA

Business schools are creating and facilitating spaces where the business community and the academic community can come together to discuss current issues as well as potential solutions to these issues. These collaborative spaces, whether they explore sustainability and the SDGs more broadly or focus in on specific industries or topics, bring benefits not just to the university and its students and researchers, but to the business community as well.

Here are a few examples of collaborative projects from Denmark, Iceland, Argentina and the USA.

Denmark: The Public-Private platform at Copenhagen Business School takes place yearly. Through a combination of interdisciplinary research, teaching and public engagement the platform aims to help mobilise, foster and develop society wide solutions to pressing matters of public concern. The goal of the platform is to initiate dialogue across the traditional divides between public and private, thus facilitating the creation of novel forms of diagnosis and intervention. Business leaders, politicians, managers and academics come together to exchange views and discuss approaches to specific problems with the aim of initiating collaborative programmes and discreet projects to explore novel solutions to these issues. The platform is engaged in several strategic partnerships, including with the Danish Ministry of the Environment.

Argentina: IAE’s Institutional Development Department invited companies from industrial sectors in Argentina to come to their School to share experiences and reflect on how to improve these sectors, without a specific research agenda. This approach expanded the range of companies and institutions contacted, opening the School doors to those that were not necessarily interested in participating in a specific research plan. The result was a new concept of “collaborative forums”, where companies and institutions gather at the School to discuss different topics and share experiences, slowly nurturing their relationships and exploring collaboration paths.

USA: Glasgow Caledonian University New York’s Fair Fashion Centre focuses on the business case for sustainability in the fashion industry in particular and building collaborations with, and between, key players in this industry. Part of their work has a been a series of ‘Town Hall’ events called Fashion Sharing Progress. These events gather leaders from various industries and organisations to offer different perspectives on sustainable development and help identify new solutions for the fashion and retail industry and beyond. This brings together academics, professionals and industry experts to facilitate new learning, which combines profitability with ethical environmental and social considerations. Leading names in the industry have participating in these events including representatives from Nike, Patagonia, the International Labour Organization, and eco-luxe labels. Through these events, companies are sharing the work that they are doing in sustainability with a wider community. For example, Warby Parker is transforming the lives of people around the world unable to afford glasses with their buy-a-pair, give-a-pair model. Levi Stauss & Co disccuss their work around water efficiency and their Water<Less collection, a collection of jeans that use up to 96% less water to create.

Iceland: Some universities host collaborative centres. For example Festa, the Icelandic Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, a non-profit organization founded by six Icelandic companies in 2011 is hosted by Reykjavik University. The mission of Festa is to be a knowledge center for CSR and promote the discussion on CSR in Iceland. In addition it supports companies in implementing CSR strategies and provides a network of companies who want to implement CSR, as well as cooperating with universities by promoting research and teaching of CSR. Founding companies are Rio Tinto Alcan, Íslandsbanki, Landsbankinn, Landsvirkjun, Síminn and Össur. New members include, ÁTVR, Ölgerðin brewery, Capacent, Arion Bank, Innovation Center Iceland, Reykjagarður, ISS Iceland, 112 Iceland and CCP games.

 

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