Fostering Discussions around Impact Investing Internally and Externally – Sauder School of Business

This month PRiMEtime is exploring different ways that business schools are engaging in Impact Investing, whether that is through their teaching, extra curricular activities, research or events.

I recently had the chance to speak with Christie Stephenson, the Executive Director of the Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia in Canada about the work that they are doing around Impact Investing and Responsible Investing. Her center, which became operational in 2016 and has a major focus on responsible investing, works in close collaboration with UBC Sauder Centre for Social Innovation and Impact Investing, which was formed in 2007.

 

Why impact investing? Why is it important that students learn about impact investing?

Impact investing is a fundamental shift in thinking about how profits and societal/ environmental good relate to each other. It rejects the notion that the two outcomes are mutually exclusive. Today, many business students come into university truly wanting to make a positive impact on society. Yet they’re studying business and their interest is in business – not necessarily charity or non-profit management. Impact investing provides another channel/avenue to work in global issues other than traditional charities that allows them combine their interest in business with their desire to create social impact. Incorporating environmental, social and governance considerations in investment decision making is also a major trend with retail and institutional investors and therefore it is more important than ever that students understand this. This traditionally gets referred to as Responsible Investing. Some people consider responsible investing a type of impact investing, other people consider impact investing a type of responsible investing. At UBC Sauder we tend to describe them as different, but closely connected, types of social finance.

 

What are some of the interesting research that the Centre has been doing around impact investing or is planning to do?

The UBC Sauder Centre for Social Innovation & Impact Investing (SauderS3i), which was formed in 2007, focuses in large part on impact investing, as the name suggests. SauderS3i is best explained by using a demand and supply model. It creates demand for impact investment capital by incubating successful social enterprises through the iHub program and it coordinates the supply of impact investment capital through working in partnership with the Pacific Impact Investor Network (PIIN). The Centre works with PIIN members to help them understand issues more thoroughly as well as how impact investing can play a role in their portfolios. The Dhillon Centre focuses specifically on responsible investing within the impact investing spectrum. This can be described as the integration of environmental, social and governance risk and opportunity considerations in public markets investing, whether that’s retail or institutional. One of the Centre’s four pillars is research and recruitment is currently underway for a lead academic to develop this pillar.

 

How are students engaged in impact investing? What kind of opportunities do they have?

Every summer, SauderS3i hires several interns to work on Impact Investing projects commissioned to us through PIIN members. They range from in-depth analysis projects on specific issues (water, education, housing etc.) to providing insights into impact investing portfolio construction.

The Dhillon Centre also hires a number of part time students. As well, with SFU Beedie Business School it hosts a free two-day workshop on responsible investment for students. We also host a variety of events for students including recent panels and workshops on topics such as “Careers in Social Finance” and “Impact Investing as a Major Philanthropic Trend”.

We currently also have opportunities within the curriculum including an elective on Impact Investing: Social Finance in the 21st Century that ran for the first time last year. In the past we have organized a range of events for students including an Impact Investing Competition.

 

What have been some of your successes?

SauderS3i has been working on creating one of the first university-based seed-stage funds. UBC has a strong entrepreneurial culture and a number of rockstar social entrepreneurs through our iHub programme (for example Wize Monkey, Arbutus Medical and Alinker). The impact fund aims to provide seed-stage funding to enterprises that are ready to make the next step from an early-stage idea to scaling growth and operations. On the research front, we’re extremely interested in how impact investing venture capital differs from traditional “Silicon Valley” venture capital. Unlike tech start-ups (like Facebook, Google, Uber), not many social enterprises will have traditional exits like IPO or get sold to another company. So we’re looking at how deal structures can be designed to respect this different dynamic, and at the same time create returns for investors.

Both Centres do a lot of work to foster discussions around Impact Investing in the community. This includes hosting meetings to bring together impact investors in Vancouver and events open to the public. For instance this month, the Dhillon Centre co-hosted an event with the SFU Beedie School of Business called “Reconciliation: A New Relationship for Investors” which explored how investors can take into account how companies work with indigenous people and communities.

Sauder S3i’s executive director, James Tansey, is on the Federal Social Finance and Social Innovation Co-Creation Steering Group that is charting out what’s next for Canada’s social finance market. The Dhillon Centre has been invited to speak on impact investing and responsible investing at numerous industry events over the past year, including those hosted by the Chartered Financial Analyst Society, the Responsible Investment Association of Canada, the Conference Board of Canada, and the International Corporate Governance Network, among others.

 

What’s next?

After five years of successful collaboration between Coast Capital Savings Credit Union and UBC Sauder Centre for Social Innovation & Impact Investing, the iHub is moving on to the next stage of our journey. Starting in November 2017 the iHub social venture accelerator will become an integral part of entrepreneurship@UBC which is the venture accelerator at the University of British Columbia.

Sauder S3i is continually trying to build the impact investing market in Vancouver and western Canada. In the coming months, it will be refining and improving its relationship with PIIN and launching a new investor portal / public impact investing resource guide (www.impactinvestmentforum.com).

The Dhillon Centre is supporting the development of more social finance content within the academic curriculum. We are a member of the iInternational Sustainable Finance Faculty Consortium which held its first in-person meeting this summer in Chicago and appears have great potential as a collective effort to support the advance of impact and responsible investment as an academic discipline.

 

What are your favourite resources around impact investing? Are there any other impact investing programmes at other schools that you admire?

Anyone interested in impact investing must subscribe to ImpactAlpha’s Daily Brief. You’ll never be out of the loop once you’ve subscribed.

The Impact Terms Project is also very useful. It has a great library of useful concepts related to private equity/ venture capital in impact investing.

Oxford University’s Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship has been a real leader in this space, although they have less of an emphasis on impact investing.

In terms of responsible investing sources, in Canada the best single source is the Responsible Investment Association of Canada. Internationally it may be the Principles for Responsible Investment. There are also some leading practitioners worth following, such as Sustainalytics, NEI Investments, and the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE).

 

Any advice for other schools looking at exploring impact investing?

Simply put, it would be “get up to speed sooner rather than later”. Impact and responsible investing are major trends that are changing not only the nature of our capital markets but have the potential for the kind of social and environmental impact that is absolutely critical to people and the planet. With the values shifts taking place because of demographic changes, there isn’t a business school out there that shouldn’t be looking at how to integrate these subjects into their curriculum and activities.

 

 

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.

 

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.

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.

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