Students Exploring Corporate Sustainability Reporting – WikiRate

screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-16-41-53With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it is more important than ever to be able to track and assess the contributions of businesses towards the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The annual Communication on Progress (COP) Report that UN Global Compact participants submit every year has information about company specific advancement. However while interesting, unless this information and data is taken out and brought together it can be of limited use.

In the second article of our month long series on student engagement, we are featuring WikiRate, part of PRME’s recently launched Student Engagement Platform. WikiRate’s mission is to spur corporations to be transparent and responsive by making data about their social and environmental impacts useful and available to all. Through a new partnership with PRME, students are invited to review company COPs and extract data from these reports for a set of metrics from leading reporting frameworks such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and others, as mapped to the SDGs in the SDG Compass. This information is used to populate the WikiRate open-source database. The data is available and comparable to analyze where company and sector improvements can be made.

 

“Teaching Corporate Governance and Sustainability can often be an abstract topic, but WikiRate enables us to bridge the gap between theory and practice and expose our students to real data from real companies. In the first half of 2016, over 300 MBA students championed the first WikiRate pilot researching and checking companies’ environmental, social and governance data via metrics based on the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines. Following this success, we’re already engaging the next cohort of 280 students to contribute company research in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals”

– Morris Mthombeni, Lecturer at The University of Pretoria Gordon Institute of Business Science

 

How this works in practice

Students read through company reports and extract a series of data points focused on the company’s engagement in different Sustainable Development goals. The selection of companies and metrics for research is up to the professors themselves. In addition to researching the companies, students are also requested to check the values populated by fellow students through a ‘double-checking’ for metric values mechanism on WikiRate .

The Bertelsmann Stiftung has partnered to contribute suggested research questions, to facilitate class discussions and encourage further analysis of the data populated on WikiRate. The purpose here is to extend the assignment beyond the task of extracting data from reports to engaging more thoroughly in analyzing the data, including identifying its limitations. This stage includes questions such as – how well does the metrics that are selected measure contributions to the selected SDGs and what additional information in the COP would be relevant to assessing a company’s contribution to the SDGs. Many of these assignments are also complemented with research reports drafted by the students.

How WikiRate is being used in the classroom

A growing number of schools are engaged in this project, including, but not limited to, the University of Western Australia Business School, CENTRUM in Peru, Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada and the University of Pretoria-Gordon Institute of Business Sciences.

Professors are taking diverse approaches. For some institutions such as the Universidad EAFIT, in Colombia, professors will be integrating the assignment, offering the chance to coordinate internally and share ideas and takeaways among different classes. At Glasgow Caledonian University, the project is presented to the cohort in a live presentation to kick-off the assignment and field questions. A professor at Oxford Brookes University is presenting this as a voluntary exercise for students to use as a tool to supplement their research on environmental sustainability in companies for a required report.

Each school or class also has their own Project page on WikiRate where they post their research findings and analysis. All the Projects are visible to everyone, so that students and professors around the world can check in on the progress of their peers, and compare research.

The impact on students

Through this task students develop an understanding of Corporate Social Responsibility strategies, how they are applied, tracked and reported, and also consider which aspects of corporate contributions to progress on SDGs can be tracked with available metrics and data. The PRME network and UN forums are also important for making the link between students and the sometimes intangible aspects of the SDGs. This brings students’ work into the fold and connects the classroom topics directly to the bigger picture. It gives students the opportunity to engage in the complexity and diversity of CSR reporting to not only raise their awareness of the issues, but also create a body of data that will be useful in tracking and measuring business impact globally. According to projected semester participants, WikiRate has already exceeded , and are now looking to double, their target of having 500 students researching 500 companies this semester.

Moving forward

The WikiRate platform is still in beta stage – meaning that they are in the process of developing and improving structure that captures the complexity of the data and the corporate reporting landscape as well as understanding user and researcher needs. The pilot launched at the University of Pretoria Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), in South Africa, has kicked off this semester’s engagements with 280 students conducting research.

The research and analyses have the potential to fill some gaps in knowledge around what companies are doing and what they should be doing, to contribute to achieving the SDGs. Some of the outcomes will be presented at the Global Forum in July 2017.

How to get involved

A second iteration of this project will be open for schools to join in the fall 2017. For more information visit the WikiRate website or use this contact form.

Using Games to Engage in Sustainability – An Update (Part 2 of 3)

Back in 2012 I put together a three post special on online games that focus on raising awareness on different sustainability topics. To this day these are some of the most popular posts ever on PRiMEtime. Over the next couple of weeks I will be posting a series of articles with an updated summary of online games that aim to raise awareness about sustainability topics that can be used in the classroom or by students individually interested in these issues. I will also be covering a range of apps that allow students to engage, in real time, in sustainability issues locally or even globally. All of these resources are organised based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Click here to read Part 1. (SDG 1-6).

Do you use any other games in your classroom? Send them and I will update the list.

SDG7Energy

ElectroCity lets players manage their own virtual towns and cities while teaching them about energy, sustainability and environmental management in New Zealand.

The Solar PV Industry Simulation, developed by MIT, is a live web-based simulation where participants play the role of senior management at SunPower, a leading firm in the solar photovoltaic industry. Users compete against other firms, simulated by the computer, and set the industry conditions so as to learn about strategy under different conditions relating to learning, knowledge spillovers, and competitive behaviour.

Clean Start is a web simulation where participants play the role of the founder of a new startup company in the exciting and competitive cleantech sector. Each quarter they must set prices, decide how many engineers and sales people to hire and set compensation including salary, stock, options and profit sharing.

CityOne, released by IBM, helps users discover how business process management, collaborative technologies and service oriented architecture enable industry solutions that help organisations and industries adapt to new demands and build a sustainable advantage. The game looks specifically at Water, Energy, Banking and Retail.

SDG8Work

Sweatshop is a game that educates users about the realities that many workers around the world contend with each day. Players act as the factory manager and are responsible for hiring workers while ensuring that prices stay down and product numbers stay high.

Oiligarchy puts gamers in the seat of CEO of the world’s biggest oil company, confronting them with real challenges like corruption and drilling around the world and oil addiction.

The Business Ethics Challenge, developed by Novo Nordisk, looks at how to deal with business ethics issues in everyday business situations while ensuring a balance between sales targets and company reputation.

McDonald’s game was developed to explain to their customers the challenges of running a business, including some of the negative impacts that corporations such as theirs have on society and the environment – from rainforest destruction to working conditions, faulty advertising campaigns, food poisoning, etc.

SDG9Innovation

Green&Great is a simulation game in which players assume the role of managers in large consulting firms. Their companies compete for clients and seek to make a profit, while achieving social goals and reducing environmental impacts. By facing the consequences of their own decisions, players learn and experience the importance of business sustainability as a source of competitive advantage.

Making is a tool to inspire designers and creators to make better choices in the materials they use. Powered by Nike Materials Sustainability Index, the app provides the information to enable users to make real time, predictive decisions.

OpenSourceMap provides a database of supply chain maps for companies all around the world which includes the companies’ suppliers, the suppliers’ suppliers and all other stakeholders across their supply chain.

SDG10
Inequalities

Evoke is a ten week crash course in changing the world. The goal of this social network game is to help empower people all over the world to come up with creative solutions to our most urgent social problems. The game was developed by the World Bank Institute and is appropriate for all ages.

SDG11Cities

Stop Disasters is a disaster simulation game from the UN/ISDR (International Strategy for Disaster Reduction). Each scenario takes between 10 and 20 minutes to play and there are five scenarios each available at an easy, medium or hard difficulty level. The site also provides a range of teaching materials around different types of disasters including tsunamis, floods, wildfires and earthquakes.

Disaster Detector teaches players how to analyse and interpret data on natural disasters in order to mitigate the effects of those disasters and also forecast future catastrophic events. The aim is to help the fictional town of Smithsonville predict and prepare for natural disasters. The game was developed by the US Department of Education.

Sust. Has three games. An environment game (how you live in your home), a building game (building a sustainable house using a fixed budget) and MySustTown (building houses, schools, developments have positive and negative impacts on the town’s sustainability).

Urbanology, a project launched by BMW Guggenheim Lab, is a quick game that forces users to make choices about urban issues, producing some quick findings based on choice. By answering questions relating to education, housing, healthcare, infrastructure and mobility, users “build” a city that matches their indicated desires and needs. Their city is then compared with other cities around the world.

SDG12Consumption

Consumer Consequences is an interactive game designed to illustrate the impact of our lifestyles on Earth. It asks players a series of questions about their lifestyle and will show the player how many Earths of natural resources it would take to sustain all humans if they lived like us.

Oceanopolis is a Facebook game designed to educate users on sustainable living. The users protect their island paradise from being buried under recyclable rubbish. Players must turn the trash into treasure by recycling and upcycling.

Wise up on Waste is an app developed by Unilever that aims to save costs in professional kitchens by reducing food waste. The app provides waste management tools as well as tips to reduce food waste.

Using Games to Engage in Sustainability – An Update (Part 1 of 3)

Back in 2012, I put together a three-post special on online games that focus on raising awareness on different sustainability topics. To this day these are some of the most popular posts ever on PRiMEtime. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be posting a series of articles with an updated summary of online games that aim to raise awareness about sustainability topics that can be used in the classroom or by individual students interested in these issues. I will also be including a selection of apps that allow students to engage, real time, in sustainability issues locally or even globally. All of these resources are organised based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Do you use any other games in your classroom? Send them and I will update the list.

SDG1Poverty

Alit,The cost of Life, is about helping the Guinard family in rural Haiti get an education and improve their lives. This includes their wellness and general health, their emotional well-being and their educational levels. The goal is to try to keep the family healthy and happy for all four years of the game. The game was developed in collaboration with UNICEF.

Spent is an online game about poverty and the challenges it brings forth for each and every person. Throughout the game, players make series of decision that impacts their income. Each decision is connected to different dilemmas and problems tied to health, level of education and providing basic needs for your family.

SDG2Hunger

Food Import Folly is a game, created by The New York Times, where players take on the role of Food and Drug Administration inspectors in a world of increasingly numerous food imports and increasingly unmanageable risk. Participants must protect their country by not letting any contaminated food cross the border.

ShareTheMeal, developed by the World Food Programme, provides the opportunity for individuals to donate $0.50, enough to feed one child for one day. Users can use the app on their phone at any time to donate a meal to a child.

SDG3Health

Sea Hero Quest is a unique game that gathers data on dementia through the playing of the game. The 2 million individuals who have played the game have generated more than 6,000 years of dementia research data just by playing. The game involves navigating the high seas while navigating buoys, setting flares and spotting aquatic monsters. The route that players take as they navigate the environment is being analysed by scientists aiming to set a benchmark for ‘normal’ navigation skills, against which they can examine those of patients showing signs of early dementia.

At-Risk is an interactive game that aims to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness in order to reduce the number of students with undetected or untreated conditions. Tailored for use among universities, it addresses the feat and stigma of mental illness that may prevent university staff and faculty from approaching and assisting students exhibiting symptoms of mental illness including depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide.

Foldit, developed by various departments from the University of Washington, explores the process by which living beings create the primary structure of proteins. It attempts to apply the human brain’s natural three-dimensional pattern matching abilities to predict protein structures. As more players complete the game, the researchers can create a better understanding of these protein structure and craft new medicines to promote better health and cure disease.

The Convincer, developed by Novo Nordisk, has players work to convince the Minster of Health to invest in ways to effectively address the rising challenges of the proper diabetes initiatives.

SDG4Education

The Republia Times puts players into the shoes of the editor-in-chief of the national newspaper of Republia, a fictional country recovering from a war with its neighbour, Antegria. Players use their newspaper to influence public opinion in the country by selecting articles that will be published and which will not be published.

SDG6Water

The Water-Energy Nexus game gives participants a unique opportunity to get an insight into managing the water needs of energy production. Such insights can lead to improvements in water management leading to improved water systems’ resilience. It was developed as a training tool to be used in workshops in Southern African Development community countries.

the uva bay game is a large-scale participatory simulation, developed by the University of Virginia, based on the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Players take the roles of stakeholders, such as farmers, developer, watermen and local policy-makers, and make decisions about their livelihoods or regulatory authority and see the impact of their decisions on their personal finances, the regional economy and health of the watershed.

Water Risk Assessment is an online tool created by the WWF that helps companies and investors ask the right questions about water, to assess risks and offer guidance. It covers information from more than 32 industry sectors.

 

The Sustainable Development Goals – A List of Resources


On 25 September 2015, all 193 member states of the United Nations adopted a plan for a path to achieve a better future for all, to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect the planet. A set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 related targets were presented that address the most important economic, social, environmental and governance challenges, and that will help guide national priorities over the next 15 years.

Business schools play a role in the successful implementation of the SDGs. Here are 6 ways they can do so with links to various resources to help.

  1. Learn more about the SDGs themselves: The Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform provides information about not only each goal, but all of the individual targets related to each goal. The site provides multiple resources as well as links to individual organisations around the world focused on working to reach the individual goals (a good source of possible partnerships and projects) and how the nine major stakeholder groups are engaging in the SDGs. There is even an app for the SDGs that can be downloaded for free. GOWI provides a range of free online courses around the Sustainable Development Goals delivered via email that take 2-5 minutes to read. To get more in to depth take a look at the growing number of MOOC on the topic.
  1. Integrate the SDGs into teaching. There are a wide range of videos (the Global Goals have their own YouTube channel) as well as several online games, platforms and apps to engage in the different issues. World’s Largest Lesson offers lesson plans around the different goals which, although aimed at a younger audience, provides some good resources and ideas. Connect research on sustainability in economics, finance, and management among bachelor, master and PhD students through the oikos-PRME Research Hub. There are also a growing number of examples of how to integrate the SDGs into business school courses and how to get students more engaged.
  1. Explore what management education’s role is in the SDGs: The PRME Secretariat has released a toolkit, Management Education and the Sustainable Development Goals, exploring why signatories should engage in the SDGs and how they can do so. This includes aligning curriculum and research with the SDGs, seeing more applied research, acting as leaders of public opinion and connecting and collaborating regionally and internationally. Other articles exploring how schools can get involved include a summary of a panel discussion about the role of Management Education in the SDGs, Management Education and the Sustainable Development Goals – Get Engaged published by AACSB and The Sustainable Development Goals and Management Education – an Overview and Update. For some inspiration as to how business schools are already engaging in the SDGs read Primetime posts or look through this list of 100 examples.
  1. Explore what business’s roles are in the SDGs: The SDG Campus The Guide for Business action on the SDGs assists companies in aligning their strategies with the SDGs . The UN Global Compact also has a website which outlines how companies can advance each of the SDGs with links to additional business resources for each SDG. The Global Compact is currently working on a number of action platforms which will focus on different SDGs which are likely to produce additional resources through the coming year. AIM2Flourish provides a database of short case studies, written by students, on businesses engaged in sustainability and the SDGs and several businesses themselves have created SDG related toolkits.
  1. Explore new and strengthen existing partnerships with business: Partnerships isn’t just Goal 17 of the SDGs, it is a crucial part of all SDGs. The UN Global Compact and PRME offer a range of documents focused on how business and business schools can collaborate to co-create solutions for sustainability challenges, win-win partnerships that can yield fresh and innovative ideas. Partners with Business Schools to Advance Sustainability toolkit provides case studies and tips and the following blog posts also focus on developing partnerships with business:
  1. Audit and report on what is already happening across your campus and programmes: Take a look at what is already happening on campus and how you can link these activities to the SDGs. Use your SIP as an opportunity to take stock of which SDGs you are already engaged in and which you need to be moving forward with by reporting on progress and future goals. Some recently submitted reports have already started to report on SDGs or explore how students feel companies are doing reporting their own initiatives with Wikirate.

 

What resources have you developed to raise awareness about the SDGs in your school?

A Selection of MOOCs on Sustainability and Ethics for Winter 2017 (Part 2)

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-14-37-09Every year there is an increase in the number of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available on sustainability topics. These courses are available for free online and open to anyone with an interest in the topic, lasting between three and fourteen weeks and taking three to eight hours per week to complete. Below is a selection of such courses offered this Winter 2017, listed by topic, from PRME as well as some non-signatory schools. The first part focused on courses that relate to social and environmental issues. Here we focus on economic issues and how business specifically is embedding sustainability topics.

Economic Issues

Citizen Engagement A Game Changer for Development: This course explores citizen engagement and the role citizens can play in actively shaping public policy. Students will learn about cutting edge research and theories related to citizen engagement, and examples of ways citizens and governments are working together in new ways to improve their societies. From the World Bank Group – starts February 7.

Foundations of Development Policy: Advanced Development Economics: This course uses economic theory and data analysis, explore the economic lives of the poor, and the ways to design and implement effective development policy. From Massachusetts Institute of Technology – starts February 6.

From Poverty to Prosperity Understanding Economic Development: The course explores the role of government and the key political, social and economic processes that elevate any society from poverty to prosperity. From the University of Oxford – stats February 1.

Greening the Economy Sustainable Cities: This course explores sustainable cities as engines for greening the economy including sustainable urban transformation and the ways to effectively direct urban development toward ambitious sustainability and climate goals. From Lund University – starts January 9.

Subsistence Marketplace: This course explores unique synergies between pioneering research, teaching, and social initiatives through the Subsistence Marketplace Initiative. Unique to this approach is a bottom-up understanding of the intersection of poverty and the marketplace. From University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – starts now.

Greening the Economy Lessons from Scandinavia: This course explores greening the economy on four levels – individual, business, city and nation including the relationships between these levels. From Lund University – starts January 9.

Business Specific

Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility: This course explores what corporate social responsibility is, what does it mean and what does it involve? Do stakeholders really care, and if they do, how should companies communicate with them? Universite Catholique de Louvain – starts February 6.

Strategy and Sustainability: This course explores the topic of business and sustainability focuses on filtering out the noise and making choices in a hard nosed and clear eyed way. From IESE – starts now.

Practicing Substantiality, Responsibility and Ethics: This course explores to process to engage in changing practices to make the more sustainable, responsible and ethical. It starts with exploring the trends of responsible management practices From University of Manchester – starts now.

Become a Social Entrepreneur: This course teaches students how to create societal impact through social entrepreneurship: the discovery and sustainable exploration of opportunities to create social change. It includes teamwork to explore a problematic issue and learn more about the source of the problem. Including creating a business plan. From Copenhagen Business School – starts January 2.

Social Impact Strategy Tools for Entrepreneurs and Innovators: This course offers an introduction to social impact strategy and social entrepreneurship, including key concepts, an overview of the field, and tools to get started as a changemaker. From University of Pennsylvania – starts now.

New Models of Business of Society: This course discusses the emergence of a new story about business which locates business within a social framework. It explores how almost every business creates or destroys value for customers, suppliers, employees, communities and society and how to create a business that makes money and makes the world a better place. From University of Virginia – starts now.

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

Engaging Employees with Intellectual Disability – Antwerp Management School

idwork-pagina-18ID@Work at Antwerp Management School in Belgium is a unique research project aimed at supporting organisations in attracting, developing and retaining employees with an intellectual disability. The project identifies the levers that can help facilitate the employment of disabled people, as well as the potential challenges and obstacles related to this type of employment effort. Intellectual disabilities are part of most of the Sustainable Development Goals including Goal 8 (unemployment rate and average hour earnings of persons with disabilities) and Goal 16 (increasing the proposition of positions for persons with disabilities in different organisations including in decision making positions).

I recently spoke with Professor Bart Cambré, associate dean research from Antwerp Management School about this innovative initiative.


How did ID@Work come about?

In the margin of the 2014 Special Olympics European Summer Games, Antwerp Management School conducted a study on the employment of people with intellectual disability (ID). The research was done by an inclusive team existing of two athletes participating in the Special Olympics European Summer Games and a senior researcher without ID. Their study focused mainly on employment in sheltered workshops and social economy. A first white paper was published.
The positive experience Antwerp Management School had by working with the researchers with ID, their added value during interviews, and the obvious need of more information and data on employment of people with ID in the regular economy, motivated AMS to develop a new project: ID@Work was born.
What is ID@Work?

ID@Work is a unique scientific project on the inclusion of workers with intellectual disability in the regular economy. ID@Work, stands for intellectual disability@work and has 6 goals:

  • hire the researchers with ID who volunteered in the previous study
  • conduct a study on the employment of workers with ID in the regular economy
  • write a white paper on this study (at this moment only available in Dutch and French)
  • develop a free scan for employers
  • develop a coaching programme for employers wishing to hire workers with intellectual disability
  • organise HR Master classes to train HR personal to hire workers with intellectual disability. This will be an exclusive AMS product.

The first 4 goals have already been achieved. The most recent one was launched November, 2016 and is a scan enabling employers to check how ready a company is to hire workers with intellectual disability. After having taken the test, every participant receives instant feedback and can ask for a full report and profile including advice and links with further resources to engage employees with intellectual disability. Both the tool and the report are free of charges.

What were some of the results of the study you conducted?

For the study mentioned previously, the inclusive team visited 26 companies and interviewed over 60 people all involved in inclusive work with people with ID.
The team extracted 6 pillars on which working with people with ID is or should be based. It is obvious that if one of the pillars is lacking or not equally balanced compared to the other ones, the risk of failure or a less positive experience with working with an employee with ID rises.
Those 6 pillars are:
1. Knowledge & Expertise need to be present before starting. If the company lacks knowledge, call in the help of experts.

  1. Strategy – refers to the reason for inclusion. What are the motives of an employer to hire people with ID? Is there an economic inspired strategy or rather social responsibility?
  2. Job matching – refers to the processes to match a candidate with the tasks needed to be done. Job design is a key element.
  3. Work culture – refers to the values and norms of an organisation when it comes to diversity, performance, organisational practices and policy. Integration and respect are key.
  4. Experience & Support – how much experience does the organisation have in managing diversity and to what extend is there support to facilitate the inclusive policy?
  5. Empowerment – refers to the level of autonomy and self-reliance of the worker with ID. Both need to be stimulated and can be endangered when the employer/organisation has a (too) protective attitude towards the worker with ID.

What have been some of the challenges and successes?
Working with two researchers with ID has been eye-opening. It has become clear that they have another view on the world compared to researchers without ID and that their vision leads towards other types of questions and unexpected answers from the interviewees. It was definitely an added value to the study.

Also, by walking the talk, Antwerp Management School became its own case study. Experiencing real live that things go wrong when the job doesn’t match, that getting professional accompaniment and the right financial incentives as an employer, and other types of help is a complicated adventure in Belgium.

We’ve proven the need of a project like ID@Work to facilitate the employment of workers with ID and to make employers reflect on the possibility and the benefits of hiring people with ID. The fact that not only placement agencies and care organisations, but also the associations of entrepreneurs back the project and promote the test, is a key element for making this project transcend the purely scientific level and enable the tools to actually make a real difference for people with ID in the regular economy.

What does a school – or any other employer for that matter – needs to know before hiring a person with ID?
The most important thing is to gain knowledge on intellectual disability and to know what kind of tasks you would this person like to execute and what basic skills he/she needs to have able to do this. For example, would you like to hire a person with ID to help in administration, then list the tasks involved and the required skills. Does the job include sending emails, look up things on the Internet or use spread sheets to make listings, then be aware of the fact that the worker needs to know how to use a computer, write emails in a proper way, etc. Do not expect these skills to be granted. Reflect on the question if your company/organisation is willing to invest time and money into extra IT training for the worker with ID. Also determine if the tasks you would like to be executed by a person with ID are sustainable or limited in time. If so, you might need to foresee other matching tasks for the worker with ID later on or make him/her aware of the fact that the job is only temporary.

Second is communication. Make sure that the whole company or organisation carries the initiative. Everybody needs to know why a person with ID is being hired and what the benefits are.
Third, set boundaries. In a people and socially oriented environment such as a school, the danger of ‘over’-caring is real. Being too protective is not stimulating the empowerment of the worker and will consolidate the innate helplessness the majority of people with ID are locked into. On the other hand, too much care will weigh on the co-workers of the person with ID. Because of the innate helplessness and the fact that the borders between private life and work are not always clear to the worker with ID, they keep asking for all kinds of help if co-workers do not set clear boundaries. The danger for workers to become after-hour caregivers for their colleague with ID is real.

What’s next?

With another 6 months of the project left, we’re now working on the last two goals of the project: a coaching program for employers and HR Master Classes. The first one will be developed with agencies already active in placement and job coaching for workers with a distance to the labor market. The HR Master Classes will be an exclusive program by Antwerp Management School.

Parallel to this development we will be analysing the data harvested with the ID@Work scan and use the results to consult experts and authorities in improving policies regarding inclusive work.
We secretly hope to be able to install a chair on the subject later on.

SDGSDG11SDG8

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