Cross Cutting Issues – International Day of Person’s with Disabilities

There are many differences between the current global Sustainable Development Goals and the previous Millennium Development Goals. We have gone from 8 to 17 Goals, from a set of goals determined by a small community of government officials to one that have the support of the international community including NGOs, business and educational institutions. Another thing that has changed between the MDGs and the SDGs is the inclusion of the rights of persons with disabilities not just once, but throughout.

Over a billion people are estimated to live with some form of disability, about 15% of the world’s population and this number is growing. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted in 2006, defines persons with disabilities as “those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”. In honour of the International Day of Person’s with Disabilities on December 3rd, this weeks’ posts will focus on how the global community, business and business schools are engaging in the challenges and opportunities related to disabilites.

Disability and the Sustainable Development Goals

Disability disproportionately affects vulnerable populations and is more common in women, older people and the poor. Because they face widespread barriers to assessing services people with disabilities have worse health and socioeconomic outcomes, lower education achievements, less economic participation and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities.

Persons with disabilities are specifically mentioned 11 times in the SDGs although it is important to note that most if not all of the goals and targets are related to disabilities (for example SDG 5 around Gender Equality includes women with disabilities). But there are several specific references including:

4 -Guaranteeing equal and accessible education by building inclusive
learning environments and providing the needed assistance for persons with disabilities.

 

8- Promoting inclusive economic growth, full and productive employment allowingpersons with disabilities to fully access the job market
10 – Emphasizing the social, economic and political inclusion of persons withdisabilities

11: Creating accessible cities and water resources, affordable accessible and sustainable transportation systems, providing universal access to safe, inclusive, accessible and green public spaces

17: Underlining the importance of data collection and monitoring of the SDGs, emphasis on disability disaggregated data.

What does this mean in practice?

Despite these goals, and the fact that most countries have signed the Convention, only 45 countries have anti-discrimination laws to protect disabled people. This includes according to the World Report on Disability:

  • Ensuring a recruitment process free of discrimination. This includes accessibility in communications, in interview mechanisms, timing and format allowances for exams etc.
  • Promote an accessible physical working environment including disabled friendly parking, doorways, ramps, cafeterias, workstations, washrooms, meeting rooms etc.
  • Promote reasonable accommodations including communication accessibility, flexible working hours, transportation accessibility etc.
  • Promote a healthy, safe and stigma free working environment
  • Promote equal opportunities for career development as well as equal pay for equal work
  • Promote job retention and return to work for people who acquire a disability during the course of their employment
  • Promote access to training and necessary diplomas to be able to work or become self-employed

So what can a business school do to promote inclusiveness?

Enabling access to all mainstream services is important. In order to do this schools must look at barriers that different students, with different impairments face. There has been a paradigm shift in approaches to disabilities, away from a medical understanding to a social one. Disability arises from the interaction between people with a health condition and their environment and it is experienced in each individual. As the UN Global Compact puts it, “persons with disabilities form a very heterogeneous group. For example, a person with an intellectual impairment, someone who is visually impaired or someone with a mental health condition/psychosocial impairment all encounter different barriers”. According to the UN Flagship Report on Disability released today, more than 10% of persons with disabilities have been refused entry into school because of their disability and more than a quarter reported schools were not accessible or were hindering to them.

These barriers don’t just relate to physical access to spaces. People with disabilities face widespread barriers in accessing a whole range of services including, but not limited to health, education, employment and transportation, even information. These impact their ability to study, their time on campus, and their employment opportunities post graduation.

Focusing on removing these barriers isn’t the only way that schools should engage. Attracting and accepting students with disabilities isn’t just about anti-discrimination or encouraging diversity. It also needs to focus on inclusiveness. Do your disabled employees and students feel included?

Schools encourage inclusiveness by organizing a range of activities and services aimed at raising awareness about persons with disabilities, in particular the challenges that they face. While business schools have courses exploring human rights, very few discuss the challenges, opportunities as well as the contributions that people with disabilities make to society and the economy. Out of the more one billion people with a disability, 80% are of working age but according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) fewer than 20% of these are currently working. Research done by Accenture found that companies that embrace best practices for employing and supporting more persons with disabilities in their workforce have outperformed their peers. A new range of specialized programmes, courses and research projects are tackling just that as we will see in the examples presented in other posts this week.

Finally, none of this work should be done without participation from persons with disabilities. The disability movement’s principle is “nothing about us without us”. Therefore including individuals with disabilities in discussions about what they need and how those needs, including relating to research and curriculum, is crucial and an opportunity in itself.

Disability shouldn’t just be seen in terms of numbers or access but about exploring and providing opportunities that engage all students. Disability doesn’t just impact individuals with disabilities, it is a cross cutting sustainability and business issue as well.

Next post: Resources on Disability

A Selection of MOOCs on Sustainability and Ethics for January 2018 (Part 1 of 2)

Every 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 starting in January 2018, listed by topic, from primarily PRME signatory schools.

Foundations of Development Policy: This course uses economic theory and data analysis to explore the economic lives of the poor, and the ways to design and implement effective development policy. MIT – starts February 6 2018.

The Challenges of Global Poverty: This course uses economics to understand some of the root causes behind underdevelopment and the constraints and trade-offs the poor face when making decisions. It also looks into anti-poverty strategies and policies. MIT – Starts February 6 2018.

What are the Sustainable Development Goals – This course provides a brief introduction to the Sustainable Development goals, what they are, how they came about, the goals and targets themselves as well as next steps and our role. Gowi – starts now.

 

Social Norms, Social Change: This course is on social norms, the rules that glue societies together. It teaches hot to diagnose social norms, and how to distinguish them from other social constructs, like customs or conventions. Unicef – starts January 1 2018.

 

Children’s Human Rights – An Interdisciplinary Introduction: This course combines law, psychology, sociology, history, educational and health sciences, economy and anthropology to explore critical issues concerning children’s rights. University of Geneva – starts January 8 2018.

 

Women in Leadership Inspiring Positive Change: This course aims to inspire and empower women and men across the world to engage in purposeful career development and take on leadership for important causes – to lead change with more conviction and confidence – and improve our workplaces and communities for all. Case Western Reserve University – starts January 8 2018.

Droi International de L’Eau Douce (course in French) – This course explores the laws that regulate and produce freshwater and the responsibilities of different stakeholders. University of Geneva – starts January 1 2018.

 

Sustainable Energy: This series of courses explores the complex nature of energy generation, distribution and supply and the challenges of transitioning to a sustainable energy future. University of Queensland – starts January 23 2018.

Energy Principles and Renewable Energy: This course provides an introduction to the language of energy, key scientific principles that underpin energy systems, future energy challenges and available renewable energy options. University of Queensland – starts January 23 2018.

Just Money: Banking as if Society Mattered: This course explores how banks can use capital as a tool to promote social and environmental wellbeing. MIT – starts March 7 2018.

Supply Chain Innovation: How Technology Can Create a Sustainable Future: This course looks at new technologies and how they can make supply chains more sustainable. It also explores global trends in global and supply chain innovation. University of Twente – starts now.

Debt Sustainability Analysis: What are the tools to access debt sustainability? How can countries effectively manage their sovereign debt? To answer these questions, this course combines theory with hands-on exercises. IMF – self paced.

From Corporate Social Responsibility to Corporate Social Innovation: Based on real-world experiences from business leaders, learn how to develop and lead social innovation initiatives that create both economic and social value. Babson – starts January 16 2018.

 

Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.

2017 Good Practices in Responsible Management Education (Part 1 of 2)

This past year was a big year for the Principles for Responsible Management. As a network of networks we celebrated our 10th anniversary including an opportunity to come together and look both back and forwards at the PRME Global Forum in July 2017 in New York City. This year was also the second year that the Sustainable Development Goals have been in effect, including a significant increase in the impact that management education is having in the realisation of these Goals. Many of this past year’s PRiMEtime posts have highlighted this collective impact.

This is the 6th year that I write PRiMEtime. I started this blog in 2011 in collaboration with the PRME Secretariat as a way of showcasing all of the exciting initiatives that Signatories were taking part in. Not only has this shown schools and the business community what is possible but in many instances this has also helped raise awareness of these initiatives within the schools and helped the individuals involved receive more support internally. Thank you to all of the individuals who are not only driving these initiatives but who took the time to share their stories here. PRiMEtime is now a database of good practices from around the world with over 1000 examples of how management education is embedding sustainability the Principles into their work.

This year 60 new articles were posted featuring over 100 examples from more 90 different Signatories in 27 countries. We have also introduced a number of Special Feature Months providing a more in-depth look at how schools are approaching a specific SDG. In this 2-part year-end post we review the examples featured this year, (roughly) organised around the SDGs. Simply click on the links to read the full article.

I look forward to another year of featuring your initiatives. Please feel free to email me your suggestions as well as any requests for 2018.

Many signatories provide opportunities for their students to work on projects to better their local communities. One example featured was the I’m the Change Initiative from the Institute of Management Technology in India which is a mandatory programme for all students. Many Signatories organise awareness raising events and conferences during the school year focused on PRME and sustainability. At the University of Greenwich Business School their full day conference focused on “Shaping Business Opportunities in a World of Uncertainty” not just organised by students but is organised as part of the requirements for one of their courses.

Students have always been, and will continue to be an important driver of PRME and sustainability on campus. At FEA-RP/USP in Brazil the Sustainable Student Organisation Awards promote and recognise projects that benefit the school and the local community. Students at Universidad EAFIT in Colombia are exploring solutions to local SDG challenges through a range of projects on campus. Copenhagen Business School is looking at a range of ways to really embed sustainability into their campus with the support of a new Sustainable Infrastructure Taskforce.

On PRiMEtime we regularly post blogs summarizing the lists of MOOCs on sustainability topics offered by Signatories. Many of these MOOCs are either available on an on-going basis or have regular start dates so even past posts provide a good resources. If you are planning a MOOC for 2018 please email so this can be included in the next post in January. For 2017 this included a selection of the MOOCs available in Winter 2017 focused around economic, social and environmental issues as well as in September 2017 focused around strategy, cities, social impact, funding and ethics. An update of a very popular post on Primetime from several years ago focused on how to use online games to engage in sustainability was also shared. It provides links to a number of online games that can be used in the classroom organised by SDG.

A post in March also looked at What Students Think About Responsible Management Education outlining a number of insights pulled from a recent survey on students views on sustainability in business education. Another post that came out just before the PRME Global Forum looked at why Management’s Education’s Role in the SDGs isn’t limited to providing quality education and how there are many different ways that Schools can and should engage.

Several posts included projects that tackle SDG 5 around Gender Equality but two focused in on the topic. Students at Slippery Rock University in the United States were the catalyst to creating a new Centre on campus that focuses on development female business leaders. Through their Diversity Institute, Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Canada has been focused on ensuring that management education is accessible and every student is empowered to achieve his or her full potential.

Once again this year faculty from Signatory schools shared examples of companies within their countries that are considered sustainability leaders, companies engaged in a range of activities across all SDGs. Featured sustainable business examples for 2017 included:

Australia: Kindling, Crepes for Change, eWater Systems

Brazil: Votorantim Cimentos, CPFL

Canada: Net Zero Waste, EcoDairy, Nature’s Path Foods, Magnet, Sharbucks Canada, Scadding Court Community Centre, Telus, Stantec, Nova Scotia designer Tabitha Osler

Colombia: EPM, Grupo Sura, ISA

India: Jayaashree Industries, Goonj

Nigeria: Wecyclers, Adcem Healthcare, Doreo Partner’s Babban Gona

Poland: Izodom 2000, Solaris Bus & Coach, Seedia

South Africa: Zoona, AllLife Insurance, GreenCape

Sweden: Filippa K, Max Hamburgers, Axel Johnson AB

UK: Triodas Bank, Bordeaux Quay, Resource Futures, Low Carbon SW, Eunomia

The month of October was a Special Feature month focused on Impact Investing and how schools are engaging in this topic in particular within the Finance curriculum. A range of resources on Impact Investing were presented as well as a summary of ten ways schools are bringing Impact Investing to campus featuring specific examples from ten different signatories including Tsinghua University in China and ESADE Business School in Spain to name but two. Smith School of Business in Canada shared their experiences training the next generation of impact investing professionals through their Social Finance Academy. Sauder School of Business presented their approach to promoting impact investing not just within the business school but externally as well. Impact Investing Competitions organised by different business schools around the world including a more in-depth feature on not just the competition at IESE but also their newly launched student managed impact investment fund. We finished off the month with a special look at the University of Cape Town’s work on promoting impact investing in the African Context and training a new generation of leaders in South Africa and beyond.

Resources on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals – December edition – part 1 of 2

There are a growing number of excellent resources around the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, many of which can be used in the classroom or to inspire activities within University and Business School campuses. In this new series we will regularly feature a range of different resources that can be used to engage in, and raise awareness of the 17 SDGs. If you are creating new resources or have any favourites please send them so they can be featured as well. Part 1 will feature resources for Goals 1-9 and part 2 will feature resources for Goals 10 through to 17. For more Primetime posts related to the SDGs click here.

Assessing Bottlenecks: With the SDGs, the question is: What are the actions that will take us forward more quickly across a broader range of interlinked goals? This report explores the interlinkages and integrated nature of the SDGs and the need to go beyond silos to taking an integrated approach to development interventions. The SDG Accelerator and Bottleneck Assessment tool development by the UN Development Programme explores these.

Zero Hunger Challenge: The Zero Hunger Challenge reflects five elements from within the SDGs, which taken together, can end hunger, eliminate all forms of malnutrition and build inclusive and sustainable food systems. Stakeholders including universities can become participants of the Challenge by making a commitment to take action that will have a demonstrable, quantifiable impact. The challenge website also offers a range of resources and videos that can be used to create your own version of the Zero Hunger challenge on campus.

Human Rights and Business Dilemmas Forum: This site includes a series of dilemmas and case studies that were developed to support efforts by business to respect human rights in their operations and supply chains. Cases are focused on a number of topics including living wages, working hours, human trafficking, doing business sin conflict affected countries and indigenous peoples’ rights.

World Youth Skills Day: Youth are almost three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and are continuously exposed to lower quality of jobs, greater labor market inequalities, and longer and more insecure school-to-work transitions. This is particularly the case for women. The 15th of July ,World Youth Skills Day, aims draw special attention to this issue. UNESCO has developed a special kit with a range of videos that can be used.

Women’s Empowerment Principles: Over 1,000 business leaders have adopted the Women Empowerment Principles that are used to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. The site includes a Gender Gap Analysis Tool to help companies identify strengths, gaps and opportunities to improve their performance eon gender equality as well as a series of resources that can be used in the classroom.

Guidance for Companies on Respecting the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation: This resource provides companies with practical measures on how to bring a human rights lens to their existing corporate water stewardship practices. It is on of several publications provided by the CEO Water Mandate, a group of companies working to develop, implement and disclose water sustainability polices and practices and sharing best and emerging practices.

Sustainable Energy for All: The site includes information to indicators for sustainable energy that give policy makers and investors detailed country-level insights for levelling the playing field for sustainable energy worldwide. ‘Heat maps’ available on the site, combine and analyse some of these data sets to show leaders where they can make the biggest and fastest inroads towards the SDGs.

Decent work and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: The International Labour works to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all. Their site offers a range of resources around decent work and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a cross cutting theme that impacts and is impacted by many of the other SDGs. They also have a number of Notes on specific issues such as green jobs, national employment policies, skills and engaging the private sector on decent work.

The Equator Principles: The Equator Principles is a risk management framework, adopted by financial institutions, for determining, assessing and managing environmental and social risk in projects. It is primarily intended to provide a minimum standard for due diligence to support responsible risk decision-making. It currently covers over 70 percent of international Project Finance debt in emerging markets.

Management Education’s Role in the SDGs isn’t limited to providing quality education (SDG4). It is broader and more important than that.

When I discuss the Sustainable Development Goals with business school representatives, and ask what kind of initiatives they are working on in relation to these Goals, the answer is often the same: “We educate, therefore our focus is on SDG 4: Quality Education”.

But focusing solely on, and stopping at SDG 4 is a mistake, and a missed opportunity for the institutions in question and society at large. The role that business schools play is much broader and more important than that. The wider community engaged in the SDGs most often fails to recognise the crucial role that business schools can and are playing in the SDGs but they aren’t the only ones; business schools themselves generally fail to recognise the extent of their own role.

The Sustainable Development Goals are unique in that they are a globally recognised set of goals that outline where we need to go as a planet and where all stakeholders should direct their attention. It is a common language that unites us, that allows for partnerships to grow across sectors, industries, disciplines, all through this shared platform. It is a key for schools to connect into these discussions, to participate in them and to influence them all for the benefit of the school, its faculty and students.

  1. Ensure everyone on campus knows what the goals are and why they are important: Sobey School of Business in Canada organised a faculty session on the SDGs with a focus on how faculty can better embed discussion of the Goals into their courses. Faculty were asked to commit in writing how they planned to do this in their 2016/17 courses through the use of cases, assignments, additional readings etc.
  2. Identify which SDGs are most material to your institution: Hanken School of Economics in Finland identified which SDGS were most material to them in order to prioritize first steps. They are now working to understand where they stand on each of them and are exploring how to move forward.
  3. Embedding the SDGs into the curriculum: Slipper Rock University of Pennsylvania and La Trobe Business School have both been working to benchmark the coverage of sustainability topics within the business curriculum by mapping coverage of the SDGs taught in the courses offered in the core curriculum and whether it is part of the text, a module, part of an assignment or discussions.
  4. Embedding the SDGs into class assignments/discussions: Students at University of Colorado Denver in the US are tasked with developing an implementation plan for a company of their choice to address specific sustainable development goals and identify how the business could make progress against the specific targets associated with the goals. Students also need to consider actions that the United Nations could take to encourage more businesses to address the SDGs.
  5. Explore possible solutions: Students at Hult International Business School in the US were challenged to create a company-led “system” to solve a specific Sustainable Development Goal. Proposals ranged from training FARC rebels to meet employment needs while helping them to re-integrate into Columbian society; to challenging companies to get rid of boxes by collaborating with retailers to create new distribution systems for cereals.
  6. Facilitate interdisciplinary and multi stakeholder discussions to move the goals forward: Kemmy Business School’s Accountability Research Cluster hosted an international seminar on Tax and Poverty as part of their series Architects of a Better World. The event, which brought together a range of stakeholders focused around Goal 1 of the SDGs: No Poverty, the first time that the role of tax in delivering on the SDGs has been specifically addressed in Ireland.
  7. Work on the goals within your own institution: ISAE/FGV in Brazil reports on what they are doing on campus to reach the SDGS within their own operations including through waste management, water consumption, ethics and corruption on campus, gender equality and access to education.
  8. Use the SDGs to guide research priorities and impact: The University of Wollongong in Australia reports on what percentage of their research relates to the different SDGs and Manchester Met Business School is aligning their research closely with the SDGs.
  9. Developing partnerships to advance the goals: Faculty at Nottingham University Business School in the UK are collaborating with an international group of scholars to develop an innovative framework for assessing the impacts of Multinational Corporations on issues relating to the SDGs, in particular SDG 16 Peace Justice and Strong Institutions. The toolkit is being testing through close collaboration with partners from a range of industries as well as research organisations and civil society.
  10. Report on your efforts and impact in relation to the SDGs: University of Applied Sciences HTW Chur has organised their reporting around the SDGS with a particular emphasis on which SDGs they have a direct, indirect or collateral impact on.

Every one of the SDGs impact, and are impacted by management education, the research that you do, the decisions that your graduates make and how, as a network of schools, we create value. Each of the goals requires businesses and other organisations to work together on the challenges and developing and implementing the solutions. The upcoming 2017 Global Forum for Responsible Management Education – 10 Years of PRME in New York City on the 18-19 and of July will focus on sharing best practices in relation to making the Global Goals local business and how to bring the SDGs into every classroom.

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.

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