Collaboration among schools across the Nordic Region

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Number 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is perhaps the most important, but also the most challenging. The ability of Management Education to successfully engage and help reach the SDGs will require a range of partnerships not only between schools and external organizations such as business and government but more importantly among schools themselves. Schools across a particular region can work together to coordinate research, efforts, teaching and work together to focus on the SDGs from a regional context and ensure that next generation of organizational leaders do so as well.

In response to this, the schools that make up the PRME Chapter Nordic which are schools from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have collaborated to create a new Ph.D. course that engages students from the different schools on sustainability and CSR. I spoke with Elizabeth Barratt from Stockholm School of Economics to learn more about this new programme.

Introduce the PRME Chapter Nordic Ph.D. course and how it came about.

The participating schools of the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) Chapter Nordic, which consists of schools from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, decided to establish a common PRME Chapter Nordic Ph.D. course on sustainability and CSR.

This new programme aims to help translate and implement sustainability and CSR in the local context as well as leverage the strength of the existing UN Global Compact Nordic Network. As a Chapter, we are focused on integrating sustainability thinking into management education at Nordic business schools and providing platforms for collaboration and sharing experiences. Creating such a course aims to increase awareness of these issues in the region for future generations of students. The course also aims to facilitate and support research networks among doctoral students themselves and among faculty in the Nordic Universities who are focused on sustainability and to deepen and expand cooperation across the region.

This course is called “CSR and sustainability in the Nordic context” and 19 Ph.D. students from across the region are participating. The course is divided into three modules arranged at different schools in the region beginning with Stockholm School of Economics (September 2016), BI Norwegian Business School (February 2017) and Hanken School of Economics (April 2017).

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

Module 1: In September 2016, the Mistra Center for Sustainable Markets (Misum) at the Stockholm School of Economics hosted the first module. Here students mapped the sustainability research field and then discussed research issues in sustainable production and consumption, on a Nordic model for sustainable finance and on urban sustainability. Students were then paired off to work on research papers.

Module 2: The next module entitled “Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Sustainability” is taking place at the BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo in February 2017. There will be a discussion on theoretical perspectives on innovation and entrepreneurship for sustainability, the green transition of the Norwegian economy and whether finance can be ethical. There will be presentations relating to the Norwegian petroleum industry and Oslo city’s green transition programme, and student presentations.

Module 3: The final module of the Ph.D. course will be at the Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki in April 2017 in conjunction with a CR+ conference where the students will have the possibility to present their papers.

What are you hoping will come of this new programme?

The Chapter Nordic hopes to create a stronger network and build greater cooperation between students and faculty in the different schools around sustainability research, as well as to increase and share knowledge of CSR and sustainability – particularly in the Nordic region.

What have been some of the challenges and successes?

Our biggest challenge has been coordinating doctoral programme requirements at the different hosting schools. Finding financing for the travel expenses for Ph.D. students has also been a challenge. Although the programme has just started, we are already seeing increased co-operation and communication between business school staff in the Nordic region around the teaching of sustainability and CSR, Ph.D. students at the different schools are getting to know each other, learning about sustainability issues in the different countries, and co-operating on research projects over the 9 months of the course. We are also looking forward to the presentation of the co-written research papers at the CR3 conference in Hanken in April.

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

Early planning along with close collaboration among hosting schools is key. A challenge is to ensure that each hosting school can draw on their unique research competence at the same time make sure that the sum of the parts builds a whole.

What is next for the initiative?

At the end of the current course (9 months), we will be assessing the impact and usefulness of the joint Ph.D. course; looking at what resources we have and can get access to we will decide whether to continue it on a regular basis every two years.

Making an Impact Through Experiential Learning – Experiences from the Institute of Management Technology (Part 2)

img-20170111-wa0007What kinds of partnerships have you developed to make this course possible?

For execution of the social projects we have developed partnerships with several local-level government agencies, and a number of renowned national-level NGOs, such as Agewell Foundation, AROH Foundation, Asha Deep Foundation, Empowering Minds, Lakshyam, Project KHEL, Social and Development Research and Action Group (SADRAG), Smile Foundation, Sshrishti India Trust, Teach For India, and Udayan Care.

Our model brings business, government and the civil society all together. In various cases our students are working as part of programmes run by our NGO partners wherein an NGO is working as an ‘implementation agency’ for the CSR initiatives of some big Indian or multi-national companies. As you may be aware that India is the first country to introduce a ‘mandatory’ CSR provision in the Companies Act 2013, according to which big corporates are ‘obliged’ to spend certain portions of their net profit on CSR.

Our students have been involved in contributing towards certain flagship initiatives of the Government of India including (i) Swachh Bharat Mission (for anti-open-defecation campaign); and (ii) Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana which has the dual objectives of adding diversity to the incomes of rural poor families and cater to the career aspirations of rural youth. In collaboration with the local-level government agencies our students are working with government schools as well as Missing Children’s Homes situated in Ghaziabad.

What have been some of the challenges?

There have been many challenges, given that we are doing it for the first time. We are learning as we are developing the programme. First the programme involves a large batch of students, around 450, working on the ground and the programme had to be implemnented within a couple of months! But we have been able to convert that challenge into an opportunity, because it allowed us to work at scale and on diverse areas, with potential for greater impact. I have had intellectual and moral support in the development and delivery of the course from Dr Anurag Danda my colleague in the Initiative,. Our director and dean-academics, Dr Ravikesh Srivastava have extended whole-hearted support to the programme. Above all, we could not traverse the hurdles without constant support from my students, particularly Ayush Gupta and Udit Mathur who have been relentlessly working with me to make it happen!

Another challenge is physical safety and security of students, particularly girls. It has been a major cause of concern and demanded a no-compromise approach as and when students shared their concerns and worries.

Successes?

It is gratifying to share that we have been able to conceive this unique model and bring it to fruition for the entire batch within a very short span of time. It is also delighting to see the impact that we can have and the extent of interest there is among the stakeholders to work with our students. In September 2016, I met with the local municipal commissioner of Ghaziabad to collect a list of slum areas in Ghaziabad where or students could work. When he got to know about our initiative, he proposed that our students could work with the Municipality to perform street plays (‘nukkad natak’ in Hindi) to generate awareness on harmful effects of open defecation on the opening day of the Swachh Bharat Week that was scheduled just two days from then. We brought together a group of 16 students who managed to stage it in slum areas of Ghaziabad with just few hours of preparation. People in the slum areas shared their concerns and plight to such an extent that these students came back motivated to do their bit for these under-privileged. One of our students created a video of that day (click here to view the link).

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

We are being contacted by other leading intiatituions in India who are interested in our programme and the lessons that they can learn from it, especially in terms of pedagogy which is very gratifying! Some advice I give them is;

  • Have someone lead the initiative who believes in it and is passionate about it. Otherwise it’s very difficult to make it happen!
  • Be clear about your objectives and deliverables.
  • If you decide to work with partners then choose your partners and corresponding projects in such a way that these are in alignment with your objectives.
  • Have your well-thought-out implementation plan in place well in advance. That said, when you are going out of the secured corner of your classroom and trying to work at the grass-roots, things may not go the way you plan as you will not have control over most of the external factors. So, be prepared to deal with unforeseen challenges and unexpected contingencies which may crop up out of the blue moon.

What’s next for the initiative?

The initiative is mid-way. Our first goal is to bring it to its conclusion to the best of our ability. We are also collecting in-depth feedback from students and all our stakeholders. The endeavour will be to take it to its next level in the next academic year by learning from the rich experiences we are already gathering in its maiden year. We are also in the process of including it in other programmes. For instance, we have just now introduced SSR in the curriculum of our Executive Programme. However, rather than replicating the model of the Two-Year Programme, we are trying to come-up with a tailor-made model to suit the architecture, timeline, deliverables and participants of that programme, as one size may not fit all!

SDG SDG1 SDG3 SDG11

Making an Impact Through Experiential Learning – Experiences from the Institute of Management Technology (Part 1)

img-20170111-wa0007Business schools around the world are exploring a range of experiential learning opportunities for students across their programmes. At the Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad (IMTG) experiential learning has become not only a key part of the MBA programme, but a mandatory one. Staff coordinate projects on the ground with NGOs and government agencies for 450+ students a year. The aim of this course is to enable the students to imbibe the ethos of sustainability, social responsibility and distributive justice and realise ‘contribution’ as a value through hands-on execution of live social projects.

I spoke with Dr Kasturi Das, Faculty-In-Charge of Sustainability and Social Responsibility at the Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad (IMTG) about this course.

Introduce the ‘I’m the Change Initiative’

The ‘I’M The Change Initiative’ is IMTG’s initiative on Sustainability and Social Responsibility that was launched on October 1, 2016, on the eve of father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday (which is October 2). The Initiative is inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s vision “Be the change you want to see in the world”. The initiative includes a mandatory 3-credit experiential learning course on Sustainability and Social Responsibility (SSR Course) for the first year students of IMTG’s flagship two year full time MBA programme, as well as a Talk Series called “I’m The Change”.

How it came about?

Last year, under the leadership of Dr Atish Chattopadhyay, IMTG underwent a comprehensive review of its programme architecture and curriculum. The overhaul was aimed at achieving the alignment of the curriculum with the Institute’s vision of contributing to the development of business and society through grooming leaders who are innovative, can execute effectively, and are socially responsible. The I’M The Change Initiative on Sustainability and Social Responsibility is an offshoot of this entire exercise and has been conceived in alignment with the overarching three-pronged focus of IMTG on ‘innovation’, ‘execution’ and ‘social responsibility’.

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

The SSR course is a full-fledged 3-credit course, which each of our 450 odd first year students have to compulsorily complete. The course has its well-specified objectives, desired learning outcomes, requirements to be fulfilled, as well as a multi-dimensional evaluation structure. So, it is not like ‘volunteering’ for social work, nor is it ‘optional’ for the students. The course is predominantly an ‘experiential learning’ course, with only a few in-door sessions. The main focus of the pedagogy is on the ‘doing’ component (i.e. Execution of a social project as a member of a team with ample scope for acting innovatively).

The vision underlying the course is on the ‘being’ component, i.e. to help inculcate values, attitudes, and beliefs that form a manager’s world views and professional identities. Our objective is to allow students an experiential appreciation of social contexts and challenges at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ – people who are unlike oneself. The endeavour is to make students think about their responsibilities to the community and wider society and the environment looking beyond their narrowly-focused private interests alone, thereby helping them to become better corporate citizens going forward.

Students, working in groups, identify a particular social challenge to be addressed and zero in on a specific area with a potential for making a meaningful contribution to society by applying their knowledge, skills, aptitudes and innovation. With the identified objective in view, each students’ group (comprising six students) proposes an ‘Implementation Plan’ with concrete deliverables and implement it on the ground .

The evaluation structure is multi-dimensional and innovative. It includes evaluation by self, by partner organization, and by faculty. Faculty evaluation is based on submission and presentation of the Implementation Plan, as well as final outputs in the form of ‘white paper’.Another unique feature is that it is getting administered through direct involvement of a students’ committee, called the Community Outreach & Social Projects (COSP) Committee.

What are the social projects focused on?

This is really a ‘glocal’ model. The live social projects that our students are undertaking are in alignment with the overarching sustainable development goals and the 2030 Agenda (i.e. global). However, the social projects are embedded in the Indian context (i.e. local). First, the social projects are in tune with the development frameworks and policies adopted by the Government of India, including on SDGs and CSR. Second, the social projects are aimed at addressing, at least to the extent possible, some of the crucial challenges confronting the under-privileged communities in India, much of which are case and context-specific.

The social projects are aimed at making a contribution to the lives of the underprivileged in a range of areas including education; women empowerment; marketing/market linkages development for products produced by the communities; skill development (including soft skills); distribution of free medical equipment and winter garments among old destitute; development of life skills among  children through games and play; awareness generation on health and sanitation, child sexual abuse; financial literacy; recycling of waste papers; welfare of rag pickers community old destitutes, special children and so on. etc.

(Part 2 tomorrow)

 

A Selection of MOOCs on Sustainability and Ethics for Winter 2017 (Part 1)

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 from PRME as well as some non-signatory schools. The first part focused on courses that relate to social and environmental issues while the second part focuses on economic issues and how business specifically is embedding sustainability topics.

Social Issues

Principles of Designing for Humans: This course surveys theories and findings from the social sciences with special attention to how these concepts influence the way we design for human interaction. It will cover how people perceive and process information, motor capabilities and limitations, decision-making and problem solving, and how emotion and social factors impact user experience. From University of Michigan – starts January 17.

Top 10 Social Issues for the President’s First 100 Days: A collaborative learning project which taps into the knowledge and ideas of University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice faculty to examine the most pressing social justice issues facing the United States. Starts January 20.

Social Norms Social Change: This course explores social norms, the rules that glue societies together. It teaches how to diagnose social norms, and how to distinguish them from other social constructs, like customs or conventions. These distinctions are crucial for effective policy interventions aimed to create new, beneficial norms or eliminate harmful ones. From University of Pennsylvania and UNICEF – starts January 2.

Human Rights: This courses focuses on human rights as a multidisciplinary field from history to activism, development and more. From Curtin University – starts February 13.

International Human Rights Law: This course looks at how an individual’s human rights are protected from both public and private power by international laws. From Universite Catholique de Louvain – starts January 10.

Anthropology of Current World Issues: This course uses anthropological ideas to see the world from a range of perspectives and points of view. From The University of Queensland Australia – starts January 4.

Reconciliation Through Indigenous Education: This course explores how indigenous histories, perspectives, worldviews, and approaches to learning can be made part of the work done in classrooms, organisations, communities, and everyday experiences in ways that are thoughtful and respectful. From The University of British Columbia – starts January 24.

Readings in Global Health: This course explores the most pressing issues in global health through a series of reviews and interviews with leading experts. From Harvard University – starts January 23.

Education in a Changing World: This courses looks at education as a social institution charged with communicating the knowledge, skills and cultural values that society considers most important. It looks at how the aims of education have changed over time in response to changing and competing views and what is considered a ‘good society’ and ‘good person’ as well as changes that come from new understandings of a constantly changing world. From Open2Study – starts January 9.

Environmental Issues

Water in a Thirsty World: This course explores the journey of water – how it began, and its availability today in light of global warming and urbanization. It explores the natural environment is reaching a threshold and the impact that it has for us and for the water supplies that we rely on. Open Study – January 9.

Agriculture and the World We Live in: This course looks at the world’s population and the crucial role of agriculture in feeding the steadily increasing number of people. It focuses on how climate and soil dictates the types of farms we see in different regions and countries. From Massey University – starts January 9.

Global Environmental Management: This course explores the best environmental technologies for a sustainable development and how they are managed in various settings around the world. It covers global trends that influence our environment and the living conditions and how different management systems and approaches that are used around the world to management the environment. From Technical University of Denmark – starts January 2.

Contemporary Issues in Ocean Governance: This course considers the nature of how the world’s oceans are regulated. It will go through how ocean governance has evolved through time and how it actually works. From University of Wollongong – starts January 9.

Climate Change: This course explores how climate change will affect us, why we should care about it, and what solutions we can employ. From Macquarie University – starts January 9.

Our Energy Future: This course introduces students to the issues of energy in the 21st century – including food and fuels – which are inseparably linked – and will discuss energy production and utilisation from the biology, engineering, economics, climate sciences, and social science perspectives. From University of California San Diego – starts now.

2016 Good Practices in Responsible Management Education (Part 2)

It is once again 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. (Click here for Part 1).

 

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Italy’s SDA Bocconi School of Management’s Impact Investing Lab launched in 2013 aims to become a reference point at the national and international level to support the development of impact investing as a new investment approach and engages students in its development. In February a number of business competitions for students developing new business ideas were featured around the SDG issues including events at the University of California, Berkeley, INSEAD, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Singapore Management University.

As businesses become more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of examples of active companies to highlight in the classroom. Featured sustainable business examples collected from faculty in 2016 included:

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JAMK University of Applied Sciences’s United for Refugees Programme supports continuing education of newcomers and asylum seekers in Finland, in particular those with extensive professional experience who are also highly educated. The University of Western Australia’s Social Impact Festival brings together individuals and organisations who are committed to making Western Australia a better place. The festival featured 34 events over 7 days in 16 venues around Perth all focused around exploring the different aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals.

 

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The Student Ambassador Campaign at Antwerp Management School aims to engage students in sustainability discussions and, in particular the SDGs and involve them in a range of activities to make their campus and communities more sustainable. The Public-Private platform at Copenhagen Business School is a combination of interdisciplinary research, teaching and public engagement that helps moblise, foster and develop society wide solutions to pressing matters of public concern.

The month of June was focused on exploring programmes and opportunities at business schools aimed at Indigenous students in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. As the guardians of 80% of the planet’s biodiversity, the 370 million Indigenous people living around the world are increasingly being represented and supported by a range of innovative programmes business schools. A first post introduced Indigenous people around the world and provided a range of resources that can be used in the classroom to raise awareness about not just Indigenous issues but also Indigenous business. The University of Waikato in New Zealand has developed an MBA that fosters Maori values and Indigenous ways of doing business while also exploring real world business challenges that involve and are relevant to indigenous business and industry. In Canada, Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University has gone from having very few Indigenous students to having a range of programmes including an Executive MBA in Aboriginal Business & Leadership open to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. At the University of New South Wales in Australia, the Nura Gili unit provides pathways for prospective Indigenous students to study in all faculties and programmes including student support, tutorial and study spaces. It also promotes Indigenous studies programmes, academics and researchers.

 

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The Managing Visitor Impacts course at Victoria Business School in New Zealand was designed to deepen students’ understanding of sustainable tourism development by exposing them to the complexities, realities and tensions commonly observed in developing countries. IAE’s International Development Department invited companies from industrial sectors in Argentina to come to the school to share experiences and reflect on how to improve sustainability in these sectors. In the US, San Francisco State University’s College of BusinessHigh School Summer Sustainability Workshop pairs faculty and MBA students with high school students to explore a range of sustainability topics including fair trade, life cycle analysis, and responsible consumption and production. The Nestle/Nova Best Paper Award, a partnership between Nestle and Nova School of Business and Economics in Portugal allows students to develop their final Master’s thesis around the area of marketing specifically children consumer behavior. TERI University in India is focused on implementing several of the SDGs in particular Goal 12 around Sustainable Consumption and Production. They have partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme and Switch Asia to create a special training programme around the topic.

 

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IESA in Venezuela has developed an innovative programme focused on effective governance from training legislators and members of parliaments to be able to do their jobs better. On the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People PRiMEtime featured an innovative partnership at La Trobe University to develop future Indigenous business leaders in the Public sector. A post in May provided an overview of the range of resources offered by the UN Global Compact on the topic of Anti- Corruption specifically as it relates to Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. Part 2 provided a range of ways that academic institutions can get involved in UN Global Compact anti-corruption projects.

 

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Glasgow Caledonian University brings together big names from across the fashion industry through their Fair Fashion Centre to offer different perspectives on sustainable development and help identify new solutions for fashion and retail industry. Reykjavik University hosts Festa, the Icelandic Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, a non-profit organization founded by six Icelandic companies to further discussions on CSR in Iceland.

In July a special three part series on developing partnerships with the UN Global Compact locally was featured. Part 1 looked at how business schools are working with Global Compact offices locally and promoting the Ten Principles of the Global Compact. Part 2 looked at how business schools are promoting and providing training around the Ten Principles of the Global Compact. Part 3 looked at how schools are working with Global Compact Local Networks on specific sustainability issues. It also explored eight places to find business partners for sustainability projects (Part 1 and Part 2)

There were also a series of blogs featuring a number of resources to assist schools in engaging in the Sustainable Development Goals as well as an overview of the different ways that management education and the UN are collaborating.

 

Looking Forward

2017 is shaping up to be an exciting year. As we start really diving into the SDGs we will, and are already seeing a growing number of schools not only raising awareness about the SDGs on campus but really embedding them into their operations, research, reporting and curriculum. Then of course there is the Global Forum for Responsible Management Education – 7th PRME Assembly which will be taking place on the 18-19 of July in New York City. In 2017 Primetime will be focused on celebrating the 10-year anniversary of PRME and focused on further exploring how business schools can be key players in moving the SDGs forward.

For more innovative examples of how business schools are embedding sustainability, and the SDGs, you may be interested in following www.100futuremba.com where I will be posting one example a day for 100 days featuring many PRME Signatories.

Thank you for a fantastic 2016 and for contributing all of your good practice examples and stories. We encourage you to engage with the discussion and promotion of PRME and the Sustainable Development Agenda on all levels, including through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. As always if you would like to share your initiatives with the PRiMEtime community please do get in touch at gweybrecht@thesustainablemba.com.

Happy New Year!

Effective Governance Comes from Well-Equipped Legislators – IESA’s Legislators Training Program Shows How

legisladores6The Legislator Training Programme is a collaboration between Instituto de Estudios Superiores en Administration (IESA) and the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (UCAB) in Venezuela. It came about because of a lack of training for parliamentary members and other officials within the National Assembly. The Programme aims to develop the capacity of members of the legislative branch. I spoke with Mariella Porras, manager for academic planning at IESA about this important project.

What is the Legislators Training Programme?

The Legislators Training Programme is a collaborative project between Instituto de Estudios Superiores en Administracion and the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (UCAB) with financing from the European Union (EU). Started in 2013, its aim is to strengthen the National Parliament of Venezuela through the realisation of training programmes with courses and workshops aimed at members of the legislature (officials and workers of the National Assembly, deputies and their assistants).

How did the project come about?

When the National Assembly was created in 1999, the Parliament counted with the support of a special office focused on judicial issues and another assisting with economic issues. When the new National Assembly was put into place, these support offices where minimized and substituted by customised counselling. In 2010, the Institute of Parliamentary Studies worked on a project with the National Assembly and as part of that project came to the conclusion that there was a lack of knowledge and skills with the legislators (in part because of the closed special offices) as well as some weaknesses in the process of developing new laws.

In response to this, a proposal was developed between the Institute of Judicial Studies from the UCAB and IESA that was presented to the EU for consideration as part of their financing project relating to the promotion of democracy and human rights and presented by the Venezuelan’s Delegation to the EU in 2013. This proposal was successful – a final agreement was signed in 2014 and launched this past August with the aim of building the capacities of the members of the Assembly.

How does the programme work?

The programme is structured into two parts. The first is the design and execution of a training program that engages different levels of the legislature including:

  • Module on the theory of Legislation, the role of parliament in a democracy and the principles of parliamentary rights (Constitutional Laws, Administrative Law, etc.)
  • Module on Economics for parliamentarians including economic analysis, the impact and viability of a law, analysis of the situation, interpretation of indicators as well as areas to improve the generation process of laws.
  • Module on Performance Management
  • Module on additional management techniques including negotiation, conflict management, consensus building, analytical thinking, problem solving, creativity, thought processes, high performance teams among other topics.

The second part of the programme includes a period of support and advice during the last year of the training programme relating to the implementation of improvements of the legislative body, based on diagnoses raised with officials, and the application of the tools taught during the training programme.

What have been some of the successes?

The main challenge of the programme has been maintaining relationships with the various parliamentary bodies and the formulation and implementation of semi-annual work plans. However in the past 2 years of this programme there have been a total of 35 training activities and we have scheduled to conduct 10 more workshops in areas identified by members of Parliament for training including decentralization, public budget, relationship management, induction-training for parliamentary staff, etc.

What advice do you have for other schools thinking of doing something similar?

  • Identify potential partners and stakeholders that are crucial to engage in order to reach your target audience.
  • Put in place a mechanism to gather feedback throughout the project and incorporate that feedback in order to strengthen your offerings.
  • Be flexible with the planning and the execution of the project. Things will change regularly and the needs of your target audience are also likely to change so be open to adapting as you go.

What’s next for the initiative?

We are aiming to create a permanent Legislative Training Programme to form members of the National Assembly across a number of areas. One of the projects planned in this phase of the project is to tap into the experiences from the past few years delivering this programme to support the development of a basic programme to train members of parliament.
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Bringing Technology into the classroom to engage students in Sustainability – Victoria University of Wellington

yasawa-3The Managing Visitor Impacts course at Victoria Business School, Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand was designed to deepen student’s understanding of sustainable tourism development by exposing them to the complexities, realities and tensions commonly observed in developing countries. A key part of the course is a group role-play scenario where students take a virtual fieldtrip based on a real Fijian island.

I spoke with Christian Schott from the School of Management at Victoria Business School about how he created and delivers this innovative course.

What is the Managing Visitor Impacts course?

The course was first taught in 2001 in recognition of the fact that tourism as an activity has both positive and negative impacts on the economy, environment, host community of a country or destination. These impacts need to be carefully managed and the course is designed around the concept of Sustainable Tourism Development as the impact assessment as well as the impact management framework.  The course also places great emphasis on applying a critical lens when examining current practices in tourism.

What happens during the course?

The students are put into groups of four students to work on a fictional contract with a fictional company, Synergy Tourism Consultants. The team had secured a contract to work on a (fictional) collaborative initiative between the Government of Fiji and NZ Aid to determine whether strategic sustainable tourism development of a remote Fijian island would result in the positive impacts (economic, environmental, socio-cultural) outweighing the negative ones.  As part of this fieldwork task students were exposed to many economic, environmental, social and cultural dynamics typical of a developing country as well as the island’s vulnerability to climate change.  Students were advised to ‘weave’ what they had learned in the lectures and readings into how they ‘digest’ what they learn on the virtual fieldtrip.

Students started their visit to the virtual island at the same point where boats arrive on the real island and proceeded to the Community Hall in the centre of the village to ‘virtually’ meet the community as part of the customary Fijian ‘I sevusevu’ (welcoming) ceremony by watching an ‘in-world’ video of the ceremony at the same place where it was recorded.  After this key piece of Fijian cultural protocol was satisfied, students set off on their fieldwork which included interviewing a range of community members (through videos embedded in the virtual island).  Informed by this fieldwork each project team had to decide whether they supported tourism development on the island or whether they would argue against tourism development.  The teams working on a sustainable tourism development proposal had to address five key criteria, while the teams proposing that no development should take place were asked to discuss the rationale behind their decision by addressing the economic, environmental, and socio-cultural reasons.  Following the group proposal each student was asked to write a reflective essay on this topic: reflect on how the fieldwork on the virtual island impacted on your learning (catalysts and challenges) and critically assess how such technology could be used by the tourism industry.

How is technology used in the course?

The virtual fieldtrip taken by students is based on a real Fijian island which I replicated using virtual reality software. The virtual island was based on extensive research I did in Fiji and accessible for students to explore by using the university computers or their home computer.  The project started by using Open Sim software (akin to Second Life) but has since embraced the latest in 3D gaming software by using the software package Unity.

 

This type of virtual reality technology, which can be further enhanced by using Virtual Reality headsets, thus fully immersing the student in the virtual environment, is very powerful in highlighting both the need for a more sustainable approach to Tourism Management by allowing the students to experience both the negative and positive impacts of tourism in a meaningful context (such as a village), as well as in forcing students to confront the realities and tensions that emerge when a tourism development plan is devised.

 

In keeping with the philosophy of using 21st century technology, both as a way of accessing information as well as developing skills for a more digitally focused future job market, the student groups reported the outcome of their fieldwork by using a wiki (online collaborative and media enhanced platform which can be accessed from anywhere in the world). Subsequently students write individual reflections about the experience of doing the virtual fieldtrip using a blog tool.

What have been some of the challenges? 

Technical support to resolve software and connectivity issues for the multiplayer version has been a challenge over the years; but with an increasing focus on digital technology and digital learning at VUW these issues are expected to become less prominent.  A few years ago when I was using Open Sim I was amazed to find that after using the program for about a year it became the victim of a cyber-vandalism which took several weeks to rectify; but the new version is no longer hosted on the web which means that cyber-attacks are luckily no longer possible.

Successes? 

The greatest success has been how the students have responded to the virtual fieldtrip.  Each year I do formal research on the pedagogical impact of the virtual fieldtrip and the findings have shown year after year that students respond in a very positive way and feel that it assists their learning about this important topic in a variety of ways.  A particularly noteworthy aspect is that the virtual fieldtrip fosters experiential learning which renders the learning process more meaningful and effective than for example reading a book chapter or journal article about the Fijian island instead. There has also been substantial interest from the academic community, which has resulted in the publication of a book chapter and several conference presentations about the virtual fieldtrip and its impact on student learning.

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

To align how and what we teach with contemporary society and technology I think that there is a place for virtual fieldtrips in many disciplines; particularly in disciplines where a real fieldtrip would be highly beneficial but is not feasible because of financial constraints or concerns about liability on real fieldtrips.  Appropriate resourcing by the institution both in terms of funding for the development of the software and in terms of technical expertise to resolve issues is imperative.

What’s next for the initiative?

I have been running experiments to explore the use of virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift as an even more immersive and effective way of experiencing the virtual island and its communities; I currently use the software as a screen version.  There are still some limitations with VR headsets for such a large and multifaceted environment but I will continue to pursue their incorporation into virtual fieldtrips.

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