From the pilot phase to the online portal: Key steps toward Anti-Corruption Toolkit for MBA programmes

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Almost exactly one year ago, I had the chance to speak with Matthias Kleinhempel and Gabriel Cecchini from the Center for Governance and Transparency at IAE Business School in Argentina and coordinators of the PRME Working Group on Anti-Corruption in Curriculum Change. Together with the members of the Working Group, they had been working on developing an innovative new resource for integrating anti-corruption (AC) values into the core curricula of leading business schools. This new online Toolkit utilises a mix of core concept readings, details case discussions, primary sources, and documents, and includes scenarios devised for class discussion. Each of the ten study modules contains a long list of resources that allow faculty of different countries to design a course that is appropriately suited to the necessities of his/her students.

The online Toolkit, which was funded through a grant from the Siemens Integrity Initiative, was tested during a pilot phase, and participating schools recently submitted their feedback on how to make the toolkit even stronger. I recently had the chance to speak with Matthias and Gabriel about this project.

1. What is the status of the toolkit?

Over the past two years, the PRME Working Group on Anti-Corruption has developed and tested a unique approach to teaching business and management school students about anti-corruption. The resulting Anti-Corruption Toolkit provides flexible guidelines and resources for MBA programmes in Business Schools around the world. The Toolkit was piloted in 12 schools from 10 different countries between mid-2012 and mid-2013. Last July, the Working Group met at Humboldt-Viadrina School of Governance in Berlin to review feedback from this pilot process, focusing particularly in the following areas:

– Localising content to specific countries and regions,

– Creating a system for easily updating material, and

– Integrating a user friendly search engine for the web-based toolkit.

Following this meeting, the Toolkit will be finalised to help professors design anti-corruption courses and select the most adequate content and/or teaching methods for stand-alone courses and/or for anti-corruption sessions as part of other modules, with the understanding that courses can be customised to the needs and context of the institutions using it.

2. How is the toolkit being used by schools?

The toolkit was implemented differently by each of the 12 schools. Some of them incorporated selected topics into already existing courses, while others implemented the toolkit almost in its entirety; others integrated only some documents/materials or points of view about corruption; some courses were mandatory, while others were optional/elective; some courses had many dozens students, while others had only a handful of them.

3. What changes will be made based on feedback from the pilot phase?

Maintenance and refinement of the Toolkit were among the primary challenges cited by the pilot schools. A website was designed to allow professors to submit additional material in the different topic areas. Standards of relevance and quality will be assured by “gatekeepers” designated by the PRME Working Group which developed the toolkit.

4. How can faculty access the Toolkit?

The Toolkit and its online portal (http://actoolkit.unprme.org/)  are available at no cost to all interested business schools and universities around the world. The Toolkit is organised around 11 topics/modules covering different aspects of anti-corruption and corporate integrity problems and issues, plus a teaching methods section with a broad scope of tools and approaches to improve anti-corruption teaching. Additionally, it will provide a search function for easy access to concepts, key words, and tools.

5. How was the Toolkit used at IAE Business School?

The AC toolkit was implemented in its pilot phase at IAE Business School during the second semester of 2012 through the incorporation of some of its content into a 10 session-elective course “Corporate Governance and Anti-Corruption,” both in the MBA and Executive MBA programmes. The course was designed to help students gain a better understanding of the relevance of anti-corruption policies and of its importance for corporate governance.

Students who took the course (23 in MBA; 26 in EMBA) found the toolkit’s materials generally useful. They appreciated the material as excellent bases for interesting discussions around the issue of corruption. When preparing the elective course, four main topics from the toolkit were particularly useful: Core Concepts, International Standards, Supply Chain, and Managing Anti-Corruption Issues. With respect to methods, long and short case studies were used as well as dilemma scenarios and lectures with guest speakers (i.e., compliance practitioners); additionally, group work and discussion were incorporated.

6. What are the next steps for the Toolkit?

Looking forward past this Toolkit stage, the Working Group will continue working in a second phase in the direction of creating bridges between academia and business through education actions aimed at “train the trainers” and best business practices programmes and workshops, in order to share academic knowledge and tools with compliance practitioners around the world. Information about this next phase will be communicated in due time.

6 things IAE is doing around Anti-Corruption

Prof. Matthias Kleinhempel is Director of the Center for Governance and Transparency at IAE Business School, Austral University in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Center explores these issues across the Latin American region and offers concrete tools to practitioners to help them create, enhance and deliver effective compliance programs. “Business schools can play a crucial role in helping companies, in particular those in countries with a challenging environment. We have found that the key is to work with the CFOs and the compliance officers of MNEs and local companies to give them a platform for discussion and exchange of Best Practices.  Business Schools can work as facilitators for collective action; one of the most promising tools in the anti-corruption battle.”

Prof. Kleinhempel has a background in the business sector and has been with the Center since it began in 2008. “My interest in this area really began because of the strong emphasis that the university puts on values.  I saw how companies put in place a whole range of norms and systems to instil values in a company but continuously find failure with this approach. The key is not to keep putting in rules but to change the values of the people at the top, which influence the people in the rest of the organisation.”

The Center is working on a range of anti-corruption programmes, including:

  1. Collecting Best Practices: The Center conducted surveys of good practices and compliance programmes among both the largest 300 companies (by revenue) across Argentina and Latin American subsidiaries of MNEs. The studies provide insights into the current status of business ethics at big companies in Argentina and wider Latin America as well as possible improvements to the field. “Most companies say they have a formal compliance system which has been put in within the last 5 years which mean that these issues are definitely gaining momentum within the business sector.”
  2. Teaching Best Practices: “Many of the companies who participated in the surveys noted that, in order to improve further, they need more training”. IAE provides a range of business ethics and compliance courses/modules in all open enrolment programs. Senior managers are invited into classrooms to discuss real ethical dilemmas that they have faced in their businesses with the students. Students are given ethical dilemmas that they have to solve, present in class and then discuss. The Center is also working to incorporate ethics into a range of other courses, including Finance. “At the end of the day, it is about decision making. We try to raise awareness and train students to incorporate business ethics as a permanent criterion in their decision making framework.”
  3. Focused Programmes: IAE offers a programme called “Good Practices in Business and Compliance” aimed at Board Members, C-level executives which covers the most recent academic and business trends around corporate governance, risk management and compliance as well as the success factors of a good practice programme. The Center also works on the design and implementation of compliance programmes for business firms, including codes of conduct and putting help hotlines in place.
  4. A Learning Community and Discussion Platform: In June 2010, the Center launched the first Compliance and Best Practices Network aimed at scholars, practitioners and organisations that are devoted to the study, implementation and follow up of compliance programmes.  Bi-monthly workshops are organised with CFOs and Compliance Officers to discuss topics related to compliance and exchange ideas on how to approach specific problems, including the review of successful collective action examples from across the region.
  5. Foster and Promote Collective Action: The lack of trust among companies is a big obstacle for collective action. These commitments have to start in a “light” version, which can be improved and updated to include more content as trust builds over time. “What companies like is to have independent instances to discuss suspicions regarding their partners in the collective. Universities and, in particular, the Center can provide a safe, neutral environment for companies to discuss these issues. It is difficult to show what kind of impact we are having, but the compliance officers keep coming back.  We have only started this journey.”
  6. PRME Working Group on Anti-Corruption: The Working Group is focused on developing best practices and encouraging curriculum change through the incorporation of a business ethics approach with compliance as one of its key components, offering an integrity-based view with an impact on good business practices. The Working Groups is currently developing a toolkit for an anti-corruption curriculum framework for MBA students. The next meeting of the working group will take place on December 5th in conjunction with the 1st PRME Latin America Regional Meeting (December 6-7) hosted by IAE.

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