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Inspiring Sustainability and Social Good


Posted April 14, 2017 by Elliot Davis - Coordinator, Research - AACSB International

Business schools are increasingly at the forefront of a variety of sustainability-related efforts, and a gamut of innovations in this area are shared within the Innovations That Inspire collection, from the environmental to the socially responsible.

One such innovation has been heralded by the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. Their AIM2Flourish program offers a business and management curriculum for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a platform for showcasing business action toward the SDGs. AACSB’s Dan LeClair talked with former investigative reporter Roberta Baskin, who directs AIM2Flourish, in an AACSB Explores video last year. But, what else are business schools doing with respect to sustainability initiatives? The following represent a sampling of the many sustainability-focused innovations occurring at business schools.

I'M the Change

Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad (India)

The focus of this initiative is to enable students to understand the ethos of sustainability, social responsibility, and distributive justice through the hands-on execution of live social projects. The initiative is a step toward addressing a critical unmet need in today’s world, namely “the role, responsibilities and purpose of business,” as underscored by Srikant M. Datar et al. in their seminal book Rethinking the MBA: Business Education at a Crossroads.

The initiative is a three-credit, required course that runs for six months. The desired learning outcomes are for students to appreciate, through experience, the societal contexts and challenges of people who are unlike themselves, and for the students to develop an understanding of social responsibilities in individual as well as business contexts. The pedagogy is premised on the "Know-Do-Be" philosophy outlined in Rethinking the MBA.

Student groups are exposed to underprivileged communities across different religions, ethnicities, cultures, languages, and livelihoods. Each student group then focuses on making a contribution to the community, proposes an implementation plan with concrete deliverables, and executes it on the ground.

IT for Social Impact India Project

Swinburne University of Technology (Australia)

This project was designed for business, technology, and entrepreneurship students in Australia to help improve the technology capacity and resources of remote or disadvantaged communities in India. Through an industry partnership, Swinburne has established unrestricted access to these remote communities. Upon arriving in India, students travel overnight by train and then for four hours in four-wheel-drive vehicles over rugged mountains to reach the remote community.

The intent is for the students to work with local schools and their teachers to improve on curriculum delivery by exploring the value of “technology for good,” using proof-of-concept technologies such as Kano Computers (build-it-yourself computers) and LibraryBox (a Wi-Fi distribution tool that replicates the functionality of the internet for locations where no internet exists). Further, second-hand laptops are supplied to these communities, and virtual reality headsets are used to ignite a passion for information technology and to take local children on “adventures” with dinosaurs and arctic whales and transport them virtually to Swinburne’s campus.

CSR Issues as Video Documentaries

Universitaet Mannheim, Business School (Germany)

By interviewing experts and practitioners and creating their own video documentaries, groups of students empirically explore current questions related to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability. The innovation lies in the design of the class itself. Rather than memorizing facts or writing papers based on literature, students are encouraged to explore real-life problems in the settings in which they occur. By creating video documentaries, students are more deeply inserted into the topics they explore, which is expected to increase both student-related outcomes (such as learning and satisfaction) and the value of the generated information (new and engaging insights on current topics related to CSR, which may then be communicated to a diverse audience).

In the process of creating films that engage an audience, students gain experience in the communication of complex information and in tailoring this communication strategy to a target group. This can be valuable for future careers both in research and in practice. Additionally, students are encouraged to use methods and theories from different disciplines, especially the social sciences, which creates a deeper understanding for the opportunities that interdisciplinarity provides. Finally, by providing insights on current issues related to CSR not only to the students but also to a larger audience invited to the screening of all videos, this class may enhance awareness for current problems and potential solutions.

About Innovations That Inspire

From a pool of 315 submissions spanning 33 countries, the 2017 Innovations That Inspire collection demonstrates business education’s engagement across disciplines, with diverse groups, and with business practice. Thirty-five of these innovations were featured at the 2017 Deans Conference and are available for public browsing. The complete collection of Innovations That Inspire, including the 2016 Innovations That Inspire collection, can be found using AACSB’s DataDirect.

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