Innovations That Inspire

Convening an African-American Business Resource Group Council (BRG Council)

Recognition Year(s): 2017
School: Max M. Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University
Location: United States

Innovation Statement

In partnership with multiple Columbus-based African-American business resource groups (BRGs), the Fisher College of Business has helped develop a regional BRG Council, designed to foster collaborations across the business community, mentorship programs with Ohio Sate University students, research partnerships with faculty, and community outreach opportunities.

Call to Action

Business resource groups (BRGs) offer opportunities for diverse corporate employees to develop professionally, enhance leadership skills, advise corporate leaders on matters that impact their communities, and meet with like-minded colleagues. Even so, these groups have limited resources and opportunities. Individually, they are unlikely to make a significant community impact, have the resources to attract high-caliber speakers, or afford quality executive education opportunities. Individuals may also be concerned about sharing challenges they face at work with colleagues from the same company.

Neutral ground may provide enhanced opportunities for professional development and community engagement as a safe place for diverse employees to discuss difficult matters, engage in mutually beneficial activities, leverage company resources, and help make individual companies and the local community more attractive places to live and work. The host or convening institution must be seen by both employee groups and their corporate hierarchies as a neutral space that will not poach talent, and as a key resource for problem-solving, idea-generation, and professional development.


Leaders of several Columbus-based African-American BRGs approached a Fisher College of Business administrator who had significant involvement in the local corporate diversity and inclusion professional community. Initially, they sought his help to get in touch with other local corporate African-American BRGs with the goal of creating a Columbus-area Business Resource Group Council (BRG Council).

The initial ask soon expanded to a request for the school to serve as host. As discussions evolved, it became clear that the college would be a key source of professional development opportunities, relevant expertise, and a respected neutral ground—an essential factor in obtaining buy-in from key stakeholders. As the group became more formalized and began organizing events, its partnership with the college proved invaluable.

As components to this partnership, the below efforts have been made within Fisher and the extended community. The college will co-host all of these events with the BRGs and their companies, sharing costs and resources.

  • A Fisher faculty member who teaches graduate negotiations agreed to teach a session on salary negotiations. Instead of an honorarium, the BRG Council agreed to help secure respondents for interview questionnaires as part of a research project.
  • Through the BRG Council connection, a community partner volunteered to collaborate with the Fisher College to deliver workshops on assessing organizational cultural competence.
  • A prominent alumnus has agreed to help secure a high-profile African-American Fortune 500 executive for an African-American history month event.


Having the college as host and convener of the African-American BRG Council will significantly increase its brand awareness and reputation in the local African-American corporate community. This should lead to increased recruitment of African-American students into undergraduate, graduate, and executive education programs. Currently, many African-American corporate professionals in Columbus are not graduates of Ohio State and are not aware of the resources available to them or their families.

The college’s three African-American student groups will benefit from these partnerships, as the BRG Council members will be a source of speakers and mentors and have agreed to help students find internship and job opportunities. Faculty will also have new opportunities to engage in research partnerships in organizational behavior and other disciplines as BRG leaders become more familiar with the faculty.