Innovations That Inspire

Bachelor of Business Administration in Innovation and Sustainability

Recognition Year(s): 2024
School: School of Business, Royal Roads University
Location: Canada

Our BBA shifts the organizing unit of our education from individual courses to community-demanded projects. Over the 16-month learning journey, students work on more than 12 consecutive projects to complete their degree.

Call to Action

Higher education needs to become more relevant for today’s world; it needs to be a humble and responsive partner that its community members can count on. On one side, the innovation was motivated by students who want to get their hands dirty, actively build networks, and create impact during their formal education years. They don’t want their post-secondary education to be wasted on theory alone, and they certainly don’t want to study dated case studies that don’t necessarily give them the raw and gritty full picture that a live client would give.

At the same time, our campus is situated in a region of immense population growth, and the growing pains that come with that. As such, we were also motivated by the needs of our regional community (private, public, and community sectors), which is desperate for extra hands, hearts, and brains to help them adapt to changing societal tides, climates, political landscapes, and market conditions. We knew we were uniquely positioned as an Ashoka Changemaker Campus to marry these challenges at scale, so we did.

Our innovation mobilizes entire cohorts of undergraduate business students to take on community-demanded projects in a program that is 100 percent experiential learning--it has no courses or exams. In doing so, we were able to maximize the number of projects we could take on from the community and use those projects as the training grounds for our learners.

Innovation Description

Our model shifts the focus of education from organizing around individual courses to organizing around needed projects within our community—making projects the central organizing unit of our educational program. This approach has the advantage of integrating concepts and procedures from various functional areas, providing students with a comprehensive and interconnected understanding of business. They learn to draw from multiple disciplines to identify, comprehend, and address real business challenges. We abandon the traditional course structure in favor of a curated portfolio of pro bono projects with clients from our community.

We are not just practice-rich; we are theory-rich, as well: we have developed a method of modularizing topics (e.g., life cycle analysis) within subject areas (e.g., operations) to ensure that the program covers business education essentials in a timely manner (i.e., when immediately applicable to a project). Students never question the relevance of theory in this program, given our design. From the community perspective, clients are treated in a professional manner. We have hired new staff to manage these relationships in an efficient, professional, and caring manner so community members can benefit from the pro bono services in a maximal way.

Innovation Impact

Our most recent stats come from our Community Learning Partnerships Report written in December 2022.

Over the course of 2022, our small business school involved over 100 students and 17 faculty and associate faculty across three programs (BBA, MBA, STHM), working collaboratively on 19 projects with Canadian corporations, local municipalities, and nonprofit organizations. Additionally, as a faculty, we cultivated 70 unique relationships, of which 12 are slated for projects in 2023.

Our projects apply business skills to issues that span clean energy development, Indigenous nation-building, inclusive urban development, affordable community planning, COVID-19 recovery, plastic neutrality, and more. Together they advanced nine of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. One hundred percent of the community learning partners who were surveyed in 2022 said they would highly recommend working with Royal Roads Univerity’s business school on a sustainability- or innovation-related challenge. Through these partnerships, we are living our values of being caring, creative, and courageous and are enthusiastically animating our institutionwide goal to invite in and venture out.