Business Schools Driving Impact Through Local Context

Business Schools Driving Impact Through Local Context

Business schools have the capacity to engender substantial impact on their local communities through community outreach, partnerships, or something entirely unique.

Business schools have the capacity to engender substantial impact on their local communities, whether through community outreach initiatives, partnerships with industry or local government, or something entirely unique. Assessing a school’s local context and creating innovations within the curriculum to better serve the community can bring about terrifically positive results for all those involved—including the business school and its constituents.

The following are brief descriptions of four innovations occurring at business schools that are working to serve their local communities. These schools are leveraging their unique context to create an experience that is both constructive and informative for students, while also positively shaping their communities.

Café Ambiental

Seattle University, Albers School of Business and Economics (United States)

Café Ambiental is a sustainable business project supporting fair trade coffee by working in solidarity with Nicaraguan farmers to create a student-led, social business model and supply chain. This program is somewhat unique to Seattle’s local context, as quality coffee is a staple that the city is known for. The Café Ambiental project was implemented to help address the problems present in developing countries between fair and direct trade, where the premiums those countries receive are typically insufficient to cover the extra expenses necessary for maintaining fair trade certification. This project both addresses that divide and provides business education to students at Seattle University by practicing solidarity with the farmers in Nicaragua.

The project has allowed for more than 300 families of Nicaraguan farmers to gain exposure on the Seattle specialty coffee market. It has also allowed for teams of students to work with MBA students from UCA-Managua in Nicaragua to expand their interest in supply chains and operations. The impact is expected to continue to grow as it spreads to other potential buyers of the coffee, including the Archdiocese of Seattle, Fair Trade USA, Catholic Relief Services Equal Exchange, and other local coffee roasters.

The SRILOV Project

Universiti Utara Malaysia, Chancellery Department (Malaysia)

The SRILOV Project is innovation in green technology management designed to promote awareness and sustainable paddy farming on unused land in rural areas. Rice is a major part of the typical Malaysian diet. However, Malaysia does not produce enough rice to support its increasing population. Research has shown that sustainable paddy farming using an SRI (System of Rice Intensification) methodology can increase the productivity of irrigated rice cultivation by changing the management of plants, soil, water, and nutrients while reducing the external inputs. Through the SRILOV Project, students work with paddy farmers, training them on the SRI methodology, to promote sustainable paddy practices.

The SRILOV project has turned unused land into land suitable for paddy farming. It also has a significant impact on the paddy farmers, who learn about sustainable paddy practices while sustaining the environment. To one farmer, the impact of following the SRI methodology has been tremendous: it saves water usage up to 50 percent, reduces the number of seeds needed from 150 kg to 5 kg for 1 hectare of land, increases the productivity rate of paddy on an average of 4 tonnes/hectare to 14 tonnes/hectare, and reduces production cost by replacing chemical fertilizers by more than 80 percent.

Dynamic Competiveness Module

University of Pretoria, Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) (South Africa)

Dynamic Competitiveness is a core module that aims to expose students to the political, social, and economic challenges experienced locally before embarking on their international immersions. Students are assigned a local town and are tasked with investigating the political, social, and economic aspects of the town over three days. Students visit with local schools, businesses, farms, NGOs, communities, and community leaders to engage on a personal level and experience firsthand what the challenges and opportunities are in these towns.

The Dynamic Competitiveness module has successfully ensured that students are aware of the context within which they live and do business. An unintended consequence of this course has been the development of active citizenship. Students often walk away from the course feeling a deep need to make a difference as well as a sense of accountability for contributing to the necessary changes needed in South Africa.

Export Odyssey: Exporting to the Real World

University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Bryan School of Business & Economics (United States)

Undergraduates in a senior-level international marketing course work directly with North Carolina-based companies to export products internationally. Students must attempt to sell a product manufactured in North Carolina to at least three buyers in the foreign country that offers the best exporting potential. The Export Odyssey provides direct, hands-on experience for students to have an impact on economic development in North Carolina, a state hard-hit by the decline in local manufacturing.

Whether it is selling electric guitar amplifiers to Norway, parachute cloth to Poland, textile manufacturing machinery to India, or wine to Australia, Export Odyssey has a positive impact for local and international businesses. As a result of this project, eight local companies have made their first international sale. Local companies benefit from the market, trade, and product knowledge that is imparted in intermittent reports from the students to the company’s management team.

About Innovations That Inspire

These four examples are part of a larger collection of Innovations That Inspire. From October 15 through November 20, 2015, AACSB member schools were invited to share ways in which they have challenged the status quo. Nearly 300 innovations were submitted from more than 200 institutions across 35 countries—an array of inspirations that illustrates an impressive commitment to engagement, innovation, and impact. Thirty of these innovations were initially highlighted at the 2016 Deans Conference and are currently available for public browsing.