Middle East and North Africa Affinity Group Guides Impact Through Case Studies
As part of the 2015 opening of AACSB’s Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) office in Amsterdam, we launched our Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Affinity Group. Today, the MENA region has exactly 115 educational members representing an impressive array of public and private institutions across this vast geography. The affinity group allows colleagues from inside and outside the MENA region to engage virtually through the AACSB Exchange and discuss critical issues related to research, teaching, quality assurance, and other matters effecting business schools throughout the region.
Two deans, both representing AACSB-accredited schools, have had an enormous leadership impact on the MENA Affinity Group: Sherif Kamel, the dean at American University of Cairo, and Thami Ghorfi, president of ESCA School of Management in Casablanca, Morocco. These colleagues have worked tirelessly to promote and support regular engagement among MENA members and to advocate for and support collaborative and locally engaged research in the MENA region. This commitment to local engagement not only reinforces AACSB accreditation standards but also emphasizes the need to work with businesses—small-and medium-sized, family, large, multinational, public, and private—in the region and continue to provide local and regional business examples to students enrolled at our member schools in MENA.
MENA Affinity Group meetings have focused not just on research but research that has been peer reviewed, locally focused, and engaged with industry. Also, and consistent with compelling global discussions at which AACSB has always been at the table, a 2018 article called the current research model in business schools unsustainable. Likewise, marketing professors Andrew Stephen at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School and Koen Pauwels at Northeastern University in Boston reiterated this point in a recent Forbes post. In it they postulate, “Typically, academics are urged to publish in prestigious academic journals, which have years-long review processes and often require articles to be so specialized that smart managers no longer can see a big question being answered.” Similar discussions have emerged in recent years from researchers at the Academy of Management.
Parallel to these assessments, the MENA Affinity Group has reiterated its commitment to case writing and teaching with a laser-like focus on cases about companies located in the region. One of the great challenges for schools attempting to tether case writing to peer review is the shortage of peer-reviewed case journals, and particularly those focused on the MENA region.
Enter the renowned Case Centre. The Case Centre, a membership organization with offices in Cranfield in the U.K. and on the Babson College campus in the U.S., is a nonprofit organization and a registered charity founded in 1973. The Case Centre’s efforts are solely dedicated to the case method, including instruction and development of case writing and teaching workshops and seminars offered all over the world. Today The Case Centre is home to more than 61,000 cases, almost 10 percent of which are available in a multitude of languages. Director Richard McCracken and deputy director Vicky Lester engaged in an ongoing series of meetings and discussions with AACSB EMEA team members and, more importantly, with MENA Affinity Group and MENA Advisory Council volunteers. After lengthy strategic discussions, meetings, white-boarding activities, and focused interaction with these groups, The Case Centre took action.
The result of these collaborative dialogues has led to the planned launch of Case Focus, a peer-reviewed journal for business and management teaching cases written about organizations in the Middle East and Africa. Note the slight geographic expansion: rather than restricting the African focus to North Africa, the journal will cover cases written about companies throughout the Middle East and the entire African continent.
Dean of AUC, Kamel, who was heavily involved in discussions as a member of the MENA Advisory Council, looks forward to the collaboration, stating, “As we welcome 2019, we are also excited to welcome this new scholarly platform for case studies that links academia and business through the creation, sharing, and dissemination of knowledge and experience about the Middle East and Africa.” ESCA’s president, Ghorfi, who also chairs the advisory council, adds his enthusiasm: “We’ll be very glad, for example, to share our analysis on how Moroccan companies expand in sub-Saharan Africa. That will obviously sharpen students’ competencies. Thanks a lot to AACSB for helping to make it possible!”
The Case Centre hopes to launch the journal at AACSB’s 2019 International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM) in Edinburgh this April. In the meantime, our MENA Affinity Group and MENA Advisory Council will be inviting faculty from AACSB member schools to serve on the editorial advisory board as journal reviewers, and to consider submitting cases for review, as well.
This collaborative effort clearly reflects advocacy, awareness, and impact at work. The engagement with business and industry is essential and important, and the peer-reviewed element is a most important quality determinant for many faculty. Indeed this is a classic win-win scenario.