Business Schools Making a Positive Community Impact

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Friday, November 1, 2019
By Elliot Davis
Image by iStock
Through training, research, and dialogue facilitation, three schools that participated in AACSB's Innovations That Inspire challenge are positively impacting their local communities.

When thinking about how to make a positive impact on society, it is tempting to focus on the big picture, trying to address the world’s biggest issues. A good example is the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, a set of very aggressive goals to be accomplished by 2030. But positive change can also start locally, with relatively small efforts that can still have a significant impact on a community.

In 2016, we shared a few examples of this kind of local impact being enacted by business schools. Business education has seen a great deal of innovation over the three years that have since passed, but working to identify and address pain points in their local communities has remained a priority for many AACSB member business schools. The following are brief descriptions of three innovations at business schools that are working to serve their local communities.


Santa Clara University, Leavey School of Business (United States)

MOBI+CET, now in its second year, is a training program for the "everyday entrepreneurs" at the Center for Employment Training, a vocational education center in an economically challenged neighborhood in San Jose, California, which is in the heart of Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is a hub for entrepreneurship, particularly in the technology space. But success isn’t universally found. The MOBI+CET program is a 10-week class for students and alumni of the Center for Employment Training that covers only the fundamental skills needed by an everyday entrepreneur. The program gets to the point fast and produces the outline of a business plan.

The needs of everyday entrepreneurs are different than those of the "spotlight" entrepreneurs who are the focus of media coverage of Silicon Valley. The MOBI+CET class meets those needs in an efficient and effective program that creates opportunity for the most vulnerable members of the community.

Fostering Community Resilience Through Dialogue

Memorial University of Newfoundland, Faculty of Business Administration (Canada)

Memorial University of Newfoundland brought together community leaders from across Newfoundland and Labrador to discuss how to make their communities more resilient in the face of many challenges, including outmigration, fishery collapse, and aging demographics. The school’s research team recognized that rural communities across Canada were searching for innovative ways to sustain their livelihoods, ecosystems, and heritage. To support these efforts, the school held a workshop that facilitated conversations among community champions to share experiences and build networks of community leaders who could support each other post-workshop. Ideally, the networks would also encourage regional initiatives and collective action, such as pooling resources.

The research the school conducted was based on an SSHRC Partnership Development grant in which the school’s research subject, the nonprofit organization Shorefast, was also the research partner. This interrelation allowed the school to devote its efforts both to rigorous research and to the goal of wide dissemination to help Shorefast reach its objectives of building resilient rural communities on Fogo Island, across the province, and beyond. The school used the research findings as a starting point for discussion with community leaders from across the province. The workshop allowed these leaders to both learn about Shorefast’s approach to community development and to learn from each other.

Elderly Unemployed Profiles

Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Faculty of Economic Sciences and Management (Poland)

Nicolaus Copernicus University identified a significant demographic shift in its community, caused by an aging population. Extending the economic activity of their elderly became a developmental challenge, given a rising risk to the stability of their pension system. The school felt that vocational activation of the elderly unemployed and retaining them in employment was a key priority for labor market policy. The goal of this strategy was to improve the quality of public employment services for unemployed individuals aged 50 and over, and to ensure higher and lasting employment outcomes of active labor market programs targeted to older job seekers.

The business school worked toward finding these individuals employment through a variety of measures that center on a comprehensive individual profile. This profile included an assessment of the individual’s strengths and weaknesses, definition of their goals, and a general strategy for achieving those goals. It also included the use of standard (vocational training, career counseling, subsidized employment) and non-standard (individual coaching, job training, self-marketing, health promotion, mobility support, financial incentives) labor market measures.

Nicolaus Copernicus University believes they can offer significant value to the elderly population, as a business school with particular expertise in these areas, by leaning into the group’s core competencies.

About Innovations That Inspire

Since its launch in 2016, Innovations That Inspire has collected 840 innovative practices across a variety of themes and areas within business education. For each challenge year, a selection of innovations is featured at the International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM). Further, current members of AACSB’s Business Education Alliance have the ability to browse through all innovations using DataDirect. AACSB continuously highlights submitted examples in publications, events, presentations, and in other media as examples of business schools doing innovative things that push the boundaries of business education. 

Elliot Davis
Director of Data Strategy, AACSB International
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