The current landscape and opportunities for new collaborations
John North, Executive Director of the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative, shares some thoughts on the future landscape of responsible management education initiatives via remote message with the RMER conference held at Jönköping International Business School, October 2019.
Dear Friends, Colleagues and (as we often say in South Africa) Comrades in Responsible Management Education:
It is my pleasure to record and share with you this message. My carbon budget won’t allow for me to travel again until November when we have a series of three events in Portugal.
I send warm greetings and positive energy for the conference and discussions at Jönköping International Business School this week.
Behind me you can see Vleesbaai and in the distance lies the town of Mosselbay. The significance of this particular location and my message today will benefit from some historical background.
The coastline behind me is the site of the Blombos Caves — an archaeological site about 300 km east of Cape Town.
The site is a unique archeological find containing both Middle Stone Age (MSA) deposits dated between c. 100,000 and 70,000 years Before Present (BP) as well as a Late Stone Age artifacts. It plays a central role in the ongoing debate on the cognitive and cultural origin of early humans and is helping understanding when and where key behavioural innovations emerged among Homo sapiens. So we have as a backdrop the evolution of innovation.
Fast forward a few centuries to 12 March 1488. Having rounded and missed the site of modern day Cape Town at a considerable distance the Portugese explorer Bartolomea Dias took advantage of Antarctic winds which pushed him back to land and into the bay behind me. It was only on Dias’ return voyage that he managed to locate the Cape Peninsula which, following his treacherous journey he named the Cape of Storms.
Today we know that the arrival of Dias signaled the discovery of a passage around the Southernmost tip of Africa. Europe, India and the Far East could trade by sea bypassing the overland Euro-Asian route. The Cape of Storms was renamed by the Portugese king to “Cape of Good Hope” because it represented the opening of a route to the east.
So an additional backdrop to themes of evolution and innovation are the themes of locating ourselves between different regions and traditions and whilst acknowledging that we find ourselves on the continuum between between threatening storms (or extinction as i wrote in a recent newsletter) and a hopeful future. Between extinction and hope… so what’s important now?
When the first conference of this nature was held in 2014 the topic was The Future of Responsible Management Education. Here we are 5 years later asking ourselves “what is the future we want?” Time is running out and I would like to offer a few points to consider.
We need an ecosystem of Responsible Management Education initiatives and schools that take care to be:
- Resilient (Transparent governance, Distributed operations, Evolving purpose, Tech enabled)
A UN-endorsed initiative such as PRME for example should be globally inclusive, sensitive to and respectful of local context and price points. For instance, why not enable the regional entities (e.g. African Association of Business Schools) to act as local signatory coordinator for the Principles?
If we have a decentralised PRME, driven by various regional chapters and working groups with representation on a globally distributed and transparent governance model, we won’t have a single point of failure. I understand the need for a legal entity that legitimises the entity at one level and imagine a future PRME housed and stewarded within an independent entity that holds full endorsement from relevant UN and quality bodies.
Another aspect of resilience already touched on is the sensitive matter of financial sustainability. PRME’s rooted as a signatory initiative within which shared learning is reported. Instead of 600 or so schools it should involve the 12k to 15k schools globally.
Imagine schools could sign the six principles online for a fee of say $50, receive a blockchain certified declaration which signals that they’ve signed PRME. The system tracks whether they’ve submitted a SIP report within a certain period and ensures that three global and regional peers reviewed their submission thus expanding knowledge sharing. If no report is submitted and reviewed within the specified period the certificate expires and another fee is payable. Those that are Champions of Responsible Management Education should be those that share the most learning not those that can afford to pay the most.
Right now we see increased fragmentation and competition for oxygen amongst various networks and initiatives. Last week in New York we witnessed the launch of “yet another platform” for universities. We have enough initiatives and networks already. How can higher education and management education more specifically be relevant to what the world needs today if we don’t pull together? Are we aligned?
Recently the ABIS and GRLI signed a joint MOU in which we commited both entities to accelerate the radical transformation of learning, living and leading. We invite others to join us in building such an alliance for Global Responsibility in business and education.
Some of you may recall the 50+20 vision and if you don’t know of it I urge you to visit our website and learn more. The summary takeaway — let’s collaborate to be the best for the world rather than compete to be the best IN the world.
My hope for this community is that we will shift the needle through collective action. That we will act rather than think our our way ahead. That the process of engagement within amongst and beyond signatories will shape the future we want. And that the future may be one of relational innovation towards global responsibility.
Myron Rogers summarized his theory on systems on living systems when he said that the process we use to get to the future is the future we get. My hope is for a bright future for responsible management education. Thank you very much.