Part 3 of 3 on Global Responsibility during and after crisis
By Milenko Gudić
Milenko is Founding Director Refoment Consulting and Coaching, Belgrade, Serbia and Co-chair, PRME Working Group on Poverty, a Challenge for Management Education
Editor’s Note: On 19 October, Milenko Gudić chaired a panel at the 7th Responsible Management Education Research (RME) Conference called “Building RME implementation Coalitions for impact in the Decade of Action”. His preparatory notes on Global Responsibility during and after a crisis — as well as his decades of research on the subject — are so relevant for GRLI’s ongoing inquiry into our “direction of travel” that we invited him to share them here.
This is part 3 of a 3-part series. In Part 1, Milenko shares his research investigating how business schools perceived their lack of responsibility for dealing with the the 2008 global financial crisis and its aftermath. In Part 2, he described how a focus on ending poverty — previously seen as not a priority for business schools — was successfully embedded into the UNGC PRME initiative via the research and actions by the Anti-Poverty Working Group. Now in Part 3, he relates these prior efforts to today’s COVID-19 crisis and the responsibility role that students, faculty and business schools can play for achieving an inclusive and responsible economy.
Has the academy in general responded adequately to the challenges that COVID-19 has imposed on us? With the COVID-19 crisis, I think here we deal with two different types of responses. One is more short term and technical in nature, while the other is more profound and longer term.
The first one was to make an almost immediate shift towards online teaching and learning. Most schools have been successful showing their flexibility and capacity to react fast and adequately.
The second response is yet to come. It relates to how to change management education in light of the current and future consequences of the Covid-19 global pandemic. Here we have two different, but equally important aspects: one is how to recover from the crisis and the other is how to make businesses and societies better prepared for similar or different events that could happen in the future.
In this context I would like to mention a fantastic series of webinars that the American University in Cairo organized in the period April-July and will continue now again. Our Working Group member Ali Awni invited prominent speakers, including Jeffrey Sachs, Stuart Hart and many other prominent speakers to talk about the After Covid-19 future [NEED LINK] and their implications on management education. All these webinars were open and recorded, so that those who are interested can have free access even now.
Our Working Group has developed an Anti-poverty Toolkit [Need Link] as an online platform to support the efforts in integrating poverty into management education. With more than 500 artifacts already published (cases, articles, videos, etc., including some course design solution). Here we can talk about a twofold response, a technical one — with the online learning and the deeper one: providing materials for learning about poverty and the SDGs. As we all know, with the breakout of the pandemic, the SDGs in general, as well as poverty, got an even higher importance and urgency to deal with.
With the support of our Working member Tay Keong Tan, who led a group of students from Radford University volunteering on the Anti-Poverty Toolkit project, a similar Toolkit was developed also for the Sustainability Mindset Working Group.
There are several questions for us now. How interested are the new generation in sustainable development? Are they aware of the challenges that await them? And can the academy successfully respond to these new needs and expectations of young people?
The last is THE most important question of all. What do students think and how can the academy successfully meet their needs?
To better understand all this, our Working Group conducted in 2018 a global survey on Students Voice on the Issue of Poverty and the SDGs in Management Education. The results were presented in the 6th RMER Conference in Jönköping, Sweden. [links]
They show even more promising findings than those from the surveys on faculty and deans. Not only that students consider SDGs and poverty as legitimate topics, but they demand to learn more about the issues and how they can contribute to a better world in their future professional careers.
One example: I was invited in 2012 by Bocconi University, Public Management School, in Milan to give a lecture on Fighting Poverty through Management Education. I was told that I could expect around 50–60 students. However, when I entered the amphitheater, I saw a fully packed room with over 200 students. At the diner with the Dean, I heard that it was an elective session, which the students choose among four electives, including the one that was held by Prof. Monti , former Bocconi President, Italian Prime Minister and European Commissionaire.
There is additional evidence for students’ high interest in ending poverty and the SDGs through various international sustainability related international contests and competitions: one organized in 2015 by Babson College and UNGC PRME, and another being the 6-year long International Student Essay Competition that, supported by our Working Group, has been organized by our member Anastasiya Marcheva from Bulgaria.
Another example is Rodrigo Titon, the winner of the Babson Competition. He was invited to the 2015 Global Forum and also to the 2nd RMER conference in Cairo, Egypt after which he became a very active and productive member of our Working Group. He has continued promoting the SDGs through various research projects, but also through the use of arts. He published a series of mini booklets for small kids, which with a limited number of simple but very powerful words supported by fantastic drawings and graphics enable small kids, pre-school children to get acquainted with and related to the SDGs.
These examples show that current students and alumni are also willing to contribute more.
So we know that students are eager to learn. How then, can we help teachers to overcome traditional resistance and start considering the end of poverty as a responsibility for business and business schools? How can we help them become important promoters of sustainable development?
At the PRME Summit in Bled in Slovenia, I talked about the inspiration I had when designing one of the major international faculty development program. IMTA — International Management Teachers Academy.
In 1991 Samantra Goshal and his colleague Cristopher Bartlet published an article in Harvard Business review. It was on why most of the newest strategies in the best companies in the world fail and never get implemented. Their message was: It is mission impossible to expect that the 3rd generation of strategies could be successfully implemented in the 2nd generation organizations that are run by first generation of managers. In other words, the world needs a new generation of managers and business leaders.
Based on this I have made a slogan for IMTA, which says that it is a program for developing a new generation of management educators for the new generation of business leaders. The generation of professors who will have a different approach not only to teaching but also to the other three components of the magic diamond in management education (the four roles that professors play: research, consulting and community service and institution building. In the 20 editions, the program has educated close to 700 professors from more than 160 institutions in around 55 countries from around the globe.
The program has had a special emphasis on the social responsibility of faculty from the very beginning, while after the Rio-20 conference I managed to introduce also a special disciplinary track on Business in Society, which has become not only a regular discipline, but also with a growing demand and number of participants.
I do believe that we now need a special faculty development programs that would focus on the SDGs and sustainability, corporate responsibility, ethical and related issues. We had some discussions on developing such a program for Latin America, and I hope more concrete steps would follow.
With such an uncertain future, business schools face barriers and challenges to overcome in order to make a more determined contribution to building a better world for all. I would like to mention two barriers: the lack of dialogue, and a partial approach to innovation.
There was a graduation ceremony they had at the end of the Executive MBA program in one of the most prestigious European business school. Hundreds of people, participants, their family members, representatives of their respective companies, and professors attended. Among the speakers was the best student of the generation. In his thanks giving and flattering speech, he everything was perfect, but one thing was really outstanding and brilliant The Ice Cream Week. These words were followed by loud standing ovations from the crowd of students. The rector, Dean and professors looked at each other, but none of them had a clue about what Ice Cream Week meant. So during the cocktail hour, the Dean approached this student and asked him to tell him more about the Ice Cream Week.
Oh, it was really fantastic! During the whole week in all courses the cases were from the ice cream industry. The student described this brilliant strategy that enabled the students to see and understand the big picture of a sector and the respective management issues and functions in different companies.
But, this was just a pure coincidence. Why?
Because professors of different discipline most frequently do not communicate with each other. They mostly communicate with their colleagues from other schools around the globe. Through research, publishing in the same journals, attending conferences focused on their disciplines, etc.
So, it is like a mother and a father, who raise their children together but do not communicate with each other! It cannot work that way, we all know that.
Innovations in only one aspect of management education are not effective. Changing the program and content should be supported by corresponding innovations the educational process. New content and processes require new actors, both professors and students, who should be encouraged to take the ownership of their own education. Last but not least, all this requires also innovations in the organizational and institutional arrangements, including the way in which the schools are managed. So these innovations need to be synchronized and harmonious.
Students learn about management and leadership also by observing the approach and practice of the school. Therefore, schools need to walk the talk!
To close, I would like to share how I see the future. I believe that the efforts we have made over these years to promote an inclusive and responsible economy will finally bear fruit.
I would like to share with you my hopes and illusions.
To do this, I will make a parallel, or contra-parallel with the COVID-19 virus and pandemic.
To achieve a global reach, change and impact, we need a global pandemic in management education. For this we already have a potentially very powerful virus. But it is still in an experimental and laboratory stage. We need to let it go out, spread and infect business schools globally.
Is it possible?
Well, the measures that have been taken against COVID-19 are showing progress. As simple as they seem to be, they are and will hopefully be even more effective.
A similar set of simple measures, or counter-measures could work for broadly spreading this new management education virus.
- Masks are strongly forbidden! This applies for all the masks we have talked about here. The mask of hypocrisy, the disciplinary mask, the departmental mask, the institutional and national masks. No masks!
- No physical or social distance! We need to increase the surface of touch, among disciplines, departments, institutions and their stakeholders, locally nationally and internationally and globally.
- Public events like this conference are mandatory! The more, the better!
- All the infected professors, students and other actors in management education are forbidden to stay in self-isolation or in the quarantines of the ivory tower of academia. They should circulate around, meet and infect as many people as they can.
- No hygiene! The hands should be dirty, the dirt coming from the touch with the real world and life, i.e. with the reality that we need to deal with and change towards a better world!
Milenko Gudić is Founding Director Refoment Consulting and Coaching, Belgrade, Serbia and Co-chair, PRME Working Group on Poverty, a Challenge for Management Education