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Building Community at GBSN

At GBSN Beyond, our annual conference, I bumped into a young, energetic woman during the networking break. She was hustling to deliver something to the tech team. Clearly, she was working as part of the GBSN staff team. 

The only problem is that I did not know who she was. She looked familiar, but her badge had flipped over, and I could not recall when or where we may have met. We had a cordial exchange—I encouraged her to keep up the good work—before going about our separate duties.

I confessed to our mystery worker later that day. It turns out that Lena Hoffmeister worked part-time for GBSN from Germany at the beginning of 2021, but had to stop when she took full-time work in Brussels. After learning that we were in Amsterdam for the conference, she voluntarily traveled to help us. 

Why did I share this story about Lena? Mostly because I think that she is amazing for doing what she did. It says a lot about the kind of person Lena is and what it means to be part of the excellent GBSN team. I’m also sharing the story because the experience made me feel especially proud to be part of the GBSN community.

I use the word community a lot when talking about GBSN. It just feels right for us, though I had not thought about why.

That is, until I caught up with the venerable Professor Henry Mintzberg during the week following the conference. We talked about a variety of topics, including his newest book Rebalancing Society, developing managers, and more. I recalled that Professor Mintzberg started a 2015 blog post with “If you want to understand the difference between a network and a community, ask your Facebook friends to help paint your house. Networks connect; communities care.” 

As I reread the piece, I reflected on GBSN Beyond, which we built and ran successfully online for two years before convening for the first time, in-person. I thought about my encounter with Lena and our work as a staff team. 

I also thought about the many things that make GBSN distinctive, such as our positioning at the nexus of business, government, and civil society, and that we engage students, as well as faculty and administrative leaders in our mission. All strengths that are less abstract than “we care.” However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how important caring is to our work. And, although the “N” in GBSN is for network, it is a strong sense of community that enables us to achieve our mission. 

It makes sense. Business schools that care deeply about the impact of management education are the ones most interested in joining GBSN and contributing to its mission. Leaders in GBSN schools share a belief that their work matters for society and not just for individual managers and the organizations they’ll work for. They also know that by working together through GBSN with other schools, they can build a better world, one community at a time. They understand that to gain meaningful traction in this work, they must go beyond what other schools are doing and provide leadership across sectors, not just in business.

Professor Mintzberg is skeptical about the prospects of building a true community in a completely digital world. I must say that I’m now inclined to agree with him. GBSN Beyond 2022 was different from other events in our industry and participants came together to reflect the spirit of our mission, values, and culture in remarkable ways. It was indeed much easier to experience the sense of community in-person towards the end of this year, than online during the previous couple of years.

Of course, we recognize that meeting in-person is expensive and damaging to our natural environment. And that digital advances are the key to improving both quality and access to higher education. But we must continue to build our strengths, including our strong sense of community, to build a better world. We look forward to seeing everyone in-person in Cairo in 2023.

Dan LeClair, CEO

Dan LeClair was named CEO of the Global Business School Network (GBSN) in February of 2019. Prior to GBSN, Dan was an Executive Vice President at AACSB International, an association and accrediting organization that serves some 1,600 business schools in more than 100 countries. His experience at AACSB includes two and half years as Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, seven years as Chief Operating Officer, and five years as Chief Knowledge Officer. A founding member of the Responsible Research in Business and Management (RRBM) initiative, Dan currently participates on its working board. He also serves in an advisory capacity to several organizations and startups in business and higher education. Before AACSB, Dan was a tenured associate professor and associate dean at The University of Tampa.

Dan played a lead role in creating a think-tank joint venture between the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) and AACSB and has been recognized for pioneering efforts in the formation of the UN’s Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), where he served on the Steering Committee for many years. Dan has also participated in industry-level task forces for a wide range of organizations, including the Chartered Association of Business Schools, Graduate Management Admission Council, Executive MBA Council, and Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program.

Widely recognized as a thought leader in management education, Dan is the author of over 80 research reports, articles, and blogs, and has delivered more than 170 presentations in 30 countries. As a lead spokesperson for reform and innovation in management education, Dan has been frequently cited in a wide range of US and international newspapers, magazines, and professional publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Times, China Daily, Forbes, Fast Company, and The Economist. Dan earned a PhD from the University of Florida writing on game theory.