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GBSN’s Strategic Direction

The Global Business School Network (GBSN) launched in 2003 as a program of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) at the World Bank. It’s founding was motivated by the vast amounts of money, resources, and human potential going to waste due to poor management, corruption and the like. Emerging markets needed money, but they also needed human capacity to effectively manage resources and productively lead teams. And, at the time, there was too little attention to expanding and improving management education in these regions.

For 17 years, GBSN pursued its mission by leading and participating in a large number of international development projects designed to increase management education capacity. For example, GBSN aided in developing a “Certificate in Entrepreneurial Management” in Nigeria, and that served as a model for its support of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program. GBSN worked on feasibility studies for business schools in Bangladesh and Pakistan. It was instrumental in establishing the Association of African Business Schools (AABS). Through these examples and many more like them, GBSN made a big difference improving management capacity throughout the developing world and firmly established itself as project-driven international development organization.

This project work helped to build a network of business schools dedicated to the original vision and mission. Today GBSN is an independent 501(c)3 organization based Washington, DC, and has member schools on six continents and a global mission. Its original success not only made GBSN a highly respected organization, it has also established its potential as a game-changer for the developing world at a critical time given changing demographics, launching of the sustainable development goals, and shifting geo-political environment.

Strategic Priorities

The GBSN vision is for the developing world to have the management talent it needs to generate prosperity.

The GBSN mission is “to improve access to quality, locally relevant management education for the developing world.”

How does GBSN realize this potential? We build on our experience as project-driven development organization to become a purpose-driven network organization. To take this bold step, we have three strategic priorities.


Strategic Priority 1: Grow and diversify the network

We have been strategically expanding the number of business school partners and countries they represent. In nine short months, the network has grown from 69 schools in 29 countries to more than 100 schools in 50 countries. We added schools from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Hungary, Russia, China, and more. In addition, we have started to engage different kinds of organizations in our mission. These organizations include learning centers, such as Ecobank Academy, which is responsible for developing the bank’s team of 16,000 people across Africa, and new kinds of institutions, such as WorldQuant University which offers a master’s of science degree in financial engineering online and tuition-free to qualified learners all over the world.

Strategic Priority 2: Build sustainable programs that continuously engage partners and participants in pursuit of the mission

This winter, GBSN is launching its Global Treks program to provide meaningful developing world learning experiences. We are also experimenting with a partnership to connect company projects to student teams. Finally, we are expanding the number of developing world centered student-focused competitions. This fall, for example, we collaborated with Cornell’s Emerging Markets Institute on their case competition.

For faculty, we are developing case writing and research collaborations, as well as training programs. Nearly 10 applications have been received for our Small Grant Competition program in collaboration with the SWIFT Institute. This program supports faculty to write cases about managing cybersecurity in financial institutions based in emerging economies. Similar programs are under development. We have also outlined plans to provide training for scholars, professional staff, and international development professionals.

Finally, our events have been important vehicle for convening business school leaders and connecting them with stakeholder groups. So we are introducing a richer menu of workshops beyond the annual meeting, with the objective of being on four to five continents with programs every year. Already for 2020 we have events planned for Nigeria, Brazil, and the United States.

Strategic Priority 3: Interconnect organizations and networks to foster innovation and scale impact

With a larger network, our community-building initiatives will grow and create additional value for members. Early in 2020 we plan to announce a series of specialized networks/communities within the GBSN brand, as well as collaborative partnerships to connect developing world (business and social) problems to problem solvers. It also is worth noting that GBSN also has a role to play in connecting other networks across borders, regions, disciplines, and sectors.

Three Themes

Before closing, we should describe three overarching themes shaping the development of the network, its programs and its communities. First, we are increasing our focus on local relevance. Our global network exists not to enable imperialism or otherwise foster homogeneity, but rather to enable local communities to develop in ways that are most appropriate to their circumstances. We will emphasize the creation of content, insights, and experiences that are most relevant and useful locally, as well as appreciate the importance of context in the development of management schools.

Second, we are connecting schools for societal impact. The vision of GBSN is about generating prosperity by improving management and leadership in the developing world. Prosperity means economic growth and progress, but not at the expense of equality, human rights and our environment. At GBSN, we will orient our efforts towards solving societal problems not just business ones. Similarly, we will encourage efforts that contribute to achieving the global goals.

Third, we are developing entrepreneurship across the network and its regions. New business creation is important to GBSN because we must expand the number and quality of jobs, as well as educate people to do them. Successful business leaders also invest in educating their workforce, contributing to the mission of GBSN, and they give back to their alma maters.

So, that is our strategic direction. I would love to hear what you think and explore how your school can participate.


Dan LeClair is the Chief Executive Officer at the Global Business School Network. 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.

Connect with Dan on LinkedIn and Twitter @drleclair