Greetings from Guy: Reflecting on GBSN’s Journey

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The Global Business School Network was launched fifteen years ago and the time has come for my successor, Stephen Sacca, to take the reins of the organization. In these last “Greetings from Guy” I reflect on GBSN’s journey.

GBSN is based on a simple idea: that the quality of management matters to economic and social development. We have all suffered from poor management, dealing with airlines, health care providers, public utilities, and so forth. Poor management translates into wasted resources, which low-income countries can afford least of all; to use an American expression, improved management generates “more bang for the buck”. Alas, governments, international aid agencies and philanthropic institutions have a blind spot for this all-pervasive component of development.

Improving the quality of management is about building capacity. Most often “capacity building” refers to short-term training programs for managers of developing country organizations. While such programs can enhance skills, there is no assurance that these individuals will stay in their respective organizations or when courses are given abroad, return to their countries of origin. Institutional capacity building is a better approach. It focuses on the development needs of an institution such as a business school of a developing country. That approach ensures that improvements are “rooted” in the country and therefore have an ongoing impact.

We were very fortunate to secure funding from the Word Bank/IFC for “proof of concept” programs, and later as a development partner of Goldman Sachs’s remarkable “10,000 Women” entrepreneurship education initiative. This made it possible for GBSN to carry out long-lasting institutional capacity building programs for business schools and entrepreneurship centers of the developing world. More recently, we have continued to focus on institutional development as well on training of trainers across institutions, for example GBSN’s experiential learning “summits” designed for deans and faculty of a particular developing country.

The Network’s membership of business schools grew over the years to around 70 spanning a huge range of countries from the most affluent to Cambodia, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Northeastern Nigeria. The Network offers faculty and students of affluent country schools opportunities to experience the fine-grain realities of the developing world and to form new partnerships there. Over the years, GBSN’s programs and events, notably its annual conferences, have spawned a worldwide community of people who share a passion for our mission: “to improve access to quality, locally relevant, management education for the developing world”. During the past fifteen years business schools of the developing world have made great progress and those in high-income countries have greatly intensified their interest and activities in the developing world, a desirable evolution in which GBSN played its part.

I feel very pleased that GBSN helped in the creation of two other “cousin institutions”. In the Spring of 2005 we organized a conference on international accreditation and quality assurance which was held at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration. About two dozen business school deans from African countries participated. To my surprise, quite a number of them met there for the first time. Two days into the conference, the African deans decided that they wished to form an association, and sought GBSN support to help bring this about. Five months later the Association of African Business Schools (AABS) was founded at Lagos Business School (www.aabschools.com). Twelve years later, AABS is a vibrant institution. In the same vein, in 2011 GBSN was one of the founding partners of the African Management Initiative (www.africanmanagers.org), an innovative educational platform blending online and face-to-face pedagogy. Its ambitious goal: “an Africa transformed by 1 million managers performing effectively and responsibly.”

Paul Romer, the distinguished NYU Stern economist and World Bank Chief Economist, was invited to a Keynote Conversation at our forthcoming annual conference about intersections of business education and economic development (gbsn.org/2017dc). His development framework, which stresses the critical importance of access to ideas, speaks to me. Developing countries can strive to nurture the conditions needed to draw selectively from the almost limitless worldwide store of knowledge, transferring and adapting the most relevant ideas so as to solve local problems. The emphasis on knowledge-sharing and “human resources” agrees with GBSN’s philosophy, except that in the case of GBSN knowledge is flowing in all directions: North-South, South-North and South-South.

And now a personal note. My parents fled Nazi Germany. Against heavy odds they survived but lost all their material possessions. Thanks to their education and skills they rebuilt a good life after the war. That experience drilled into me the deep conviction that the only dependable assets are vested in people, and this is one of the reasons why GBSN’s strong emphasis “human capital” speaks to me.

I am thankful to all the many people who brought GBSN to life and grew it from a tiny idea to a wonderful worldwide community. I want to single out five individuals who nurtured GBSN by dint of intelligence, imagination, good judgement and great energy: While GBSN was part of IFC, Frank Lysy encouraged me to work on building the Network and wrote GBSN’s initial concept paper; Laura Bures and Mike Graglia, my terrific lieutenants; And after GBSN spun off as an independent nonprofit organization, Nora Brown, our first COO, and Page Buchanan who succeeded her. I will mention no others; no matter how long the list, it would surely leave some of you out, and I don’t wish to do this. The only exception is Dr. Irene Crowe, my wife and best friend, whose encouragement helped me persevere; we will celebrate our 50 th anniversary in January. Most of all I feel awed and humbled at having had the amazing privilege to work with so many of you and will forever be thankful for your friendship.

Guy Pfeffermann is the Founder of the Global Business School Network. He will continue his work with GBSN by serving on the Board of Directors.

3 Comments on “Greetings from Guy: Reflecting on GBSN’s Journey”

  1. Guy, it has been far too long since I have been able to participate in GBSN, I regret this especially as it did not allow me to meet and keep up discussions with you. You did a phenomenal job with GBSN and I can only hope your successor keeps it going – and that you have a wonderful, well earned and productive “retirement.” All the best

    Jeff Strauss (still at Northwestern though in new capacity)

  2. Guy
    Congratulations on bringing your project to such a high level that you are able to pass the reins on to your successor. I know from my experience in launching and then growing my project, AMSCO that you are also proud of you legacy. You and I are are members of a small group of persons who have worked in the World Bank Group and who can point to the creation of a new project and with pride and with justification say: I did that. It is a great feeling. Enjoy the years ahead. You have earned them. Cheers, Alex.

  3. Guy, I was the Dean of an African business school during the early years of the Association of African Business Schools and a witness to the unpayable debt management education in Africa owes you. Thanks a lot for everything and keep it up. You are very much needed!

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