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Students and GBSN: A Powerful Force for Sustainable Development

Over the last five weeks, 56 student teams from 32 schools across 15 countries participated in our inaugural Africa Business Concept Challenge, sponsored by Stanford Seed and AACSB and supported by Peaqs, emlyon business school, Localized, and Afrilabs. It wasn’t our first student competition. Last fall 113 teams from 38 schools across 21 countries worked on local medical and food supply chain problems in the Humanitarian Logistics (HUMLOG) Challenge we offered in partnership with Hanken School of Economics.

GBSN student challenges are designed to provide meaningful educational experiences for learners, as well as crowdsource viable solutions to economic and social problems. We believe business students are a powerful force for sustainable development, just like faculty and administrative leaders; and our challenges help them to convert ideas to business opportunities and sharpen their skills at the same time. The challenges complement the experiential learning activities already offered by GBSN business schools and are entirely consistent with our mission “to improve access to quality, locally-relevant management and entrepreneurship education in the developing world.”

We have learned a lot from the student experiences. I can tell you, for example, that the competitions have been difficult to plan and execute, especially given our commitment to international participation and building a robust community of support. In addition to the students, the Africa Challenge also involved local mentors for the teams and an international group of investor experts led by emlyon professor, Rickie Moore. It also included an eight-person international judging panel and seven staff members working across GBSN and two digital platforms.

“I can also tell you that we love working with students. They are enthusiastic, creative, professional, and anxious to develop international relationships.”

My younger staff colleagues have been especially happy with the students and will do anything to empower and support them—to help them to develop, make connections, and make a difference in society. I should note that our student engagement efforts extend beyond business schools, as many of the teams have included of students from other disciplines, such as engineering and technology.

We are leveraging our initial experience to scale and innovate. This year’s HUMLOG Challenge will focus on community disaster resilience, offer opportunities to students to earn a micro-credential, and encourage international collaboration. We are also in early stages of partnership development for additional regional challenges and two major global challenges in 2022 and 2023.

Student Programs

Our student programs go beyond challenges. For GBSN member schools we also provide students with access to career development support through our partnership with Localized, a DC-based company that started with a vision to connect local learners in the MENA region with successful diaspora. We are also building out two programs with our newest corporate member, Deutsche Post DHL, one program for MBA students and one for undergraduate students. We also have plans to engage business students in a range of sustainability-oriented projects, such as developing campaigns that shape the demand for more nutritious and sustainable foods, and effort we’re co-convening with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

Although student programs are just one piece of what we do to foster economic and social development, we are excited about the growing portfolio and how well it complements the work we do with faculty and administrative leaders. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like to explore how your students can engage in GBSN’s mission.

Dan LeClair
Dan LeClair

Dan LeClair is CEO of the Global Business School Network (GBSN). 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.