5 Ways B-Schools Can Accelerate SDG Progress in the Context of Covid-19

It’s not as if the world was on track to achieve the SDGs by 2030. Of the 38 targets assessed in 2019, the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development declared we hadn’t made sufficient progress on 37 of them. Now, the Covid-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact across all 17 Goals and threatens to turn back progress by years in several areas, such as poverty, hunger, education, and justice.

Meanwhile, in business schools, scholars have been engaged in an epic struggle to replace the dominant intellectual foundations of business with new ones that better reflect the needs of society and the changing rules of business. While there has been steady progress, anyone familiar with higher education knows that paradigm shifts can be painfully slow. It’s not just about what we should start teaching, it is especially challenging to identify and remove the content we should stop teaching.

And business schools have been busy. For the last year, their leaders and faculties have been working hard and fast to ensure safety and continuity in learning and research activities, and inventing new models for just about everything, including student recruitment, instructional delivery, experiential education, faculty development, and more. The professors I know have never been more stretched; the deans I know have never been more stressed.

So, how can business schools accelerate progress on the SDGs right now, even while dealing COVID-19? Here are five suggestions.

1. Prioritize social impact and responsibility when supporting local business.

Many business schools have stepped up to help local businesses to navigate the crisis and become more resilient. Like IE University’s Center for Social Innovation and Sustainability, which has committed to assisting 70 small business in Madrid to develop digital strategies, business schools are doing their part to save jobs and help economies bounce back. Almost any kind of business needs help now, but what if we prioritized organizations by their potential for societal impact and helped selected businesses to develop more inclusive and sustainable business practices? I think we would accelerate progress on the SDGs. Indeed, I believe local initiative is as important as global leadership to achieve the Global Goals.

2. Align student experiences towards sustainable development.

The Gies College of Business has committed to doubling the number of students participating in experiential learning each year. Despite the pandemic, other business schools have been doing the same—requiring more project-based learning, internships, and apprenticeships. The activities have moved online and become shorter, but students are doing more. They are doing work that matters in practice, and we can and should orient that works towards sustainability. We don’t necessarily have to give up the other experiences, such as writing a social media plan, modeling a business process, or coding a chat bot. It might just mean engaging different kinds of organizations, such as non-profits and social enterprises, and asking different questions during the process. Our creative, purpose-driven students are a tremendous resource. Why not deploy them towards the SDGs.

3. Take the lead role with data and information.

Early in the pandemic, the Helsinki Graduate School of Economics (a collaboration between Aalto University, Hanken School of Economics, and University of Helsinki) served the community well by opening the Covid-19 Situation Room “to support fast decision making amid the coronavirus crisis.” The pandemic and other events, such as the U.S. presidential election, have drawn serious attention to limitations and problems related to data and information. Experts say that the absence of good data and relevant metrics has hindered progress on the Global Goals and I believe business schools have a huge opportunity to take a lead role.  I’m excited, for example, about the Aggregate Confusion Project at MIT Sloan, which is a program of research “to improve the quality of ESG measurement and decision making in the financial sector” and the “biodiversity accounting” initiative at the University of Otago Business School, which will  to help companies recognize and quantify the environmental impact of an their operations.

4. Bring together different perspectives.

Covid has demonstrated how connected everything is—across borders, sectors, and disciplines. It’s not just about global health, it is an economic crisis, logistics challenge, racial justice problem, and more. Similarly, the SDGs are not defined by silos and are, by design, not the responsibility solely of government. Indeed, the kind of innovation we need for the SDGs will happen mostly at the intersection of different perspectives. Business schools have an opportunity to reach beyond business and convene across sectors and disciplines, as well as across industries and borders. Last fall, I was impressed by the breadth of perspectives convened for the Victoria Form led by the Gustavson School of Business. For its part, GBSN has created the Talent for Africa Forum with Ecobank Academy.

5. Capture new insights for responsible education.

We are in the middle of an incredible learning moment. Covid has produced many experiments and, in some ways, is demonstrating that large scale systemic transformation is possible. Yet, I’m consistently surprised by the shortness of our memories and inability to learn from mistakes. Every business school can act now to capture insights in the form of new curriculum content—cases, simulations, problem sets, and more—for the future we are building. We want to translate current experiences into the lessons for sustainable development, and #buildbackbetter. To give just one example, I learned recently about a case compendium being developed by the Berkeley Haas Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) that “includes case studies with diverse protagonists and case studies that build ‘equity fluency’ by focusing on DEI-related issues and opportunities.”

Since 2003, GBSN members have led efforts to build management education capacity in and for the developing world. That is, we were built for SDG4. Our work has enabled the development of leadership, management, and entrepreneurship skills for economic and social development.

“Now we also believe that business schools contribute more directly to achieving other SDGs. In addition to building education capacity, we do projects and programs that engage business schools—their students, faculty, and leaders—in activities the can improve health, create more inclusive societies, fight climate change, build sustainable cities, and more. “

By connecting business schools to business, government and civil society we are making a difference now, not just by educating students for the future and publishing articles in journals. Check out the GBSN network, what we do (programs, projects, thought leadership), and who we engage (students, faculty, administrators).

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.

GBSN Highlights from 2020 and Looking Ahead to 2021

We held our annual Members Meeting last Thursday, 3 December, with more than 50 participants from 30 countries. As with anything that GBSN does, the meeting was designed to be interactive and thought provoking. The agenda included a pre-meeting for Asian members, two networking breakout groups, an insightful presentation on “Skill, Reskill and Upskill – The Future of the Business School” by Andrew Crisp co-founder of CarringtonCrisp, and an enlightening visioning exercise led by Sanjeev Khagram, Director General and Dean at Thunderbird School of Global Management.

The Annual Members Meeting also provides a moment to reflect on the work of GBSN and look forward. One of my colleagues, Nicole Zefran, and I took a little time to speak about highlights from current year and plans as we move into the next one. We would prefer to look further ahead, perhaps 3-5 years, but nowadays that seems like an especially long time. This blog summarizes our presentation.

Our presentation was framed by GBSN’s strategic direction, which we introduced at last year’s meeting hosted by Nova SBE on their spectacular campus overlooking the sea in Carcavelos, Portugal. In short, we are building on GBSN’s extraordinary history as a “project-driven development organization” to become a “purpose-driven network organization.” Four sets of initiatives are driving this transformation.

  1. Strengthening the network through size, diversity, and connectivity

The network is our most valuable asset and we have and will continue to invest in developing it. Network strength comes partly from size and we are excited about the growing interest worldwide in joining the GBSN community to pursue its mission. In addition to size, strength also comes from diversity. This year’s additions to GBSN come from India, France, China, Canada, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands, Australia, Colombia, Ghana, Morocco, Malaysia, and the United States.

There were many firsts in the group, including first members from Japan (NUCB Business School) and Malaysia (Asia School of Business), and our first corporate member (Ecobank Academy). Three of the new member schools are relatively young and will work together with our support to accelerate development. Finally, we are excited about engaging the US-based Western Governors University to learn from their pioneering work in competency-based learning.

A large family doesn’t have much power if nobody talks to each other. Likewise, to achieve our vision we must continuously expand and reinforce the connections between schools and people in the network. Our objective is a network that connects together like Velcro, with multiple hooks and loops between organizations. This year we launched our member portal to support member interactions with each other and with GBSN. While we have long way to go, these efforts are off to a great start.

2. Building programs that engage students, faculty, and administrative leaders

A strong network offers (and is reinforced by) programs that engage members—their students, faculty, and administrative leaders. For GBSN, these programs are designed to simultaneously create learning and positively impact our society in line with our mission. That is, our programs should be engaging experiences, relevant to sustainable development, and impactful.

This year, for example, we offered our first international student team competition. We built the HUMLOG Challenge with the Hanken School of Economics’ Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Research Institute. More than 400 students formed 120 teams representing schools that span six continents registered to consider local medical or food supply chain problems and offer feasible solutions. The winning team offered a water supply chain solution in La Guajira, Colombia and represents Universidad de Los Andes School of Management. The second place team came from WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business in Austria and the third place team came from the Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston.

The initial experience was so successful that we are working on our next competition. It will focus on Africa and be offered in partnership with Peaqs, an innovative learning platform that combines a project development process with a virtual stock market engine for peer feedback. Please let us know if your school is interested in being involved and supportive. Also in 2021, we are working on plans to supplement the experiential learning programs of member schools through partnerships with a couple of very large international companies. More on these programs to come.

For faculty, this year we’re completing our first experience with a small grant program initiative. GBSN and the SWIFT Institute partnered to support the development of three case studies looking at cybersecurity and wholesale banking in emerging economies. A team from Chandaria School of Business at United States International University in Kenya won the grant and have submitted the final cases. We also ran our first Faculty Simulation Lab in partnership with Capsim to develop regionally-relevant microsimulations to drive meaningful education in the developing world. Congratulations to the team form Ashesi University in Ghana for winning first prize for their simulation on “Ethics in International Mining.”

This year we launched Cross-Border Collabs for administrative leaders at GBSN member institutions. The meetings happen on the first Thursday of every month. The idea is to bring our community together on specific topics and, most importantly, create opportunities for leaders to connect with peers globally. We are currently building the agenda for 2021 and, as always, will curate the most important topics through conversations with members.

Collabs work hand-in-hand with our learning communities. This year we quietly piloted this initiative with help from Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) to build a community of Entrepreneurs-in-Residence programs, starting with schools in the US, Brazil, Ghana, Egypt, and India, as well as the UK. The objectives are to exchange best practices, share resources, and facilitate collective action for sustainable development. Interest in forming learning communities is already growing, with new ones emerging in human rights, sustainable energy, healthcare, and community-engaged learning.

3. Becoming a thought leader for role of business schools in sustainable development

To achieve its mission, GBSN must assert a thought leadership role as it relates to inclusive and sustainable development. This means helping business schools to find their way in a changing environment while expanding their positive impact on society, especially in emerging economies. This year, GBSN took a big step in that direction by being quick to introduce a webinar series to help schools to cope with COVID-19. For example, our webinar series on the subject generated more than 3000 participants in April and May, 2020. And our continuing interview series on the World After Covid has generated many useful insights for schools.

In conjunction with leaders track of GBSN Beyond and with valuable support from GMAC® and CarringtonCrisp, we ran leadership roundtables on the future of experiential learning (led by Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, Asia School of Business, UNC Kenan Flagler, University of Illinois, MIT Sloan, and George Washington University), role of business schools in building more inclusive societies (led by Fundação Dom Cabral and University of Stellenbosch), and entrepreneurship ecosystems and business schools (led by INSEAD and MIT Sloan). The final reports are now available to the public.

GBSN was also pleased to contribute to “The Case for Human Rights in Business Education—A Tool Kit” and encourage business schools everywhere to consider adopting its recommendations. Look for GBSN to continue supporting this initiative being led by the Centers for Business and Human Rights at NYU Stern and at the Geneva School Economics and Management.

In the first quarter of 2021, GBSN and Ecobank Academy will convene the Talent for Africa Forum. In this unique, virtual forum, speakers will focus on the future that Africa wants and the power of its people to achieve it. The Forum highlights the importance of leadership, management, and entrepreneurship across sectors and across the continent, and aims to explore the challenges of building education and development capacity and aligning it with the needs of a rapidly changing continent.

4. Expanding our project work

Prior to 2019 we achieved our mission primarily through project work, which typically involves external funding over a finite horizon to build management education capacity, expand education to underserved communities, and the like. These projects were challenging and impactful, and we did many of them over the years with help from a network of the best business schools in the world. By strengthening that network, especially the multi-sectoral partners, we have been increasing our capacity to do such projects. We have three projects in the works for 2021.

First, we initiated a project to build a mobile (smart phone) version of the highly-successful Management Development Institute (MDI) program supported by Johnson & Johnson, which has provided leadership and management residential training for front-line health care workers since 2006. The main objectives of the project are to build on the legacy of MDI, while expanding access to it for nurses and midwives and increasing its relevance to national health plans as well as learners. Ongoing MDI trainings would thus be more accessible, resilient, and adaptable to evolving national health plans. Potential partners for this project include the World Continuing Education Alliance, Amref, Lagos Business School, Groupe ISM, University of Cape Town, and Nova SBE.

Second, we have been mapping out a collaboration with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) on a project to improve understanding of how corporate anti-corruption training impacts companies that implement anti-corruption initiatives, to harness the research of business schools around the globe in developing anti-corruption programs, and to provide feedback that will refine CIPE’s anti-corruption program design and development.

Finally, GBSN has been working on an initiative with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to convene stakeholders across sectors to drive action in the enabling environment—one that delivers the vision of people globally desiring and choosing nutritious and sustainable foods.

In our report, we also talked about and introduced the hard-working, dedicated staff team and spent some time unpacking GBSN Beyond, our hugely successful reimagination of our annual global conference. The event proved to be a great platform to introduce several of the initiatives described above. Overall, we have continued to move forward methodically with our transformation and increasing the positive impact of our network.

Needless to say, 2020  has been a challenging year everywhere. Throughout the pandemic, however, I have seen business schools step up to support their communities, innovate to solve seemingly intractable problems, take a lead role in providing credible information, and more. We are especially proud of our member schools for continuing to put in the time and energy to make a difference in and for the developing world. We have been proud to amplify that difference. Serving the GBSN community and working with such a dedicated team has been an honor and pleasure for me personally. It has been hard work, as it should be. But at the moment there is no place I’d rather be. We have so much good to do together. I’m looking forward to 2021.

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.

Learning from the Leadership Roundtables at #GBSNBeyond

Next week’s GBSN Beyond Virtual Conference includes a series of panel discussions on the Leadership Roundtables that took place in October. What can you expect if you join us?

It all started this past summer when we identified the three topics that GBSN leaders most wanted to talk about. We then invited experienced educators to form the following Leadership Roundtables.

The Role of Business Schools in Building More Inclusive Societies

  • André Almeida, Fundação Dom Cabral
  • Karoline Mortensen, University of Miami Herbert Business School
  • Arnold Smit, University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB)

Future of Experiential Learning

  • Andrew Allen, Gies College of Business, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Bryan Andriano, George Washington University.
  • Michellana Jester, MIT Sloan School of Management
  • Kerry Laufer, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth
  • Shannon McKeen. LEPE and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill,
  • Loredana Padurean, Asia School of Business

Entrepreneurship Ecosystems and Business Schools

  • Stephanie Woerner, MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research
  • Balagopal Vissa, INSEAD

We established three objectives for the roundtables. The first two were to (1) facilitate peer-to-peer sharing and (2) connect leaders across schools internationally. We built the agendas accordingly—to enable participants to meet and talk with each other, sharing ideas and strategies.

It is safe to say that these objectives were achieved. The roundtables attracted 55 business school leaders from 40 institutions in 16 countries. Each of the three roundtable groups met twice in October, for 90 minutes each time for a total of six meetings and nine hours. The meetings were relaxed and engaging, with participants sharing openly about their challenges, as well as the successes.

That brings us to the third objective. The idea was to pose the right questions, listen carefully to capture the themes in the dialogue, and share what we learned with the rest of the GBSN community. Since the meetings concluded, we’ve been sorting through the transcripts, notes, and recordings, connecting the dots and fleshing out the ideas. We are now working with partner and sponsor CarringtonCrisp to produce reports, which will be released during the panel sessions featuring leadership team members. Please join us to be the first to receive these reports.

The Role of Business Schools in Building More Inclusive Societies

November 9, 2020 I 10:30 am EST, 4:30 pm CEST, 5:30 pm CAT, 9:00 pm IST, 11:30 CST

Future of Experiential Learning

November 10, 2020 I 10:45 am EST, 4:45 pm CEST, 5:45 pm CAT, 9:15 pm IST, 11:45 CST

Entrepreneurship Ecosystems and Business Schools

November 12, 2020 I 10:30 am EST 4:30 pm CEST, 5:30 pm CAT, 9:00 pm IST, 11:30 CST

November 13, 2020 I 3:00 am CEST, 4:00 am CAT, 7:30 am IST, 10:00 CST

We are anxious to share the roundtable reports. For now, I want to conclude with a few general observations about the roundtables. While each had its own personality, the roundtables had three things in common. First, local context played an important role. Participants often began their contributions by a description of their location, history or culture of the institution, economic and political environment, and/or the current COVID-19 situation in their country.

Second, there was a serious commitment to societal impact in the roundtables. This societal emphasis was obviously expected in the inclusive societies roundtable. But it was also evident in the types of experiential projects that schools want to curate for their students and the kinds of new ventures that schools want to help communities build.

Third, across all three roundtables, it was clear that business schools everywhere and of all types are open for innovation. I’ve been working closely with business school leaders for two decades and I’ve never seen them so open to change—and to redefining boundaries of business education.

We look forward to seeing you next week, for the roundtable panel discussions and more.

Dan LeClair is the CEO of the Global Business School Network

Redefining the Boundaries of Business Education

Boundaries are everywhere in business education. They inform business scholars about which journals they are supposed to publish in for tenure and promotion. Boundaries help us to neatly organize degree programs into categories, such as MBAs and specialized masters, based on objective criteria. Boundaries can be physical; it is not uncommon for university-based business schools to be physically separated from the main campus.

At AACSB, where I worked for 19 years, determining the “scope of review” (what’s included and not) is the first step in the accreditation process. It makes sense. Before beginning the accreditation journey, we have to decide what to evaluate and the unit to which accreditation applies. And because all business programs at the institution, regardless of whether they are in “the business school,” are included by default, this gives business school deans extraordinary power to keep business and management programs from springing up in other parts of the institution. This boundary-setting leverage has always been part of the value proposition for AACSB accreditation. 

But the environment has changed. Our traditional boundaries have become less helpful. They supported a focus on quality improvement, but are hindering efforts for impact leadership. Quality is about rules and rubrics. Impact is about creativity and collaboration.

It is time to lift our aspirations in business education. Instead of addressing business problems in the context of society, we should address societal problems in the context of business. We must take down the walls between disciplines and between academia and practice. We should embrace diversity and take a lead role in building interdisciplinary teams to address societal challenges. In schools we should engage in collective actions for common good, as much as competitive ones for individual benefit.

About five years ago, I proposed “breaking the rules” as the theme for a large gathering of deans. My suggestion was rightfully rejected since business schools were being questioned about their efforts to build ethical organizations and leaders. But the basic idea has only come into sharper focus. It is reflected in our work at the Global Business School Network. For example, GBSN Beyond—a value-creating reimagination of our flagship annual conference—is breaking boundaries by inviting business students and faculty as well as administrators to participate. 

The first line in the description of GBSN Beyond is:

Motivated to address the most pressing needs of society and enabled by digital innovation, business schools have been redefining the boundaries of their work.

It is time to celebrate and support the pioneers, non-conformists, and boundary spanners who are breaking the rules and pushing out the boundaries of business education. The new boundaries won’t be rigid; they will be fluid and ever changing, reflecting the dynamic world that business schools serve. 

That’s why we’ve been encouraging students to form interdisciplinary teams in our humanitarian logistics (HUMLOG) challenge. It’s why the whole university is invited to participate when the business school registers for GBSN Beyond. It is why we are running roundtables on building inclusive societies and entrepreneurial ecosystems and not just on fundraising and differentiating MBA programs. It is why we’re addressing climate change and inequality in our keynote sessions. 

Already more than 1,000 students, faculty, and leaders from over 80 leading business schools and 40 countries have registered to join us for GBSN Beyond. And the numbers are growing as we experience, connect, and learn through roundtables, workshops, competitions, and more, all leading up to the culminating virtual conference from November 9th through the 13th

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.

Building Beyond @GBSNonline

Two months ago, we announced something new and different would take the place of our regular annual conference this year. It would be more inclusive and reflect a strong commitment to action in pursuing our mission. And it would demonstrate support for the schools that make our mission achievable. We named it GBSN Beyond and went to work. Since then it has been exciting to work with the team, our partners, and our members to build GBSN Beyond. 

Already more nearly 40 schools have registered from 30 countries. Including Ghana, Philippines, United States, France, Brazil, India, Canada, Finland, UK, Australia, Cambodia, Netherlands, Thailand, Russia, Egypt, China, Colombia, Switzerland, Portugal, Lebanon, Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa, Rwanda, and more. And tonight, as I was writing this blog, I received messages from colleagues in Indonesia and Malaysia saying that they will join us for Beyond. A list of registered schools can be found on the website.

It has been especially energizing to see the number and diversity of individual participants rise. Experiences in GBSN Beyond are for Students, Faculty, and Administrators in business schools and universities. The schools have already generated well over 250 individual registrations – and more than 60 percent are students signing up to participate in the HUMLOG Challenge, an international team competition we are running in partnership with Hanken School of Economics’ Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Research Institute (HUMLOG Institute)

The student track also features career development opportunities, including a virtual career fair we are offering in partnership with a dynamic company called Localized, which was started to connect diaspora to young people in their home countries. Complementing the career fair, Beyond provides access to workshops and webinars develop valuable learning skills, such as a session on learning with cases offered by the Case Centre, and practical job search tips from leading career services professionals—an effort for which we collaborated with MBA Career Services and Employer Alliance.

Business faculty are also going Beyond. Many are joining our Faculty Simulation Lab a partnership with Capsim to turn regionally-relevant content into meaningful experiential learning modules. We know faculty are busy, so we designed the lab as a quick and easy experience using the award-winning CapsimInbox authoring platform. In addition to developing valuable skills, each author will have the opportunity to work with Caspsim to bring their simulation to market and earn royalties. The author(s) of the best simulation also receives $5,000 in prize money. In addition to the Lab, GBSN Beyond includes a series of workshop and webinars to enhance the virtual teaching skills as part of the Faculty Track.

Leaders in business schools are signing up for roundtable discussions on the following topics:

  1. The Future of Experiential Learning (in partnership with Leaders of Experiential Project-Based Education (LEPE) and LX Consortium
  2. The Role of Business Schools in Building More Inclusive Societies
  3. Entrepreneurship Ecosystems and Business Schools

These roundtables are being led by GBSN member schools, such as MIT Sloan, INSEAD, Tuck School of Business, Fundação Dom Cabral, University of Stellenbosch, Gies College of Business, Asia School of Business, and Miami Herbert Business School. The roundtables are part of the Leadership Track, which includes leadership development experiences, workshops, and webinars—including a digital transformation session for deans. 

All of these experiences culminate in a virtual conference, which includes provocative keynotes and panel discussions designed to take business schools beyond their comfort zone. We are building sessions on the climate change imperative, globalization and whether it is reversing, reducing inequality, and fixing capitalism. All students, faculty, and leaders from registered schools are invited to the virtual conference regardless of whether they participated in the tracks or core experiences. Indeed, we’ll enlist their help in judging the competitions. We will release the reports of the roundtable discussions with help from thought leader and partner, CarringtonCrisp. We also have planned a number of networking, cultural, and well-begin sessions, as well as a few surprises for participants.
GBSN Beyond is open to all quality business schools worldwide—a singular registration fee per institution means an unlimited number of persons from the institution will be able to register and participate in any of the offerings. For more information about joining GBSN Beyond, visit or message me on twitter, LinkedIn or by email.

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

Transforming Into a Purpose-Driven Network

July was a big month for the Global Business School Network (GBSN). With leadership from the Board of Directors and network, and the hard work of the team, we achieved five milestones in our transformation to a “purpose-driven network organization” and efforts to significantly scale our impact.

Transitioned to a new website

Quietly, we switched over our new website over a weekend in July. Although we didn’t make a public announcement about it, the new website reflects an important change in GBSN, one that has been chronicled on this blog in the 16 months since I joined the team. See, for example, GBSN’s Strategic Direction posted in December, 2019.

The new website adds the last year to our story. It now describes a powerful purpose-driven network built on a 17-year history of impact. To be sure, GBSN remains true to its original vision “for the developing world to have the management talent it needs to generate prosperity” which it pursues by “improving access to quality, locally relevant management and entrepreneurship education.” The new website also highlights an organization that fosters collective action for the public good, with the network of business schools working together and with business, government, and civil society. And it is provides a platform for our growing efforts to engage faculty and students as well as business school leaders directly in our mission.

Welcomed our first corporate member

We welcomed our first corporate member, Ecobank Academy, with a live video conversation. Please read about this exciting development in a separate blog post with Simon Rey, Head of Ecobank Academy and Group Head: Talent, Learning and Organizational Development. Our aim is to work together over the long term to build a stronger connection between business and business schools in developing the talent needed to build the inclusive and sustainable Africa that Africans want.

Over the last year, we have focused on international diversity in our network, increasing the number of countries our members represent from 39 to 50. Moving forward, look for GBSN to continue growing not only by engaging more business schools in more countries, but also by connecting with more corporate academies, pioneers in digital education, and agile startups in the education ecosystem. Our network strength will come as much from diversity as size. And it will come from its connectivity.

Opened the GBSN Member Portal

On the new website, you’ll notice a “login” link in the top right corner. It provides entry to the GBSN Member Portal. The portal serves as the platform for network participants to manage their work with GBSN. More importantly, it connects the people, the leaders in our expanding network, together. A more connected network means a more powerful one, and the portal will be essential for that reason. Specifically, it will support the development of GBSN Learning Communities, as well as the expansion of Steering Committees and other collaborative initiatives related to our mission.

Launched GBSN’s first Learning Community

In a partnership with Lancaster University Management School (LUMS), we started an Entrepreneurs-in-Residence Learning Community. The first meeting included six leading GBSN member schools from six countries: Ghana, India, Brazil, UK, Egypt, and the USA. The group is now expanding to include schools from Nigeria, China, Lebanon, as well as two startup hubs in the US. The community has three objectives, which are to support peer-to-peer development of entrepreneurs-in-residence programs, share resources across ecosystems, and work collectively to impact our communities, especially through social innovation and empowerment.  We’re excited about the pipeline of additional learning communities already lining up to come online at GBSN.

Announced GBSN Beyond: Virtual Conference Reimagined

We started July by announcing GBSN Beyond during our monthly Cross-Border Collab meeting of members. This week, we opened registration. Reimagining our flagship annual conference, GBSN Beyond includes three tracks, involving business students, faculty, and administrators. Each of the tracks has a core experience and a series of workshops and webinars. For students, in a partnership with Hankan School of Economics we are offering our first international team competition as the core experience. In addition, we will offer a series of career development and learning workshops.

For the faculty core experience, we are partnering with Capsim to engage faculty in a learning lab to develop a series of micro-simulations focusing on management situations in emerging economies, with protagonists also addressing cross-cultural challenges and sustainability issues. Additional workshops are designed to help faculty develop new teaching and research skills.

For administrative leaders in business schools, we are convening three roundtable discussions covering the future of experiential learning, the role of business schools in building more inclusive societies, and the future of globalization in business education—each with fantastic business school partners. We are also offering a leadership development experience and other professional development workshops for administrators.

The tracks culminate in a virtual event, November 9-13, 2020, in which faculty can vote on presentations by finalists in the student competition. Likewise, student participants become the first to use the micro-simulations. And we release three roundtable reports with some fanfare. The students, faculty, and administrative leaders will be brought together by inspiring keynotes, forward-looking panel discussions, and more.

Learn more and register to participate in GBSN Beyond by going to

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

Why A Corporate University Is Invited to Join the Global Business School Network

Since its beginning in 1985, Ecobank has been committed to the economic development across the African continent. The Bank’s commitment is reflected in the culture of its workforce of over,  14,000 people serving more than 23 million customers across 35 countries in Africa and 4 outside the continent. Developing the capabilities of these people has been the responsibility of Ecobank Academy, making it one of the largest corporate universities in Africa. 

For 17 years, the Global Business School Network has been building management education capacity in and for the developing world. The core of GBSN is more than 100 leading business schools from 50 countries, with their leaders, faculty, and students engaging in programs to “improve access to quality, locally relevant management and entrepreneurship education for the developing world.”

Based on that brief introduction it is already easy to see the potential for collaboration between Ecobank and GBSN. Indeed, the two organizations have connected in the past, though small ways and passing ways. 

We are excited to announce that Ecobank Academy has joined the Global Business School Network (GBSN) to pursue our shared vision for Africa to have the talent it needs to generate prosperity. Our aim is to work together over the long term to build a stronger connection between business and business schools—to develop the talent to achieve the Africa we want. 

This vision began to crystalize last November when Simon delivered a keynote at the GBSN Annual Conference in Lisbon. He pointed out that Africa has only 740 universities for more than 1 billion people and offered, by way of comparison, that the United States has some 5,300 universities and colleges serving a population of 323 million people. He led a conversation amongst the 170 participants from 148 institutions across 46 countries. The dialogue exposed many of the challenges and opportunities of educating and developing talent for Africa. 

The consensus was that no single sector—business, government, education, or non-profit—can make meaningful progress alone, especially in such an incredibly diverse, fast growing, and dynamic environment as Africa.

We posited that widening gap between higher education and business is an obstacle to building the future that Africa wants. And the pace of change in business has been accelerating. That space between education and practice holds the greatest potential for innovative solutions.

The addition of Ecobank Academy to the Global Business School Network is a first step towards closing the gap. In addition to strengthening collaboration between business and academia, we believe that our joint efforts will result in more relevant and scalable educational programs for young people, innovative initiatives for upskilling and reskilling over a lifetime, and collective efforts to build more inclusive and sustainable business across Africa. Our aim is to build alliances where structured designs can fill needed capabilities to address opportunities such as financial inclusion, health, renewable energy, health, nutrition, innovation, and more.  

One of the ways we intend to initiate our work together is by building a virtual forum to explore the changing talent needs of the continent. The series is focused on the future that Africa wants, and the power of its people to achieve it. It highlights the importance of leadership, management, and entrepreneurship across sectors and across the continent. The aims are to explore the challenges associated with building education and development capacity and aligning it with the needs of a rapidly changing continent. The conversations in the forum will reveal new opportunities for innovation and collaboration, especially across business and business schools.

While the sessions are about building the capabilities of Africans, the series is intentionally global in three ways. First, Africa invites the leaders from all over the world to participate meaningfully in its development by co-creating solutions. After all, connecting globally to make a difference locally has been GBSN’s role for nearly two decades. Second, Africa plays a pivotal role in the future of the global society and the planet—economically and politically. Part of our work together is to assist Africa to assert its rightful place in the world. Third, Africa is an inspiration and catalyst for innovation and change around the world. The rest of the world can learn from what Africa does.

While specific topics vary across the sessions in the forum, there are several underlying themes. First is the importance of a Pan-African approach and solution to intercontinental areas. Economic integration and international cooperation are essential, especially at it relates to the mobility of workers, learners, and ideas. Second, technology plays a central role. It is the primary driver of change and it is the biggest enabler for organizations and society to respond to these changes. Technology has played an important role in the development of Ecobank and will in turn play an important role in GBSN. Third, markets alone cannot achieve Africa’s agenda—market failures can and do exist and government involvement and support are necessary.

We are proud to take this first bold step and excited about working together. We invite business schools and companies, especially their learning and development units, to join us in the Global Business School Network. We will gain strength through greater diversity and connectivity, as well as size—and significantly increase our impact on the future of Africa and other developing areas.

Getting Behind GBSN Beyond


Today, we enthusiastically announced GBSN Beyond. Rather than tell you immediately what that is, I would like to share the story of its development, taking you behind the scenes at the Global Business School Network. You’ll then find a link to follow at the end of this article.

The GBSN Annual Conference is our flagship event. Last year’s conference, hosted by Nova School of Business and Economics in Portugal, attracted the largest number of participants and delivered some of the most inspiring sessions in GBSN Annual Conference history. The next one, our 15th, was set for November in Miami, Florida, in the United States. We have been working closely with Miami Herbert Business School, which has been a supportive host.

In the early days of coronavirus, March and April, we were hopeful and wanted to believe that it would pass soon enough for us to stay with the original plan. Unfortunately, the month of May brought serious questions and June saw the situation worsen in the United States and several other countries, even while it improved in others. We became certain that COVID-19 will prevent us from holding the event we all anticipated.

At the time, we became convinced that, by November, few people would be enthusiastic about another virtual conference that merely replicates a face-to-face event. So we started to imagine new and different possibilities and have conversations with GBSN members and partners. Two opportunities became clear.

First, we wanted to be more inclusive by engaging business students and faculty, in addition to business school leaders. We asked ourselves, what if every business school leader could bring faculty members, student teams, and administrative colleagues to the international conference. By reimagining the conference, we wondered whether we could involve a larger, more diverse set of schools, especially from developing and emerging countries—schools that might find it too expensive to send even one person to Miami.

Second, we began to believe that we could actually accomplish much more than we normally do at a face-to-face event—that we could actually “move the needle” on the mission by working together to solve challenging problems, develop new skills, and invent innovative programs. By reimagining the conference, perhaps we could create a platform to accelerate the development of new programs.

We set out to find ways of achieving the two objectives and generated the vision that ultimately became GBSN Beyond. Perhaps we’ve piqued your curiosity by now. But wait, just a few more paragraphs before clicking ahead.

In the journey to creating GBSN Beyond, we learned a lot about some of the current challenges schools are facing. It has been impossible to provide some of the international experiences that students of business need and want. It has been hard to look ahead and plan for the future. But it has also been hard financially. As a consequence, we introduced a third objective and that is to appreciate, in everything that we do, that these are challenging times for business schools and universities.

For one person to travel for an international conference is already expensive when you consider air travel and lodging in addition to registration fees. Now, imagine what it would cost to bring your administrative colleagues, faculty leaders, and student teams to your next international conference. So, in the spirit of accessibility and inclusivity, we are introducing an institutional rate which allows an unlimited number of persons (students, faculty, and administrators) per institution to register and participate.

We have already generated a lot of support from key partners such as Capsim, Hanken School of Economics, MIT Sloan Global Programs, and Monash Business School. And we have dearly appreciated the support of Miami Herbert Business School in making the transition. Our Board of Directors is excited, as is the Annual Conference Steering Committee.

I hope this short account has piqued your interest about getting involved with GBSN Beyond. I also hope that it has revealed a little bit about who we are and what we value as an organization. It has been hard to hold back my excitement and desire to tell you more. Now that you’ve heard the inside story, we encourage you to visit and get behind GBSN Beyond. Sign up to receive more information about GBSN Beyond and contribute to its development—and, most of all, bring your whole school along for the global experience.



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

Business Schools and the Call to Community Action

On April 15, Chris Yenkey, a professor at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore Business School reached out to me and several others about disinfecting N95 masks. He and some colleagues had designed a working device that can be made for as little $250 using materials mostly sourced from a local building supply store. The local fire department already was using several units to disinfect hundreds of masks per hour and Chris thought the design (which they made publicly available) could be useful in other places where PPE is in short supply.

Last week, we brought Chris together with Luis Borrallo from Strathmore Business School in Kenya and Kathleen (Kat) Riach of University of Glasgow’s Adam Smith Business School in Scotland. Luis heads the Community Service Centre at Strathmore, which is helping secondary schools in vulnerable communities, and Kat started 40@40 and DigiGallus to help us think about learning, leading and living during Covid-19. The three of talked about their work and addressed questions in a webinar format. If you missed it, watch the video.

The webinar was the first in a three-part series featuring GBSN business schools responding to the call to community action. Produced by my colleague, Maddie Handler, the series features initiatives at nine business schools in eight countries and five continents. Register for Part 2 in the series, with ESADE Business School (Spain), University of Macau Faculty of Business Administration (Chinese SAR), and Groupe ISM (Senegal). I would love to hear about your own initiatives too.

Our main objective in launching the “call to community action” webinars is to join the fight against COVID-19—to contribute in a small way to a larger set of solutions. We wanted not only to share why and how the programs were started, but also to explore how can they be scaled or replicated in different contexts and how the Global Business School Network can help. Our thought was that, even if only one additional life or one additional job is saved, it is worth our effort.

They say that organizations (and people too) reveal what (who) they really are in a crisis. From my perspective, business schools have been showing themselves to be more agile, and resourceful and innovative, than believed. Many schools took residential programs online almost overnight and have been improving those programs ever since. We’re seeing schools replace company-based projects and internships with digital ones and adapting admissions strategies to current realities. Now they are creating new hybrid options for the upcoming terms. Frankly, I think business schools will ultimately prove to be more resilient than we thought and others are predicting.

Next, I offer three additional observations from our recent exploration of business school responding to calls for community action. While it is (unfortunately) still early in our experience with COVID-19—many business schools are still putting on or adjusting their masks so they can help others—we can already see that business schools are distinctive, engaged, and impactful. While these observations are merely reminders too many of us who have worked closely with business schools for a long time, I have no doubt that some people, especially critics, will be surprised and skeptical.

Distinctive. While we all tend to generalize when we talk about business schools, the truth is that no two of them are the same. Sure they share a couple general characteristics, such as offering degree education and doing research in business and management, that cause us to call them business schools, and their missions statements can seem remarkably similar. However, the variety of community actions show that they live those missions differently depending on the contexts they operate in, strengths they have, constituents they serve, and more. While MIT convenes a series of hackathons, ESSEC Business School launches “together” its strategy for ecological and social transition, and students and alumni at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB) raise $573 million in cash donations and goods to support COVID-19 relief efforts.

Engaged. Business schools have been criticized for being disconnected from practice and policy. But COVID-19 is showing that business schools have not been in a bubble. Scholars and practitioners are working together in webinars to offer highly relevant webinars, such as the Business Reconfigured Webinar Series by the American University of Cairo’s School of Business and Ivey Business School’s MBA Teachable Moments Virtual Speaker Series. I was excited to see that the GIBS Entrepreneurship Development Academy (EDA), with support from J.P. Morgan, will roll out a “practical toolkit to navigate the current climate of uncertainty and economic distress.” One of my favorite examples is the Helsinki Graduate School of Economics which is a collaborative effort between three Finnish universities, including GBSN member Hanken School of Economics. It established an economic situation room to support fast decision making amid the coronavirus crisis.

Impactful. Here I return to the opening of this blog, and the “call to community action.” Many people still carry a limited idea about the role of universities and business schools in society. They see the positive impact primarily through the production of knowledgeable graduates who are more responsible citizens or through scientific research that can eventually informs policies and decisions. These indirect impacts—through people and papers—are important and should be supported. However, that view ignores the real potential for impact right now, through the direct work of business school students, scholars, and leaders.

GBSN was started 17 years ago with direct impact in mind—to bring together business schools, their leaders, faculty, and students, from all over the world to build education capacity for the developing world. I like to say that we were started for SDG4 before the SDGs were created. It is natural for our members to step up to the call for community action, to empower their own communities in the fight against COVID-19.

We will continue to learn more about business schools during this crisis. While the future of higher education is being fundamentally altered by our current experiences, I am certain that the business schools we are working with at GBSN are destined to play an even bigger and more positive role in society.

COVID-19 in Africa


It is not easy to comprehend the coronavirus outbreak in its global entirety and keep up with its fast-moving developments. It’s even more difficult to understand what it means in a place that is far away and very different from where you live. While the general principles of good hygiene and basic concepts of social distancing and sheltering at home are universal, the contexts in which they are applied are not uniform. Even small differences in economic and political systems, healthcare infrastructures, cultures, news and social media platforms, histories, and more, can lead to very different strategies, experiences, and outcomes across communities.

Being globally connected and locally relevant has always been important to the Global Business School Network. In most weeks, we are working with members and partners across six continents. In the last several days, however, I was able to channel much of my time and energy into Africa, as I engaged in two special opportunities to learn about how the continent is experiencing and addressing COVID-19.

First, I talked with Carl Manlan, who is the COO of Ecobank Foundation. I am fortunate to talk frequently with Africans, in Africa, about Africa, but Carl always brings extra clarity to conversations that span the continent. He describes his current role as a “development practitioner working for an African financial institution.” Prior to Ecobank, Carl contributed to health financing through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and worked at the Economic Commission for Africa as a Mo Ibrahim Fellow. He also worked with the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) on a private sector initiative to assist the African Union fight Ebola in West Africa.

Carl kindly agreed to take what was supposed to be a one-to-one catch up meeting and do it live, on Zoom, so that others can be a part of it. He was insightful, as always, and rather than summarize our conversation, I invite you to watch the video, read his articles, and follow him on Twitter @CarlManlan.

Second, I participated as a judge in the Africa Takes on COVID-19, which was the third in a series of MIT COVID-19 Challenge virtual events. Although it was conceived only two weeks prior, applications were received from more than 2,300 prospective participants and 300 potential mentors, from which organizers selected 1,500 participants and 200 mentors, with more than half of the total from Africa. Over 48 hours from Friday to Sunday, these people worked in self-selected teams to define problems, outline solutions, develop and practice pitches, and more.

There were 10 tracks across two broad areas: strengthening the health system and protecting vulnerable populations. I was one of five judges assigned to Track I, which was about “Enabling Work and Supporting Livelihoods” and carried the following prompt:

Within communities that survive on daily wages, a complete economic shutdown is an immediate threat to their lives. Given that such communities do not have robust social protections, and run the risk of low access to food and basic amenities, how can we enable people to safely maintain parts of commerce essential to their survival? How do we address the informal sector?

Let me just say, WOW! We, the judges for Track I, heard 23 amazing pitches in two hours on Sunday afternoon. That’s one every five minutes. Each team had three minutes for their presentation and two minutes to address our questions. MeanwhileÑin real time, we scored each team on four criteria: impact, innovation, implementation, and presentation. I had to work and think faster (and with greater agility) than ever — just to keep up with everyone.

Thanks to my fellow judges for the questions they asked, which helped me to see the solutions from different perspectives. And thank you to David Capodilupo and Stu Krusell at MIT Sloan for your leadership in convening the Challenge and inviting GBSN to be a partner to amplify its impactÑit is why GBSN exists.

Across the two experiences I learned much about Africa and the difficulties it faces in the fight against COVID-19. Many African communities have limited access to clean water and adequate health care. There are many densely populated areas where people cannot avoid living and working in close physical proximity. Without much manufacturing experience, it is hard for Africa to ramp-up production of needed equipment, such as PPE, test, masks, and ventilators. And it is hard to compete for such equipment globally. African countries often lack the “fiscal space” to support the extended lock-downs required to “flatten the curve.” Many of its economies were hit hard and early by sudden collapses in tourism, remittances, and commodity exports attributed to the coronavirus outbreak.

But experiences also helped me to appreciate the special advantages that Africa brings to its fight, and the world’s fight, against the virus and the economic challenges it brings. These advantages include previous experiences with Ebola, which included a coalition of 50 countries even while the disease was largely limited to three countries. The advantages include the foundation already created by investments and innovations in digital and mobile financial services. I learned about solidarity funds, thriving startup ecosystems, and the differences we can make by putting the last mile first in healthcare.

I came away from the two experiences feeling confident and optimistic about Africa’s future. Africa can and will hold its own in the fight again COVID-19. And I came away with new energy for the work we do at GBSN. For it is not only about educating managers and entrepreneurs for places like Africa, so they will have the talent needed to generate prosperity, it is also about making a positive difference for sustainable development everywhere. For that, I believe the rest of the world can learn and benefit from the leadership and innovation of Africa.


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