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

A Short Guide to GBSN Online


It has always been a little frustrating to me that our Twitter handle is @gbsnonline rather than @gbsn, which is not available. Nowadays, I’m starting to appreciate it more. Like many other organizations in business education, the on-the-ground, face-to-face part of our work has been on hold.

During my first year at GBSN, I was in 20 different countries in order to meet face-to-face with business school leaders from at least 50 more. While I’m not proud of the carbon footprint left behind, I learned a lot about GBSN in those meetings, especially from people in places I’ve never been, such as Pakistan, Nigeria, and Egypt. It was eye opening to see and experience management education from entirely new perspectives. By engaging people and schools where they are, we have been able to strengthen our network, build new programs, and increase our visibilityÑand articulate a bold new strategic direction for the organization.

However, while my travel schedule has been demanding, the reality is that the time I spent in face-to-face meetings was only a fraction of the time I spent in virtual meetings using platforms, such as Zoom, Skype, and WhatsApp. For every onsite presentation I delivered, there was at least one virtual one. For every face-to-face event we hosted, we offered at least ten virtual ones, and participated in dozens more.

Indeed, the last month of coronavirus living has helped me to understand and appreciate GBSN as blended organization, one in which our essential work on the ground and face-to-face is complemented and supported by our work online. But it also helped to realize that we haven’t talked enough about our digital work. So here is a short guide to GBSN online, with some notes about how each has been useful in the current crisis.

For the Whole Global Business Education Community

  • Cross-Border Webinars Ð GBSN webinars have been quite popular over the years (under the label cross-border coffee-break), and have been expanded to support schools during the crisis. Nearly 300 people registered for the “Stepping up your online game,” our most recent offering on April 1. Because the webinars have been around for years and easy to plug into, the system has provide a quick and easy way for us to support and collaborate with other organizations in our ecosystem.
  • Opportunities Board Ð This searchable, simple to use platform provides access to a wide range of opportunities offered by or relevant to GBSN members. The Opportunities Board includes internships, fellowships, scholarships, competitions, grants, awards, training programs, and more. Although some opportunities are available only to members, a good many are available to the larger community.
  • Discussion Groups Ð This is an area of growing interest in GBSN. A GBSN LinkedIn group emerged to people to share ideas related to business schools and the coronavirus, as well as general ideas related to management education for the developing world. As noted below, GBSN is migrating to an only platform to support other members-only communities.
  • GBSN EMERGE, Blog, and Newsletter Ð Look for GBSN’s video series soon. GBSN EMERGE videos are designed to capture ideas, opinions, and innovations from around the world in a short format for many of us who don’t have time for longer webinars. Soon to be released are videos addressing the role of mobile learning in addressing the coronavirus outbreak, how business and business schools are adapting in Japan, and the more. The GBSN Blog and monthly GBSN Newsletter address current and relevant topics related to management and entrepreneurship education.
  • Virtual Experiential Learning Library Ð Coming Soon. GBSN is starting an initiative to curate a library of virtual experiential learning products, tools, and platforms. This resource will include information about virtual field trips, games, projects, competitions, and programs.

For GBSN Members Only

  • GBSN Steering Committees Ð These forward-looking Steering Committees meet virtually and provide thought leadership for the network. Current steering committees address the following areas: Experiential Learning, Case Method, Teaching Entrepreneurship, and Annual Conference. In addition, GBSN has advisory boards that meet online to support and guide GBSN overall.
  • GBSN Member-Led Initiatives & Member-Only Opportunities Board Ð As the names imply these two popular GBSN offerings help to share member-led initiatives with potential applicants for a wide range of opportunities, including internships, fellowships, research projects, grant collaborations, and more.
  • GBSN Cross-Border Collabs Ð Coming Soon. Offered monthly, these online collaborative sessions for members only address current topics to share innovations, define issues and problems, and develop new solutions. Participation in for members only and limited to no more than two participants per school.

Although it is not the main focus in this article, it worth mentioning three other initiatives which will strengthen our online presence over the next three months. First, in January we started migrating to an online association management system. This platform will help us to support and connect our members, which continue to grow in numbers and international diversity.

Second, as mentioned above, we are completely rebuilding our website. In addition to telling our inspirational story, it will offer more interactive access to our suite of online services, including the opportunities board, discussion groups, and steering committees mentioned above. Third, we have started to experiment with a number of online platforms ready-made to engage students, faculty, and staff in our mission.

In the end, our mission “to improve access to quality, locally relevant management and entrepreneurship education” requires learning that is both effective and accessible, both global and local, and both personal and scalable. It is hard to imagine achieving that mission unless we are both face-to-face and online.

 width=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

Reflections on GBSN in the First Months of 2020

Twenty-twenty already has been a very active year for the staff team supporting the Global Business School Network (GBSN). In Nigeria we co-hosted a workshop with Lagos Business School and the African Academy of Management (AFAM) on the role of business schools in Africa’s sustainable development. Then we went from the Yabacon Valley to Silicon Valley, where we contributed to the fifth annual African Diaspora Investment Symposium, and onward to Cairo for roundtables convened by the AUC School of Business to look ahead on occasion of its 10th Anniversary. We also participated in AACSB and EFMD annual deans conferences in music city and the fashion capital of the world, Nashville and Milan, respectively.

Meanwhile, the U.K. formally left the EU on January 31, we experienced devastating bush fires in Australia, and saw escalating tensions between Iran and America. A new strain of coronavirus, now named COVID-19, appeared in China and quickly spread internationally. Despite noble efforts of global health professionals, the number of confirmed infections and deaths, and their locations, have grown dramatically. The impact on business education has been profound and far-reaching; and costly. Like many schools, GBSN had to cancel a student trip to China. And the end is nowhere in sight. See what “A Virus Teaches Us a Lesson About Globalization, written by GBSN’s Board Chair, Soumitra Dutta.


The activities and events of the 2020’s first two months have provided much for us reflect on. For me, they have drawn attention to two fundamental characteristics of the Global Business School Network.

GBSN is a global network for local relevance and impact.

When it comes to higher education, business schools have been on the front lines of globalization. Learners pursue education across borders; international scholars collaborate and share ideas in the interest of truth and science; business schools from different countries work together to provide cross-cultural experiences; and more. However, as is often the case, our greatest strength can be our greatest weakness.

It is easy to believe that globalization must be undone to protect ourselves wherever we are. It is tempting to build walls. But that would be a mistake, for globalization is not an end to itself. It is a means to an endÑto a better world, and we must keep our eye on that. Rather than being a threat to local cultures and economies, globalization can preserve and expand them. However, that depends on our approach to globalization.

How do we leverage globalization to improve society? For the Global Business School Network, that means connecting organizations and people across borders to enable, nurture and support inclusive and sustainable development from a local perspective. It means bringing together international resources to address the most pressing problems in and for the developing world. That is the spirit of GBSNÑa global network driven by local relevance and impact.

We must be clear that globalization is not about homogenization. GBSN must step up to manage that risk, especially in higher education, where shared assumptions about quality are informed more by inputs rather than by impacts, and often reinforced through rankings, accreditations, and other institutions.

That is why GBSN is committed to stewarding the development of research models relevant to the developing world. This leads us to the second fundamental characteristic of GBSN.

GBSN is about diversity and inclusiveness

Our vision at GBSN is for the developing world to have the managerial and entrepreneurial talent it needs to generate prosperity. Our missionÑthe way we achieve that visionÑis to improve access to quality, locally relevant management and entrepreneurship education for the developing world. It is natural that we tend to focus on business schools when we think about GBSN.

However, while the focal point has always been education, GBSN has always been about bringing together many different types of organizations, from higher education, the private sector, foundations, NGOs, and government. And the higher education industry is changing, giving rise to new and different types of institutions and a changing ecosystem. Technology is improving the effectiveness of education, and access to it. Accordingly, GBSN is diverse and dynamic. It is not a club. As a purpose-driven network, it embraces and engages a wide-range of organizations and approaches to achieve its vision and mission. It is where traditional business schools work with corporate universities and education startups, as well as NGOs, in new and creative ways.

In the coming months and throughout 2020, you will see GBSN continue to gain strength through diversity as we expand and connect our network. You will see our energy focused on local relevance, as in our special workshop on “Developing Research That Matters for Latin America” with the Academy of Management and IPADE Business School and “Embracing the Excluded: A Transformative Role for Business Schools” with Funda‹o Dom Cabral. You also will see us looking “Beyond Business and Borders” in our Annual Conference, this year hosted by the Miami Herbert Business School.


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

What Makes Your Business School Truly Distinctive?


Over the next two weeks business school leaders will gather for two big events, the AACSB Deans Conference in Nashville and EFMD Deans and Directors Conference in Milan. Nearly one thousand deans will attend either meeting or both, giving the gatherings enormous potential to shape the future of the industry.

The conferences will inspire participants and enable them to share experiences and ideas amongst peers, since both meetings are restricted only to the top executives of business schools. The deans will renew friendships and start new ones. They will come from all corners of the world, yet marvel at how small the business school community really is. They will bring questions, lots of challenging questions, for each other. The competitive landscape is indeed changing and everyone is trying to make sense of where management education is going.

Going into these events, I offer words of support and encourage every business school leader to take advantage of the opportunity to explore the most fundamental of all questions: “What makes your business school truly distinctive?” Indeed, I encourage everyone connected to a business school, including faculty, professional staff, students, and alumni, to consider the question.

Something more

Many years ago, I wrote a note following a visit to Morehouse College, which is a private historically black liberal arts college for men based in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. In many ways the school is just like others. It “challenges itself to be among the very finest liberal arts institutions in the world,” it offers a wide range of programs, including business and management, and its academic community is dedicated to teaching, scholarship, and service. But that’s not all.

Morehouse College assumes the “special responsibility for teaching the history and culture of black people.” It cares about the continuing search for “truth as a liberating force” and seeks “students who are willing to pay the price of gaining strength and confidence by confronting adversity, mastering their fears, and achieving success by earning it.” Everything about enabling young black men, especially underprivileged ones, to realize their full potential. I was struck during my visit by the realization that every school has something special like what Morehouse has. I wrote about that in my note and called it “Something More(house)” to honor the school.

Something more can be expressed in different ways. It could be a defining philosophy or an approach. I love MIT’s Mens et Manus which is Latin for “mind and hand” and describes the combination of thought and action needed to solve challenging problems. Both mind and hand are reflected in MIT Sloan’s “Ideas Made to Matter.” For other institutions, something more could be an expectation, such as “to contribute to the sustainable development of society” which is the opening phrase in the mission of Funda‹o Dom Cabral, or it could be a commitment, as when Copenhagen Business School says it will make “responsible management integral to all education.Something more can also stress the importance of a geographic region. The Olayan School of Business at American University of Beirut has a vision to “transform business thinking in the MENA region” and HKUST Business School aims to serve as a “gateway to China.” Or it could be about global leadership, as in INSEAD’s mission to “bring together people, cultures and ideas to develop responsible leaders who transform business and society.

What do all of the examples in the previous paragraph have in common (besides being about members of the Global Business School Network)? They all go beyond business, adding something that gives meaning to business and connects to the school roots, location, or strengths.

Higher education for business is not just about serving business needs with knowledge and talent, its about shaping the roles and responsibilities of business in society.

Something all yours

Whatever it is or form it takes, something more can be powerful. It has the potential to tie everything together and become an integral part of the school’s culture. It can inform curriculum development, serving as the ever-elusive “being” that gives meaning to the “knowing” and “doing” discussed in Rethinking the MBA by Srikant Datar, David Garvin, and Patrick Cullen. Discovering what makes your school truly distinctive also inspires innovation and can attract scholars and students who increasingly want to engage in a higher purpose.

Many people think that all business schools are the same. I believe every business school has its own reason for being. Every school has something more to offer, because it has unique origins, operates in different contexts, and engages different communities. Most importantly, a school has a unique set of peoplethe scholars, learners, and professional staff that give life to the institution. That’s why I believe the process of identifying what makes a school truly distinctive is more about discovery than creating.

Breaking boundaries

The conversations in Nashville and Milan will naturally be grounded in long-held assumptions about what business schools do and what makes them great. After all, every community needs a common language to facilitate communication. These assumptions can be especially powerful in higher education. Most of us have had similar experiences, such as earning a PhD and living the life of an academic. And systems, like rankings and accreditation, reflect and reinforce these experiences and assumptions.

But the times are changing and narrow definitions of “quality” are giving way to broad categorizations of impact. The Positive Impact Rating was introduced this year at Davos, some criteria for rankings are being reconsidered, and accreditation standards are being revised to further elevate the importance of outcomes over inputs. At the same time, mission is making room for purpose and the differences we intend to make. As I wrote in 2016, “For Business Schools, Being Good is No Longer Good Enough.

So I encourage breaking free from traditions in the many conversations to come. “Question the status quo” (one of four defining principles at Berkeley Haas) and focus on differences more than similarities. Embrace something more for business schools. After all, our strength as a community, especially our collective power as a force for good, comes not only from what we have in common but also from our differences.


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

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

The Work of Business Schools: How It Is Changing and Why That Matters

How would you describe the work of business schools? Most people go straight to the teaching. Business schools teach business and management through a wide range of degree programs and executive education, helping learners to build and navigate careers as managers. Those more familiar with the industry add that business schools conduct objective and rigorous research to inform practicing managers and policy makers, as well as support teaching. In short, business schools develop skills, insights, and opportunities for organizations and the people who manage them.

Of course, this work has private benefit to learners and companies. But there also is a public benefit. By improving organizational performance and educating citizens about business and management, business schools contribute to economic and social development. We believe the connection between what business schools do and the progress we make in society is strong; and that is why the responsibility of business schools has been hotly debated over the years. Indeed, our belief in the strength of this connection is why we put so much effort into improving and expanding management education. If we can raise the standards of quality for business schools, continuously align what they teach to the needs of business and society, assist them to share ideas and practices about research and teaching, and improve access to quality management education, the whole world would be better off.

But what if I told you that this framework is incomplete and we have been underestimating the social impact of business schools as a consequence. In fact, there is a third part to the work of business schools and it has been growing. It has a more direct impact and happens when students, faculty, and staff work together with and for their communities. It often focuses on a specific problem, involves a shared purpose or objective, and serves as a catalyst for innovation and improvement. Let’s call this work engagement.

There are at least three types of business school activities that fall into this category of work. First, through projects and competitions involving business school learners (students and scholars) schools directly address problems and opportunities that are relevant to business and society. This might be a straight business innovation challenge. Or it might involve students at Universitas Gadjah Mada contributing to village development projects in East Indonesia or project teams at Strathmore University Business School developing renewable energy solutions in Kenya. Or it might be something like Oxford Sa•d‘s Map the System, which is a global competition that challenges and supports students to understand problems in a wider context by “exploring, probing, and researching all the connecting elements and factors around it.”

Second, through entrepreneurship initiatives business schools are directly catalyzing innovation and new business creationÑmaking jobs and not just filling them. In MIT Sloan‘s REAP program partner regions form multi-disciplinary teams to work on action-learning activities to enhance their innovation ecosystems. The Olayan School of Business at the American University of Beirut offers the Global Scaleup Program and numerous schools are engaging in serious social innovation initiatives. We could go on, as business schools have significantly expanded their work in entrepreneurship.

Third, through capacity building projects business schools have been expanding and improving management education worldwide. Some have built campuses to serve developing regions or programs to serve indigenous, or refugees, or other marginalized communities. Others have reached out online to provide open access to education or research. Still others have been committed to the professional development of new faculty and administrative leaders or providing consultative advance through platforms such as accreditation.

While these kinds of activities are not new, they have been growing. One reason is that the future of business schools is experiential — and experiences are created through engagement. As content becomes more open and accessible, it is through experiences that universities and business schools will continue to create value. It is the way established business schools will differentiate themselves from other providers of education. It is how business schools will thrive in the changing environment of higher education.

The focus of engagement activities has been shifting too. Increasingly, experiential activities are addressing social problems as much as business ones. Because of this shift business schools are having a more direct impact on communities and people, and are changing the worldview about the role and purpose of business.

Teaching, research, and engagement are now like three legs of a stool. It has always been hard to imagine proper teaching without quality research. Now it is hard to imagine proper teaching without an array of meaningful field experiences from which to learn. And it is hard to think that students and scholars will create much value for society in engagement activities without effective teaching and research. Finally, in the accelerating world of business, it is getting harder to believe useful research can be generated by scholars who do not engage in activities that provide access to relevant problems and data.

The engagement work of business schools is what drives the Global Business School Network. So I am happy to say that we are growing too. For 17 years we have been involved with capacity building for the developing world, working with business schools (as well as companies, governments, and NGOs) to improve access to quality management education. Now we are connecting schools in ways that amplify the economic and social benefits of their engagement activities, such as student projects, case competitions, and entrepreneurship initiatives. By working together through GBSN the collective impact of our partner schools is greater than the sum of their individual contributions. We invite you to learn more about the Global Business School Network and the difference our member schools are making at our Annual Conference, 6-8 November, in Lisbon.



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

Purpose, Potential, and People: Reflections on My First Six Months as CEO of the Global Business School Network


Six months ago I joined the Global Business School Network (GBSN) for what I call the three P’sÑthe Purpose, the Potential, and the People. So you might ask, have I found what was looking for? Is the purpose everything I thought it was? What is GBSN’s potential? Have I connected with new and interesting people? It seems like a good time to reflect on my experience and share thoughts about the journey.

Our purpose?

That’s an easy one. GBSN exists because the developing world needs more and better management and entrepreneurial talent to generate prosperity. This purpose permeates GBSN and, as far as I can tell, we haven’t wavered from it since our founding nearly 17 years ago. And we’re not about to now. It is a grand vision, and a challenging one to say the least. But it moves us every single day to pursue our mission to “improve access to quality, locally relevant management and entrepreneurship education for the developing world.”

What about our potential?

It’s even bigger than I imagined and we’re taking bold steps to realize it. With leadership from the Academic Advisory Board, we have been strategically expanding the network. There has been great enthusiasm amongst business schools for pursuing our purpose, and we have moved quickly from 69 schools in 39 countries to about 100 schools in 50 countries. Our members are great schoolsÑthe best ones, focused on economic and social impactÑthat are genuinely committed to pursuing our vision and mission. In many cases, they bring specific initiatives that can be shared or scaled through our network. Take a look if you haven’t already at our new member spotlights and our full list of network members. We are continuing to grow, primarily to ensure that we have the strength we need in the right places to significantly expand our reach and impact.

Buoyed by our growing network, we have begun to expand the range of programs to achieve our mission and vision, while also creating opportunities and benefits to GBSN schools. For 17 years we worked primarily on a wide range of externally-funded projects with great success. For example, in the coming months we will be delivering this year’s version of the highly impactful Johnson & Johnson Management Development Institute (MDI) in Kenya and Nigeria.

While continuing important project work like MDI, we have started to develop programs that engage business students and scholars. For students, we are creating opportunities for meaningful, developing world experiences (e.g., global treks, student projects, and competitions). For scholars, we are developing programs and collaborations to motivate them to address important developing world problems (e.g., case writing, research collaborations, fellowships, and training). We have also begun to partner with other organizations to increase the number and impact of GBSN events globally, utilize data to support institutional improvement in the developing world, and expand member-driven initiatives. These “programs” are differentiated from “projects” as they will be continuously offered. Our programs engage GBSN schools, creating opportunities and value for them at the same time.

I should also note that our projects and programs are being shaped by three focal points: (1) LOCAL RELEVANCE (i.e., applicable for the developing world); (2) SOCIAL IMPACT (i.e., have positive societal impact in emerging economies); and (3) NEW BUSINESS CREATION AND GROWTH (i.e., enable and accelerate job creation). Our role is to help business schools to assert a leadership role in fostering economic and social development. I will continue to write about these focal points in other posts.

Now for the people.

A good friend of mineÑwho happens to be a talent leader at a major tech companyÑonce told me I spent most of my career so far encouraging and enabling organizations to do things that don’t come naturally. Over time that can be exhausting, he said, while suggesting I try connecting with more people who are moving in the same direction. That’s what I’ve found in GBSNÑin the school ambassadors, staff team, volunteers, and in the diverse range of organizational leaders and pioneers that I’ve connected with since joining the organization. Thank you all for your passion to make a difference through education; and for your support, guidance, and willingness to work together for the good of the developing world.

To summarize, the Global Business School Network has been every bit as exciting and energizing as I anticipated. It has been driven by purpose and, for the last six months, been willing and able to take big steps toward increasing its impact on economic and social development. I hope you have found this broad summary helpful and will reach out to me and my colleagues to talk about specific initiatives and getting directly involved with the work we are doing. Come to our Annual Conference, 6-8 November, and explore our future together, in person.

 width=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

Prioritizing Local Relevance in the Global Business School Network


What if we took a group of high performing managers from Canadian paper mills and placed them in the Hawassa Industrial Park in Ethiopia. Would they succeed?

Most of us think so. We believe that a large and important part of management experience is transferable across industries and borders. The Canadians know about industrial technology, production efficiency, employee relations, and more; and have well-developed problem-solving, leadership, teamwork, and communication skills. I asked this question to a friend, an expert in leadership and selection in the paper industry, and he insisted the Canadians would succeed “10 out of 10 times” as long as they respect the cultural differences and leave their “Canadian” ways behind. And, he added, “safety would expand exponentially.”

At the same time, we are keenly aware that local conditions have a major impact on success, even in industries in which processes are well-established such as in garment production. In fact, international companies operating in Hawassa have been plagued by a variety of problems. Efficiency has been stubbornly low and turnover persistently high. Since manufacturing employment is still less than 5% of the total, workers have little industrial experience and the attendant discipline. Tardiness and absenteeism are big issues. Workers earn low wages (the main attraction for companies) and, outside of the park, face inflated prices for basic foods and housing as well as many threats to their safety. For an excellent report on Hawassa, see “Made in Ethiopia: Challenges in the Garment Industry’s New Frontier” by Paul Barrett and DorothŽe Bauman-Pauly.

Regardless of whether you answered yes, no, or maybe, your responses to questions like this one can reveal a lot about the work we’re doing at the Global Business School Network (GBSN). Since we were created by the World Bank 17 years ago, our vision has been for the developing world to have the management talent it needs to generate prosperity. We want to achieve that vision by “improving access to quality, locally relevant management and entrepreneurship education for the developing world.” As my experience grows with GBSN, so does my respect for the local relevance part of our mission. Here are three ways that we are prioritizing local relevance in our work.

We Need More Locally-Relevant Knowledge

First, we need more locally-relevant knowledge. Many of the business problems at Hawassa are a consequence of Ethiopia’s history and the development approach pursued by the government, which promised to build infrastructure, keep low wages, reduce red tape, and moderate ethnic tensions to attract manufacturers. So too, the solutions must fit the context. This doesn’t mean our models and proven management practices are not useful. Instead, it means our general concepts are more useful when combined with sharper insights about the local context.

At GBSN we want to increase the production and dissemination of business and management knowledge that is useful in and for the developing world. That includes increasing support for the development and distribution of more case studies featuring emerging economy companies and practices, as well as applied research on specific problems. See, for example, our small grant competition on “Finance, Cybersecurity & Risk Management in the Developing World” in partnership with The SWIFT Institute. We also appreciate working with organizations like the Case Centre and CABELLS in this efforts. Outputs of locally-relevant research can also take new forms, such as databases and software, and can be enhanced by more cross-border, inter-disciplinary, and industry collaborations. Unfortunately, the dominant research model for business schools doesn’t encourage such approaches, or relevance to practice for that matter. So GBSN has a responsibility to steward to the development of new research models for developing world business schools. And that’s why we support the Responsible Research in Business and Management initiative.

Importance of Local Context to Performance

Second, the importance of local context to performance suggests that GBSN should play a special role in supporting education that goes beyond content dissemination. Even globally-portable concepts and techniques are locally applied, and to do that well we need more experiential and peer-to-peer learning. This applies to both local learners and “global” ones. Both should develop a special kind of learning agility that enables them to apply what they learn in one context to solve a problem in completely different one. That’s why GBSN has an experiential learning steering committee and offers training in project-based learning for developing world faculty. It’s also why network members are collaborating to offer more student experiential travel opportunities, company-based projects, and case competitions in and for the developing world.

The Purpose of Research and Education Efforts

Third, the Ethiopia example draws attention to the ultimate purpose of our research and education efforts, which is prosperity for the developing world. Our work is less about spreading the experiences of Western business schools and more about working together towards this shared vision. Our work does not ignore the fact that what constitutes value can vary from place to place, just as physical geography, history, and culture does. It means social as well as economic development matters. It means growth that is inclusive and environmentally sustainable. So to generate prosperity our emphasis on local relevance is essential. After all, as I have been known to say, the Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved through global leadership, but rather through local initiative.

I should note that questions like the opening one, in which we worry about the transferability of skills, have taken on greater importance with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Many experts predict that the employment impact of AI and automation will be much greater in developing countries, where jobs (e.g., agriculture, manufacturing, business process outsourcing) involve more routine tasks and require little creativity or human interaction. Others point to a huge opportunity to cut new paths to prosperity which were not possible in previous industrial revolutions. Regardless, education and human capital development policies will play a critical role in the future of emerging economies.

Since we started with a question, I would like to close by posing another one that points to another priority on the GBSN agenda. What if we took a successful Tel-Aviv based tech entrepreneur and placed her in Mexico City. Will she be successful? We will explore that question in a future post.

Dan LeClair width= 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

10 Questions with GBSN CEO, Dan LeClair

Lisa Leander, Membership Senior Advisor, sits down with GBSN’s recently appointed CEO, Dan LeClair to reflect on his first few months leading the network.

I have had the pleasure to work with Dan LeClair these last three months and get to know him as the leader and champion of GBSN. Before Dan, I worked with Guy Pfeffermann for over eight years, so there is much to learn about each other and our different management styles. I thought I would take this opportunity to get to know who he is, and in doing so share what I discover with our GBSN members.

Lisa Leander: Dan, in two months you have hit the ground running, introducing nearly 20 new members and five new countries to our network. You have an incredible and long history working with business schools globally with over 19 years at AACSB, and also have collaborated with GBSN for many years as well. I imagine there is very little that you haven’t experienced in this field. So tell me, what in the last two months has surprised you the most?

Dan LeClair: I have been surprised about how much genuine enthusiasm there is for the vision of GBSN, which is for the developing world to have the management talent it needs to generate prosperity. Leaders in business schools everywhere in the world want to participate in achieving that vision. And, what’s really cool it that they want to innovate and try new things by working with GBSN.

Lisa: Tell us a bit about how things are going so far, you have had the opportunity to visit several of our members, attend Learning by Doing in India and visit several countries.

Dan: Well, we have a long way to go in order to have the kind of impact we are seeking, but our efforts to build on GBSN’s decade and a half of successful projects have been going well. Since I arrived, we have conducted or participated in successful workshops with educators in India, Pakistan, Lebanon, and Miami (with Latin American deans from Cladea). We have initiated development of several new programs that will not only improve management in the developing world, but also create new opportunities for all of our partner schools to engage in the mission and extend their impact globally.


Lisa: Since the start of your career, you have led or participated in the development of hundreds of conferences. There are so many conferences to attend! Why do you think the GBSN Annual Conference this November, in Lisbon, Portugal is a not to be missed event?

Dan: You are right, I have decades of experience with conferences in the management education industry. Yet, when I started at GBSN, my colleagues asked me, “please don’t mess up our Annual Conference.” I promised. That’s because I have been to previous GBSN conferences and do believe they are special. They are more interactive and relaxed with a genuine peer-to-peer feel. After all, we all share the same purpose. This year’s theme, measuring the impact of business schools, is timely and important.

Lisa: Following on the theme of the conference that you mentioned, where do you feel business schools could have the most impact?

Dan: Locally! I believe business schools are economic and social anchors in their communities and have always said that the Sustainable Development Goals won’t be achieved through global leadership, but rather through local initiative. That doesn’t mean internationalization isn’t important. In fact, global connections enable us to strengthen our impact on the communities we serve. Way more than in any other field of study, business students and faculty all over the world are deeply engaged in projects that benefit organizations and communities in important ways.

Lisa:With so many networks out there, what makes GBSN stand out from the rest?

Dan:Definitely its purpose and focus on the mission. Schools join other networks for the direct benefits they provide. They join GBSN first to participate in achieving the mission. And they benefit as a consequence of that. In the end, we’re told by members that the value they receive is a multiple of what they put in. And part of our job at GBSN has been to increase that multiple.

Lisa: GBSN is one of the few networks that is very focused on building the future leaders and managers of the developing world. What would you say is your own leadership style?

Dan: I’ve been told by colleagues that my favorite question is “how can I help?” From the time I was a youngster playing ball, I always thought my role in life is to help others achieve their goals and objectives. This approach comes naturally to meÑit makes me happy. I also have a strong drive to seek clarity on problems and solutions. I like to boil things down and constantly create and refine ideas with the team. Finally, for good or bad, I think my leadership style has always included a lot of trust. I’ve never been interested in monitoring and expecting to evaluate work before it is completed. When mistakes happen, I just like to learn from them and move on. As you might expect, throughout my career I missed a few opportunities to fix problems before they happened. And, at times, my trust was misplaced. But overall I feel like people have delivered on their commitments and on the high expectations we’ve set together.

Lisa: Is there a favorite book or author that has influenced your leadership style?

Dan: When it comes to leadership, I have been influenced more by working with people than reading about them. One can learn as much or more from bad leaders as good ones. A lot can be learned by asking what is it about this person that I don’t want to emulate. Learning what behaviors to avoid can be easier than trying to figure out how to be like others. Lessons in leadership are everywhere if you take the time to observe, listen, and reflect. Back to your question, I learned a lot about decision making by reading Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. I have also been recommending Adaptive Space by my friend, Michael Arena, for drawing on research and experience to show how social capital works to foster innovation.

Lisa: What do you think your former employees would say about your leadership style?

Dan: Throughout my career I have tried to have regular conversations with colleagues about how we lead and manage. Not just about what we’re good at or able to do, but also about our limitations. For example, we might talk about our limited visibility across the organization, lack of time to review work, and how unrealistic (or conservative) we can be about goals. So these conversations would help me and my colleagues to see things we were missing, understand where there are risks in projects, and be more thoughtful about goals. The point is that these transparent conversations put usÑall of usÑin a better position to lead. All that said, John Fernandes who led AACSB for most of my time there used to say that I bring my head and my heart to everything I doÑand that I’m driven more by the purpose than the paycheck. I do hope all of my colleagues and connections would say these things about me long after I’m gone.

Lisa: I may know a few of your former colleagues, so we’ll see if they agree in the comments! You are looking to launch a few new exciting initiatives, can you tell us a bit more about what members can look out for this year?

Dan: I could go on and on in response to that question. To me, it is the most exciting part about what we’re doing at GBSN. In addition to strengthening the core network, you can expect a stronger emphasis on “local relevance” in new programs and services, especially in creating context-ready knowledge and providing for meaningful experiential learning for the developing world. You can also expect a stronger emphasis on leveraging the network to increase the economic and social impact of business schools.

Lisa: As for my final question, for all our well traveled colleagues out there with all of those miles under their belts, any tips or tricks on how you manage jet lag?

Dan: My secret is to sleep irregularly when at home. If you have no pattern, then there is nothing to break while traveling. Just kidding. I don’t have a secret, I just adapt wherever I am and whatever time it is, and draw energy from learning about the place and its people.

Lisa: Jet lag is the worst! I was really hoping you had a secret solution. Dan, Thank you for sharing your insight with us and I hope you will bring in a copy of those books you recommended to the office.

 width=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



 width=Lisa Leander is an international development expert with over 17 years of experience managing capacity building projects globally. In her role as Senior Advisor, Membership at GBSN she supports member engagement strategies and international events. In her previous positions she has overseen USAID, World Bank, U.S State Department trade and entrepreneurship projects globally with a project portfolio of up to $24 million. She has managed overall operations, implemented programs, conducted impact evaluations, negotiated contracts, and built systems in multiple developing countries and contexts. From 2008-2016 Lisa was the Membership Engagement Officer for GBSN where she managed membership strategies and executing international projects.