Future MBA

100 seeds for a sustainable future: Part 2

Reconfiguring classrooms to be more open can increase student's drive and productivity.
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Reconfiguring classrooms to be more open can increase student's drive and productivity.

In 2014, author and TEDx speaker Giselle Weybrecht posted one short idea a day for 100 days exploring how we could rethink business education to produce the leaders that our business and the planet need. The ideas were compiled in a book, "The Future MBA: 100 Ideas for Making Sustainability the Business of Business Educations." As a companion to the ideas in the book, each week for the next 10 weeks, GreenBiz will be posting 10 examples of how schools around the world are bringing some of these ideas to life, creating new opportunities for people and the planet. This is part two of the 10-week series. The first installment can be found here.

Day 11: Give voice to values

There are countless strong examples of how business schools are teaching their students to be ethical. One is the Giving Voice to Values (GVV) curriculum based at Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. Rather than taking the approach of persuading people to be more ethical, the GVV starts from the premise that most of us already want to act on our values, but that we also want to feel that we have a reasonable chance of doing so effectively and successfully. Drawing on the actual experience of business practitioners as well as social science and management research, GVV helps students, business leaders, employees and other practitioners identify the many ways that individuals can and do voice their values in the workplace. This provides the opportunity to script and practice this voice in front of their peers.

Day 12: Design for extreme affordability

The Design for Extreme Affordability course (also called Extreme) is a two-quarter, multidisciplinary project-based course offered jointly by the Graduate School of Business at Stanford and its School of Engineering in the U.S. The course focuses on engaging a number of students from across disciplines to learn to design products and services that will change the lives of the world’s poorest citizens. Students work directly with course partner organizations on real-world problems, the culmination of which is actual implementation of solutions and real change. Over the past 13 years, 489 students have worked with 45 partner organizations in 27 countries on solutions in agriculture, architecture, energy, food processing, irrigation, lighting, medical devices, nutrition, sanitation, stove technology and water catchment and purification. Partners are often the implementers of these innovations, but sometimes student teams form their own organizations to carry an idea forward.

Day 13: Social Impact Festival

The Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia hosts the annual Social Impact Festival. The festival involves dozens of events happening around the city of Perth in 16 venues over seven days. The aim is to share and diffuse cutting-edge knowledge; to strengthen and connect social impact networks in the region; and to increase the capacity of Western Australia to support social impact. The events focus on reaching not only those who are already engaged in these topics but going beyond to bring in a wider audience. Examples of individual events held throughout the week include a marketplace, an ethical fashion show, speakers, a social impact open house, performances, workshops and co-working spaces. 

Day 14: CSSI Weekly Sustainability Communique

The team at the Centre for Social and Sustainable Innovation at Gustavson School of Business in Canada sends out a weekly email to faculty, staff, students at the University of Victoria and people interested in sustainability around the globe. The newsletter gives a taste of what’s going on in the world of sustainability, social responsibility and business. The short email shares interesting new resources, relevant events happening on campus and beyond, and tips and ideas for faculty looking to embed sustainability into their lectures.


Day 15: Haas Socially Responsible Investment Fund

The Haas Socially Responsible Investment Fund is the first and largest student-led SRI fund within a leading business school. It offers MBA students real-world experience in delivering both strong financial returns and positive social impact. Since 2008, the student principals have more than doubled the initial investment to more than $2.6 million, learning through experience about socially responsible investing and environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment strategies and practices. The fund was launched with gifts from alumni and receives ongoing crowdfunding donations. Second-year MBA students apply to become fund principals whose role is to evaluate investment opportunities by analyzing traditional indicators of business quality and valuation metrics along with ESG policies and practices.

Day 16: Sustainable Housing Partnership

Sweden's Jönköping International Business School is working with 30 companies from glass and wood industries and local and regional councils through the Sustainable Housing Network. The project aims to safeguard and further develop innovations and industrial expertise in glass and timber construction, both core activities in this particular region. It looks to explore business opportunities to meet the housing shortage in Sweden and internationally. The long-term vision is to become an internationally attractive innovation environment, offering smart accommodation and sustainable build environment.

Day 17: Mandatory sustainability days

Also in Sweden, the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg has three mandatory sustainability days each year: Day One is a full day that focuses on challenges and consists of more than 30 seminars to introduce students to the SDGs and important sustainability challenges. Day Two focuses on responsibility and consists of a full day group work session mixing 650 second-year students from different programs to work on responsibility projects related to production and consumption. Day Three focuses on solutions. The school lets students choose between four themes addressing different technical and social solutions and involve representatives from the city, industry and civil society. One such theme explores solutions for sustainable urban development.  

Day 18: Circular economy

The University of Bradford and Ellen MacArthur Foundation, along with a range of leading businesses are developing an academic partnership around the circular economy, which is "restorative and regenerative by design." This includes apart-time, distance learning MBA in Innovation, Enterprise and Circular Economy; an Executive Education and Certificate program; and a series of conferences and seminars on the circular economy. It will also have a range of continuing professional development sessions for teachers across the university. Topics covered will include regenerative product design, new business models, reverse logistics and enabling communication technologies — to name but a few.

Day 19: Global Social Venture Competition

The Global Social Venture Competition promotes the next generation of social entrepreneurs by providing them with mentoring, exposure and over $80,000 in prizes to transform their ideas into ventures that address the world’s most pressing challenges. Teams from across the globe learn how to design scalable models through a process that emphasizes stakeholder discovery, business innovation and social impact assessment. Originally founded by MBA students at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in 1999, the program's 2016 cohort received nearly 500 entries from 50 countries.

Day 20: Transformable architecture

There are many examples of elementary schools that have moved away from traditional classroom layout (rows of chairs and desks with a teacher at the front) in favor of a more flexible layout. For example, DSSI Elementary Schol in Seoul changed their first- and second-grade classrooms by connecting them, creating a range of new communal areas. The walls are all sections on pivot hinges that incorporate windows to let in natural light. Teachers can open all the walls to combine the whole space. It is about designing environments that let people regularly switch up how the spaces are used. This increases movement in schools and allows teachers to explore new educational styles and approaches.

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