Exploring the digital marketing revolution

To create and communicate superior customer value, marketers must now combine traditional advertising with social and digital tools, argues American marketing guru Philip Kotler, in an interview with David Woods-Hale

You’ve written Marketing 4.0? What has changed since Marketing 3.0 was published in 2010?

Marketing is undergoing a digital revolution. We published Marketing 3.0 seven years ago to help companies broaden their view of how computers and the internet impact marketing theory and practice. We stressed the importance of meeting the needs of women, young people, and ‘netizens’ in carrying out company marketing activities. 

Today there is a need to pay attention to the growing role of social and digital media. Social media – such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat – create an increasingly connected world and they stimulate greater communications and sales to a wider world. Digital media is enabling artificial intelligence (AI) and the ‘internet of things’ (I0T) and increasing the rate at which robotisation and automation is penetrating business. Our aim in Marketing 4.0 is to illustrate the growing role and impact of digital marketing. I’ve also described this ‘new marketing’ in my 15th edition of Marketing Management

How can Marketing 4.0 help in bringing marketers up to date with the current skills required – from traditional to digital?

In the past, consumers made purchase decisions largely in retail outlets, whether in an auto dealership or in a large department store. Some consumers also used the telephone or mail order catalogues. Today, a growing number of consumers are making more of their purchases online via online retailers. In-store retailing is facing a major decline: witness, in the US, the news of Macy’s closing many stores, clothing store The Limited going out of business and shopping centres in deep trouble. 

Consumers still go into stores to sample and touch the product and then use their smartphone to see if they can a better deal elsewhere. Many retail shops are evolving into ‘showrooms’, partly charged by the company to its advertising budget. Business-to-business transactions are being increasingly conducted with digital media. Most companies list their product catalogues on the internet. Purchasing agents are happy to compare prices on the internet and are less interested in accepting sales calls. All this points to the need for companies to acquire social and digital skills before they are outclassed by more sophisticated digital competitors.

You describe ‘shifting power dynamics’ in the market. Can you explain this in more detail? 

Power has been shifting from the advertising giants who used 30-second commercials to inform and persuade consumers, to savvy consumers – who rely on their friends and acquaintances, plus online product ratings, to make their brand choices. Power has moved from companies to consumers. Companies must now develop fresh pictures of how consumers journey toward making their final purchases. It’s no longer a journey from a 30-second commercial to a purchase but from a stimulus on the internet, or from a friend, to a search for further information, to a purchase. Marketing 4.0 discusses the key steps in consumer journeys and the various touch points that will have an impact on the final purchase decision.

You explain how the rules of marketing regularly change, but this time the very customers have changed – and this is revolutionary – can you talk a bit more about this?

The basic maxim of marketing hasn’t changed. Decide on the consumer need your company wants to meet and the individuals who strongly have this need. Create a solution that meets this consumer need better than any competitor can meet it. See your job as one of creating superior customer value and communicating this value in a superior way.

What is revolutionary is the need for the company to incorporate social and digital tools to carry out this work. Companies need to collect ‘big data’ about individual consumers who have specific needs and apply sophisticated marketing analytics to arrive at consumer insights that can be converted into compelling consumer value propositions.

How do cyclical trends in the economy affect marketers? More specifically, if demand-led growth is on the decline, what single marketing effort is the most important to avoiding a loyal consumer defecting to a competitor?

Buyer behaviour obviously changes in times of market growth versus market decline. When a recession, or a fear of recession, occurs, consumers will intelligently reduce their expenditure and move towards lower-cost products. Every competitor will have a choice: increase the value of the offer, or cut the price of the offer. Normally it makes sense for the company to retain the price and better document and confirm the offer’s superior customer value. If superior value doesn’t exist, the company either has to add more value (for example, free shipment) or cut its price.

Do you think the original elements of the traditional marketing mix will still be relevant in 10 years’ time? 

The marketer’s main toolkit remains the 4Ps (product, price, place, and promotion) and STP (segmentation, targeting, positioning). Each of these elements undergoes modernisation all the time. Product includes packaging, as well as service products. Place is being redefined into omni-channel marketing but it is still place. Promotion is including digital and social communication alongside print and broadcast media. I would welcome a new marketing framework if it promised to address marketing decision problems in a more decisive way. Until then, most companies will use the traditional framework in preparing their marketing plans.

How will creative and media agencies need to evolve over the next five years to keep up with the pace of technology? 

The agency of the future will develop skills in both traditional and digital advertising. This would be better than hiring separate traditional and digital agencies because companies must connect traditional and digital advertising. A 30-second commercial may need to include a digital address showing where viewers can go for more information. The job of the ‘full-service agency’ is to find synergies between the two types of communication, so that 2 + 2 = 5, not 4.

Do you think that the chief marketing officer (CMO) role will be replaced by a combination of chief tech officer and chief analyst, or is this still a viable career path?

I’d like the CMO position to continue to manage the integration of all the elements that will impact on customer demand. The CMO should spend at least 50% of their time working with the other ‘chiefs’ in the company. The real value of the CMO will be realised when he or she is included in all the strategy planning. It would be unwise to confine marketing to designing tactical moves. The CMO is in the best position to foresee where the particular market is going economically and technologically. The CMO’s staff must include an excellent digital person and technology person. 

Do you think marketing and HR may evolve into one business function, as people leadership and organisational branding become increasingly connected, with shared goals and purposes?

I would prefer the heads of marketing and HR to work very closely together but remain separate functions. The CMO is highly interested in seeing that HR hires very service-minded people. In the hotel business, Marriott says that the first job is to hire the right employees and then the customers will come. The CMO should support the HR person to gain a sufficient budget to hire excellent employees, not just average employees. The evidence is strong that excellent employees have a productivity impact that is several times that of average employees.  

Do you think that zero-based budgeting for marketing, based on the Unilever example, will be widely adopted, to make marketing entirely accountable? How can value be measured throughout all channels since tracking is harder offline? 

Zero-based budgeting for marketing means starting each year with no budget allocated to marketing, until marketers propose specific marketing spend – along with the evidence that results will exceed costs. This is in contrast to normal budget setting where the budgets of the past year are the starting point, raised or lowered slightly. We acknowledge that some past marketing expenditures were not productive, and that from time to time, it is worth reviewing each major budget item to decide whether it should be eliminated, decreased or increased. 

The problem with zero-based budgeting for marketing is two-fold. Many campaigns need continuity and they shouldn’t be cut off before they have achieved their full impact. 

Also, it is increasingly difficult to assess the financial impact of a particular digital tool or a particular marketing channel in an increasingly complex and interactive world. 

Zero-based budgeting is a highly impractical tool for yearly budgeting. However, I grant that it could raise marketing efficiency by being introduced every few years.

Do you believe leaders across all disciplines and functions need to change their mindsets to succeed in a volatile world? 

Today’s world is increasingly characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). Donald Trump’s election as US President has greatly contributed to VUCA. If Hillary Clinton had been elected (she won the popular vote by 3 million votes), we would arguably not be in a VUCA world. Events would have taken their normal course and businesses would carry normal expectations. 

But Trump sends out tweets in the middle of the night, many of which attack companies, journalists, judges, pollsters, or the voters themselves. These attacks are a sign of paranoia. Many business leaders have to think twice about any move for fear that the president will call them. Consumers are worried about their health benefits and they are no longer certain about social security and Medicare. They, and businesses, are spending their money more carefully, which slows down economic growth.

My answer to that? Business leaders must change their mindsets, in light of Trump’s erratic behaviour; he issues executive orders almost daily. His behaviour has been copied by populist leaders abroad with the effect of introducing even more instability into the world economy. 

Are there marketing skills that all MBA students and graduates need to thrive in a VUCA business world?

Most Business programmes are training their students in social and digital skills. They are also making students more aware of the effects of climate change. Professors are increasingly criticising shareholder value as the measure of business success and replacing it with stakeholder value as a more comprehensive measure of business performance. Marketing students graduate with a broader view of the factors that affect corporate image and reputation than previous Business School graduates. 

And finally, do you feel optimistic about business adaptability as the
world becomes more uncertain but also more connected? 

Business literature increasingly emphasises company agility and responsiveness to rapidly changing conditions. Companies need to monitor technological trends, political debates, and economic issues. Companies such as Unilever, Starbucks and Amazon show incredible business adaptability. But many companies are still coasting and need a few more shocks to wake up. My hope is that an increasing number of companies recognise that growing income inequality will hurt, not help them, and that they need to take a more expansive customer benefit and welfare view of what makes an economy strong.

Philip Kotler is the SC Johnson & Son Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

Professor Kotler received his Master’s Degree at the University of Chicago and his PhD Degree at MIT, both in economics, conducting post-doctoral work in mathematics at Harvard University and in behavioural science at the University of Chicago.

He is the author of 57 books and has published more than 150 articles in leading journals. He was the first recipient of the American Marketing Association’s ‘Distinguished Marketing Educator Award’ (1985) and has received a host of other accolades, being inducted into the Management Hall of Fame in 2013. 

Kotler has consulted for such companies as IBM, General Electric, AT&T, Honeywell, Bank of America, and Merck in marketing strategy and planning, marketing organisation and international marketing. He has travelled throughout Europe, Asia and South America advising companies on applying economic and marketing science principles to increase competitiveness, and governments on developing the skill sets and resources of their companies for global competition.

He has been Chairman of the College of Marketing of the Institute of Management Sciences, Director of the American Marketing Association, is a member of the Board of Governors of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and of the Advisory Board of the Drucker Foundation. 

He has received a number of honorary doctoral degrees from several international organisations.  

Leaders never stop learning

Andrew Main Wilson, CEO of the Business Graduates Association, launches Business Impact and outlines the mission and vision of the organisation

Thank you for taking the time to read Business Impact, our very first edition of the magazine which will discuss many of the issues that form the DNA of the biggest ever brand launch in our 52-year history – the Business Graduates Association. 

We were originally founded in 1967 as the Business Graduates Association, before rebranding as AMBA – the Association of MBAs – in 1987, to focus more specifically on accrediting the world’s leading MBA and masters in general management Business School programmes, while also providing membership to AMBA Schools’ students and graduates. 

Now, in 2019, we are relaunching this powerful brand name, which will stand out in a business education market full of difficult-to-remember brand name acronyms. 

Our vision is very clear. BGA will champion the crucial importance of lifelong learning, selecting Business Schools as members who clearly demonstrate a passion for practical, entrepreneurial business education and an evident commitment to social responsibility and sustainability, across all their programme modules. 

BGA will focus on providing membership, validation and accreditation across the entire programme portfolios of high-quality Business Schools. We will also offer free individual BGA membership to the students and alumni
of our BGA Schools. 

Geographically, we will encourage membership from some of the world’s most sophisticated Business Schools, through to inspirational Business Schools in some of the world’s poorest countries, who can demonstrate admirable evidence in making a real difference to the future of their countries’ economies.

I have been very fortunate in interviewing some of the world’s greatest business and political leaders, from Bill Gates to Lady Thatcher, to Archbishop Desmond Tutu. They all share at least one common belief: the best way to increase fair wealth distribution and improve the quality of people’s lives worldwide, is through better education. Ultimately in life, whether a country is capitalist or communist, a democracy or a dictatorship, business funds society. So better business education for all is right at the forefront of improving our world. 

This vision is the driving force behind BGA’s launch. We look forward to welcoming you to the BGA family and making a real difference worldwide to the education of our current and future business leaders. 

Nurturing a vibrant research culture

Business Schools face a range of challenges in developing faculty members that benefit both the staff and the School. Frederik Anseel and Suzanne Marcuzzi consider how a culture of research can impact attraction and retention 

Do you want to know the truth? You can’t handle the truth!’ In the famous interrogation scene in the hit film A Few Good Men, Col Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) paints himself as the last line of defence, allowing citizens to live their lives, rise and sleep under a protective blanket of freedom.

This quote encapsulates how we sometimes see our role in leading the research activities at King’s Business School, Kings College London. 

There is a harsh world out there, with tight budgets; students with high expectations; and increasingly competitive ranking systems. We try to sheild our faculty from this truth as much as possible, so they can pursue their research undisturbed and in complete freedom. 

For us, while the external factors matter, high-quality research matters just as much. 

Vision

At the heart of this ideal is our vision of academic research: we have an authentic and deep-lived conviction that is it the intellectual curiosity and intrinsic motivation of researchers that drive scientific progress. The people make the place. 

For us, all the rest – attraction and retention, grant income, publications, citations, business impact – flows from this central principle; a principle that needs to be nurtured, protected and prioritised. 

Most scholars have chosen this career because they aspire to make important contributions to our collective understanding of organisations. This is typically also the reason why they have joined us and why they stay at King’s Business School. And it is the fundament of our research policy: for academics to have the intellectual freedom to pursue their ideas to contribute to – or change – the conversation in their domain. It is the very essence of what we do and it cannot be compromised. 

We are not naive in pursuing this. Our research policies have to accommodate diverging perspectives and to recognise the many pressures that our academics face. On the following pages, we describe how we manage trade-offs and try to develop and maintain a vibrant research culture.

A different type of Business School

Starting a new Business School provides a unique-but-challenging opportunity. While we build upon the strong legacy of the Department of Management and Business at King’s, and while there is a lot enthusiasm around us, we have had to think carefully about our positioning. 

Business and society have undergone profound disruptions, transforming the way we live, work, consume and learn. There is heightened scrutiny of business and societal ethics with consequences for data privacy and security, people management and stakeholder engagement. As a new Business School, we aim to respond to these societal shifts through research.

We aim to address complex problems with fresh perspectives and innovative collaborations that transcend traditional academic boundaries and that employ data in novel ways. 

Embeddedness in the university

King’s Business School is part of King’s College London, one of the oldest universities in the UK and part of the Russell Group of leading research universities. 

While the Business School is a separate faculty, we seek to maintain strong links with the eight other faculty at King’s and to benefit from and contribute to the strong research tradition at King’s. 

These are not mere words. King’s College lives and breathes research. When you walk through London’s city centre, you pass King’s College London buildings with posters of Nobel Prize winners and world-famous researchers. Informal conversations with colleagues from other faculties typically turn towards research interests and the unintended benefits of casual conversations with colleagues from outside your own discipline cannot be underestimated.

Many leading collaborations arise from a chance encounter. 

Faculty and university leaders are all established researchers who stay research-active throughout their leadership mandates. The university research culture is so fundamental that nearly all academic
staff, including our teaching fellows, have doctoral qualifications. 

Within the Business School, we cherish the multi-disciplinary foundations of King’s. When hiring, we often pay specific attention to the backgrounds of candidates and their potential links with other disciplines in our university. We encourage our staff to join multi-disciplinary networks within the university and apply for internal grants in cross-faculty teams.

Research quality

The Business School research landscape is dominated by publications in a small set of elite economics and management journals. We do not believe it would create a healthy research climate to tie direct monetary incentives to such publications. Sometimes excellent research contributions are best served by being published in niche journals and given our multi-disciplinary foundations, we encourage staff also to publish their work in disciplinary journals in psychology, sociology, and other social sciences. 

Of course, we do encourage our staff to pursue excellence in research and to push the frontiers of knowledge, and this often happens in those top journals. Publishing in well-respected journals is not easy. In 2014, US-based academics Christian Terwiesch and Karl Ulrich, estimated that an A-journal publication equates to about $400,000USD of investment in faculty time and research support. 

However, because of the visibility and impact, we value and encourage research published in leading journals and we support our staff to pursue research suitable for publication in this elite set.

Establishing an international reputation of research excellence requires that we embed this focus on conducting world-class research early on in PhD programmes and emphasise this consistently in our research policies, performance management and hiring practices.

We maintain a system with low teaching loads when compared to international benchmarks and focus on quality of publications over quantity. Research into scholarly impact in the strategy field has shown that those who write fewer but high-quality papers earlier in their careers go on to write fewer but high-quality papers later in their careers as well. Research groups organise meetings to discuss manuscript development and help those conducting early career research navigate the sometimes very lengthy revision process. Most of our senior staff hold editor and editorial board appointments at leading journals, which helps us to mentor junior staff and to establish a culture of research excellence. 

We’re also always seeking new ways to enrich our research culture. We have established a Distinguished Visiting Professor programme to bring leading international researchers to King’s Business School for short visits to help build international research networks and to ensure we’re always engaging with fresh perspectives. 

Research with impact

Our goal is to create an environment in which responsible research can thrive. We encourage our staff to produce credible and reliable knowledge which can be used to address, either directly or indirectly, problems of importance to both business and society. This isn’t just about rigorous and relevant research. We aim for academic research that allows for actionable knowledge – ‘science you can use’. It is research that provokes further reading, sharing, discussion, experimentation, and use in practice, aiming ultimately to transform business and society. Our external engagement team actively approaches staff to distil the actionable knowledge from fundamental research and to take initiatives that bring us closer to the business community. 

This sort of connected research takes time and energy. We have introduced a policy that reduces teaching loads for staff members pursuing projects which have the potential to make a significant impact on business and society. We are also working towards greater connectivity with the business community, engaging with stakeholders early on in research projects to co-develop research questions and co-design studies. Our three research centres focus not only on world-leading research but business-driven research with impact. We are also developing a ‘thought-leadership’ seminar series for executives, in which an influential scholar presents research results highly relevant to a specific business community and asks for their input and feedback. This is also a way of continuing to build our networks: asking for advice is often a good way of stimulating interest and involvement. We’re now also encouraging our staff to publish more frequently in practice-orientated outlets such as Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review

Research environment

We try to create an environment that supports researchers’ intrinsic motivation, but also provides them with a sense of direction and progress. Each of our subject groups is led by a head of group. The heads of group, along with other senior staff, shape the climate of the group by signalling and modelling specific priorities relative to other competing goals. They are closely involved in developing the strategic direction of the School, as well as setting specific goals for their groups. By coming up with a shared vision and strategy, we try to be consistent and explicit about what we value in the stories we tell, in the decisions we make, and in the achievements we celebrate. Given the strong internal research drive of academics, managing the environment is sometimes more about removing obstacles and making things easier. Key to effective research support is the reduction or removal of administrative burdens, straightforward access to financial resources (for example, personal research allowances and seed-funding schemes), a good research infrastructure and travel opportunities. 

Even more fundamental to our research environment are strong, supportive working relationships, an inclusive climate, clear role expectations, psychological safety, and closeness to partner organisations. 

We know our academic colleagues can ‘handle the truth’: they know the pressures facing modern universities. But we see it as our role to create space and time to allow staff to focus on one of the core reasons they’re here – and one of the main reasons they chose this career path: rigorous research which serves to educate, challenge and change. 

Federik Anseel is Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Vice
Dean of Research, and Suzanne Marcuzzi is Research Development Manager at King’s Business School.

Mind the poverty gap: how the most progressive Business Schools in the world are trying to help close it

The best Business Schools are responding to the global poverty crisis by opening themselves up to helping those with fewer opportunities. Will Dawes reports on BGA’s exclusive new research into the topic

The United Nations reports that 783 million people live below the international poverty line of $1.90USD a day. This means that more than one in every 10 people on this planet struggle to access the most basic human needs such as clean water, healthcare and education. 

Many millions more live just above this ‘line’, struggling to make ends meet, but without hope of building a more prosperous future. 

For these individuals, upward social mobility is not a realistic aspiration. Instead, excessively poor working conditions and anxiety around surviving on their limited resources dictate their lives. They cannot afford to invest
money or time to obtain the skills they need to exploit opportunities that may arise, and even when they can, their local economy does not enable them to prosper. 

As a global Business School community, we should reach out beyond the walls of our institutions and address the most important issues facing our society, especially when these relate so closely to why we do business: to provide a living for ourselves and those around us in a global marketplace. 

The economy is not serving the poorest people, so Business Schools have a duty to understand how business can work for society and influence those who can implement management changes for the better. In this same respect, Business Schools have a duty to also train and teach those who cannot afford to enrol onto their programmes. 

The most progressive Business Schools are responding to this challenge by opening themselves up to helping those with fewer opportunities and researching ways in which doing business can help those with less. 

As part of BGA’s mission, we want to highlight how Business Schools around the world are working to alleviate poverty, conducting research that covers case studies of three Business Schools initially, and highlights their work – and its impact – to boost opportunities to some of the poorest in society. 

This work does not come without tangible challenges, such as financial capacity, the School’s scope of influence, and systematic barriers within the economy. But our case studies highlight the progress these projects have made in helping those who are disadvantaged work towards a more prosperous future.

This BGA research is just the start of the Business Graduates Association’s goal to understand the Business School’s contribution to society.

AMBA and CLADEA are conducting more research into how Business Schools address poverty in their teaching and faculties, both in terms of further case studies and through a short survey of Business School professionals and MBAs. If you would like to participate in this study get in touch with me (Will Dawes) regarding the work of your Business School (w.dawes@businessgraduatesassociation.com). 

Local community of social entrepreneurs

Ndileka Zantsi, Programme Co-ordinator at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB) outlines its work in the community to produce social entrepreneurs of the future.

The UCT GSB opened a new teaching and research site – the Solution Space Hub – in Philippi, an impoverished community, located in the heart of Cape Town, South Africa, in 2016. The hub is an ecosystem for early-stage startups and a research and development platform for corporates to experiment with emerging business models, with a tangible connection to the wider community. 

This year, the GSB Solution Space, in partnership with the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, has incubated two cohorts of 10 entrepreneurs enrolled on the Impact Venture Incubation Programme (IVIP) for a three-month period to help them build viable and scalable innovation-driven companies. We emphasise social impact when selecting projects to support, ranging from personal and industry training to products and services, which are accessible and affordable to those in less affluent neighbourhoods in and around Cape Town. Examples of current projects of entrepreneurs enrolled onto the programme include initiatives setting up a low-cost open-air cinema; designing an intuitive learning app for secondary school children, and training young people to narrate and edit their own stories. 

The first month typically consists of exploring the customer base for the entrepreneur’s products or services, the second month is about developing the products or services to make them desirable to the consumer, and the third teaches the entrepreneur about making the products or services viable. After the three months, we provide post-programme support to ensure that entrepreneurs can continue to have access to a range of resources such as the co-working space, advisory services, practical learning clinics, weekly check-ins, staff advisors, and a community of peers who can learn and grow together. 

Programme facilitators include current MBA students and UCT GSB alumni who teach on a pro bono basis. 

The programme also pairs entrepreneurs with mentors, who are relevant industry experts, including our alumni. We have learnt from experience that the best time for the pairings is during months two or three. We are mindful of the entrepreneur’s background, and flexible around the timeframes for integrating entrepreneurs with their mentors.

In addition to providing education, advice and guidance, the programme also assists entrepreneurs with physical resources, where possible, to get their enterprise off the ground. This includes free access to a computer lab, office space, meeting rooms and a conferencing venue for running workshops or events. There have been substantial challenges we have had to overcome along the way, including issues we were not able to anticipate. Something we did not foresee was the emotional support we would need to
provide entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs here often experience tough situations in their personal lives, which, along with starting a business, can lead to mental health issues. 

As a programme, we did not have the means to provide this support, but have been able to reach out to the university’s psychology department which now provides the support and advice pro bono

We also provide food and transport for those entrepreneurs who may not have the financial means to afford these in order to attend the requisite sessions and spend time during the day interacting and learning from one another. This is something we did not budget for initially, but we deemed it necessary in order to guarantee the presence of the entrepreneurs for the
full three-month period.  

The benefits of the programme are wide-ranging. Perhaps most
importantly, it has made being an entrepreneur desirable for a lot more people in the community. 

It is seen as a pathway that is achievable, one in which people can be successful and do good for others in society. As such, it has increased the reputation of entrepreneurship. 

In the most recent cohort there were 61 applications for 15 spaces. But the areas of personal development are also significant. People have been able to develop transferable skills, scale their businesses, and provide employment for others in the community.

ESPAE’s academic research into how supply chains can be improved in Ecuadorian farming

Jorge Rodriguez, Assistant Professor at ESPAE Graduate School of Management, describes how his research into training smallholder farmers and urban micro-retailers about how they can operate more efficiently could benefit both low-income producers and consumers.

Companies across the globe want to increase sales in developing markets – including Ecuador and other countries in Latin America – but they face problems in doing this effectively due to high transaction costs, poor infrastructure and institutional voids such as appropriate financial systems. In Ecuador, for example, 80% of farmers are small scale. This means they often do not have the economies of scale to invest in efficient technology, are physically and digitally distant from both the manufacturers and consumers, and do not have access to the latest training methods to improve their production and distribution potential. 

As part of my research role at ESPAE, which focuses on CSR, sustainability and stakeholder management, I am evaluating how a particular education training programme, funded by the Ecuadorian Agriculture Ministry, can make a measurable difference to the ways in which low-production farmers distribute their profits. 

We are hoping that this training programme will benefit the farmers and their families. The research project tests whether the training programmes enhance farmers’ productivity and multi-dimensional poverty. The evaluation finds that training programmes enhance the productivity and reduce poverty of smallholder farmers, yet the scale of the programme is low. In this regard, the research informs policymakers on the appropriate mechanism to foster agricultural development.

The training covers a broad spectrum of issues, including informing farmers about ways in which they can overcome crop-yield problems, integrate better with suppliers and ensure they connect better and become more responsive to market demands. It is hard for these farmers to be better integrated into value chains, however, because they lack access to the formal economy, banking and medical services, education, and technology such as the internet or mobile phones. So, as a Business School, we see helping these farmers as a strategic priority. It is the right thing to do for these producers, who are currently on the fringes of economic innovation, yet are central to the workings of a large sector of the economy and low-income consumers. 

My research project does not come without substantial challenges. For example, I am unable to identify participating farmers, meaning that I need to control for areas which do and do not receive the training, rather than specific farms. 

There are also wider challenges around how we can get governments and firms to work better together to ensure that the training, if deemed successful, is rolled out more widely. As such, there are communication issues associated with ensuring that the findings of my
research are exposed to influential individuals, and that these findings are
acted on.

In this respect, as a Business School community, we require greater collaboration both in terms of how we explore and evaluate business solutions, and how we communicate our findings to legislators and the marketplace. 

Business Schools need to approach local media in order to shout about the importance of our findings. We need to engage local authorities, stakeholders, and invite firms to talk about the topic, in order to have further tangible impact. A central issue we have is that Business School staff are incentivised in terms of teaching objectives, faculty goals and
cohort intakes, but are not challenged enough to help and support organisations and people directly. 

The sector needs to rise to this by up-skilling academics to become mainstream communicators of their work. 

In the future, there also needs to be an increase in engagement between
professors and students on this topic, because together we can make an
impact around reducing poverty in our world. Farmers need to form co-operatives to consolidate its integration into value chains. Yet, there are few
people with administrative skills in rural areas. 

I think Business School can contribute to changing this reality. We can work
with students on live cases to enhance the administrative skills of farmers’ co-operatives, and rural organisations. 

Leadership and Management Programme for future leaders

Dr Ijeoma Nwagwu, Manager of the Sustainability Centre at Lagos Business School, talks about her School’s programme to enhance the management skills of future leaders working in NGOs.

I work as part of the management faculty in the areas of strategy and sustainability, so I am interested in engaging on topics of responsible management and economic development. I manage Lagos Business School’s Sustainability centre. 

The activity areas for the centre include research, capacity building and stakeholder engagement. Our activities focus on the themes of corporate sustainability (helping businesses become a force for good), social entrepreneurship and sustainable infrastructure. 

We deliver a leadership and management programme that we co-created with the Ford Foundation to develop a pipeline of young leaders. The programme aims to bring young leaders from the NGO and social enterprise ecosystem into the Business School to work out innovative ways to tackle poverty through their work. We enrol up to 100 leaders annually and they come from organisations that focus on a range of sustainable development issues such as gender, agriculture, health and children, and the environment. This programme focuses on equipping young leaders with practical knowledge of business fundamentals, social innovation and leadership effectiveness in an increasingly complex world.

The whole idea behind the programme is leadership development for young people in NGOs, who have an opportunity to put those skills into practice to advance impact in the social sector. Our purpose is to develop 100 leaders a year, providing them with a platform to hone their leadership skills through experiential learning and to develop networks with others in the space to facilitate peer-to-peer learning. I believe this engagement in the journey of learning to be invaluable, as at the heart of poverty is a lack of knowledge. 

The role of the Business School is to contribute to knowledge generation and community building on issues around poverty.

From the teaching perspective, we need to make sure that young leaders understand their roles and are appropriately equipped to solve social problems. On the research and documentation side, our faculty is developing a handbook on NGO leadership and management in Africa.

The scope of the Lagos Business School’s work reaches beyond this programme. We are beginning to make a substantial impact with our work. What we know is that more than 40% of local adults are operating outside the formal financial system with negative consequences in their ability to save, manage life’s shocks through insurance, debt and other modern financial services. Therefore, the School has run a project on sustainable and inclusive digital financial services which, through research and advocacy, supports the financial sector with the necessary knowledge to build financial products that mirror the life experience of the poor. The ultimate aim is to provide poor people with greater access to improved financial services so they can thrive.  

Although Business Schools can be seen as part of the establishment, we are not bound by stereotypes. Our vision of a Business School is one that is inclusive, that connects people from different sectors and backgrounds, to develop socially responsible leaders to solve the most pressing social and economic problems. 

The reality of our Business School is that we bring people together from a range of industries, linking them to learn and grow for a better society.