Commitment, collaboration and citizenship: a Business School’s journey to impact

Measuring impact is central to theArthur Lok Jack Global School of Business’s plans for the future. Kamla Mungal and Jaidath Maharaj outline the School’s impact assessment system, and its focus on helping reduce corruption and increase competitiveness in Trinidad and Tobago

In Trinidad and Tobago, a small, emerging country of 1.3 million people within a region that comprises 16 countries and several dependent territories with a population of approximately 45 million people, there continues to be tremendous faith and expectation that the Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business, University of the West Indies (UWI) will promote leadership and achieve impact on business and the development of the society.

While graduates of the School assume the highest levels in public and private organisations, and thereby have significant influence on policies, there was no way to provide tangible, defensible and meaningful evidence that the School was making the impact envisaged at its establishment 30 years ago and transforming society positively.

In 2017, the School’s leadership asked the big question: ‘How do we know we are meeting the public’s expectations to change business and society?’ This set us on the path of examining the desires of business and society and establishing a framework for connecting societal impact with the School’s activities.   

Developing impact goals

Determining the School’s impact goals required consideration of both local and global issues. This is because the Business School, by its very nature, must address global considerations.  

Kamla Mungal

Guided by the impact standards of accreditation agencies, projects undertaken by Business Schools globally were explored to understand the way in which those projects were designed and executed to create impact. We then met with faculty, employers, alumni, staff and students to agree on the most important issues to be tackled by the Business School. The list eventually included six big-ticket impact areas: social progress; economic revolution; cultural evolution; environmental sustainability; global insertion; and technological sophistication (see box on page 27 for more details). Having established its top six issues to address, the School sought to develop and refine its goal statements by identifying recurring national themes through a review of published national development plans over the last decade to ensure alignment with the goals of successive governments. At the intersection of these themes and the six core issues lay the School’s goal statements, written to ensure they were within reach and that they represented the desired contribution. These statements guide the School’s leadership team to define and execute projects and activities that yield impact and contribute towards the achievement of specific goals.

Impact goals in focus: combatting corruption and climate change

The reduction of corruption and the promotion of moral and ethical values have been recurring themes for the leadership of Trinidad and Tobago and indeed, the wider Caribbean. There was no doubt that this was an area where the School can impact the country and region positively.  

One of this year’s projects is the School’s collaboration with the Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute to implement recommendations from the Business Integrity Country Agenda (BICA) research project. These recommendations focus on strengthening legislation and promoting the adoption of anti-corruption measures in businesses. The collaboration is strengthening the relationship with business, chambers of commerce and the Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute. Its impacts lie in the implementation of laws for enhanced business integrity and greater awareness within the businesses community of the importance of self-monitoring and the publication of anti-corruption measures. 

Another area of focus is environmental sustainability in light of global climate change. This necessitates a shift in focus from people and profit to people, planet and profit. This has led to strategic alliances and partnerships that create synergies around the issue of environmental sustainability.  

For example, one of the Business School’s recruitment activities involves inviting secondary-level students to the School’s Environmental Day – an event held in partnership with various businesses, advocacy groups, NGOs and government officials. Students are actively engaged in competitions and innovative activities, giving the School an opportunity to plant the seeds of environmental sustainability in the minds of prospective students while positioning itself as a Business School of choice. This model raises awareness and spreads messages of change, and is more effective than individual efforts.  

In addition to partnerships and strategic alliances, the Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business has initiated projects to create a positive mindset towards environmental sustainability among its internal staff, both academic and administrative. These include the use of recycling bins for paper, plastic and glass, and moves towards a paperless environment. The School has also begun an exercise to track its usage of power to reduce excess usage. 

Impact goals in focus: competitiveness, diversification, social development and GDP growth

Jaidath Maharaj

As a Business School, we have contributed to the development of these areas through initiatives such as our participation in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report (GCR), which tracks our country’s competitive position continuously. 

Every year, we share the GCR’s findings with the public and alert policymakers to critical changes required. An example is the School’s response to the country’s continuing low scores in the area of innovation – we developed academic and executive programmes in this area and reoriented our global conference (now known as the Distinguished Leadership and Innovation Conference) to include innovation. These initiatives contribute to progress in the areas of competitiveness and innovation, and will ultimately affect other metrics, such as diversification and GDP growth. 

Another powerful example is the output of some of our recent MBA students in their in-company capstone projects, which were focused on the manufacturing of lumber from plastic waste. This initiative has a number of benefits including reduction of waste, reuse of discarded materials, repurposing of plastic, creation of a new industry and opportunities to increase GDP by producing a product for local consumption and export. The projects also provide opportunities for community organisations to create employment along the value chain, for example in the collection and sale of plastic waste, with knock-on effects of an improved standard of living and a healthier environment. The School continues to explore other initiatives that would produce similarly synergistic changes.

Measuring impact 

Our impact model is an amalgamation of the areas of impact adopted by various global accreditation agencies and contextualised to our own realities. In the case of the BGA Continuous Impact Model (CIM) we had full appreciation of the need to show what the School was doing and the impact it was having on stakeholders, but were not clear on how to present this holisitically and meaningfully. The CIM provided a structure that allowed us to place our mission at the centre and to identify the distance between actions of the School and impact to be achieved, allowing stakeholders to see their contribution to the impact goals and serving as an axle for collaboration. In terms of process, each Centre within the Business School identifies its projects or activities, the dimensions of impact expected, the metrics, inputs, outputs, outcomes, and the eventual impact. Data is then collected and analysed to provide a clear understanding of the stakeholders impacted, level of impact, and contribution to impact goals along with recommendations and suggestions for future activities.  

The School believes it has been successful in defining impact and creating a robust system to measure it. As we pilot the process, we have gained valuable insights, such as the difficulty of directly attributing positive or negative changes in the wider society to the Business School’s efforts due to the number of external variables over which the School has no control. However, having an impact assessment system helps guide the overall improvement efforts and there is no intention to suggest causality. 

Impact assessment can be curtailed without top leadership support, as there are many competing priorities and resource constraints are a reality for most Schools. It is therefore important that top leadership drives the initiative from conception through to institutionalisation. Data gathering can also be tedious and it’s important to always assess the load with respect to the data to be gathered, kept and collated across the institution. Ultimately, sharing impact stories and creating excitement around impact can help to overcome all hurdles.   

Kamla Mungal is Director of Academic Development and Accreditation at the Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business, UWI, in Trinidad and Tobago. Kamla is also Director of the School’s Leadership Institute and a lecturer in organisational behaviour and development. 

Jaidath Maharaj is Quality Assurance Manager at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business, UWI. 

This article is taken from Business Impact’s fifth edition in print.

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