UNCTAD announced the launch of a global initiative to bolster the contribution business schools and management education can make to development on the final day of the World Investment Forum, Palais des Nations, Geneva, on 16 October.
The initiative, undertaken in partnership with the Global Alliance in Management Education and the Global Business Schools Network representing top business schools, is part of UNCTAD's proposed action plan for investing in the sustainable development goals – the set of targets being formulated by the international community to guide development efforts for the period 2016–2030.
According to UNCTAD calculations, meeting these goals will require annual investments of $250 billion in sectors such as infrastructure, energy, agriculture, water and sanitation, health and education in least developed countries.
To activate this level of investment will require an enormous pool of entrepreneurial and managerial skills on the ground. However, a dearth of business schools in low-income countries means that not nearly enough of these skills are honed where they are needed most.
Introduced to schools, students and impact investment practitioners under the banner Business Schools for Impact, the initiative seeks to reorient business education to teach skills students can harness to find solutions for the development challenges in low-income countries.
"To change the mindsets of global investors, business leaders and entrepreneurs, we need to literally go back to school," UNCTAD Director of Investment and Enterprise James Zhan said. "The role of business educators is fundamental to help equip a generation of entrepreneurs and managers to invest in communities where they can make a difference."
Mr. Zhan called on business schools to form partnerships with UNCTAD and contribute to the initiative to amplify its impact.
The initiative sets up a network of business schools, and develops courses, case studies and internship opportunities to prepare students for the challenges of doing business in low-income environments and motivate students to work and invest there. Ultimately, the programme will set up a Global Impact Masters curriculum to give students a complete grounding in impact-oriented business methods.
"We have seven billion people living on the planet. Business focuses mostly on only 15 per cent of this population. We need to change that mindset," education expert Ted London, who delivered a keynote address at the launch of the initiative, said.
The initiative will make available:
A platform and network for business schools, students and development practitioners worldwide to share information and knowledge;
Freely available course content, research, modules and case studies;
A roster with project and internship opportunities in low-income communities and regions;
At a later stage, a complete Global Impact Masters curriculum with core and specific course elements relevant for investing and operating in low income environments.
Mr. Zhan said: "It is not only about making students aware of business opportunities in the poorest countries or about different business models. It is essential for them to acquire the competencies that they need to operate in a challenging environment, build partnerships with local organizations, use unconventional distribution channels, or deliver basic services in the most remote places."