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Survey: B-Schools Should Work Together To Eradicate Poverty

A new survey by the Busines Graduates Association —a spinoff of the Association of MBAs — finds strong support globally for business as a force for good, particularly in regards to alleviating poverty. UF photo

Business as a force for good is no new concept. B-schools’ ability to make a substantial positive impact on the world’s thorniest issues has long been a matter of sometimes frustrating, occasionally fruitful discussion. Now, a new survey paints a clear picture of the levels of support among students and graduates for the apparatus of business education to apply its brainpower toward the alleviation of one of the world’s most intractable problems: global poverty. 

As part of its Poverty and Impact Research Project, the Business Graduates Association conducted an online survey of 1,729 business students and graduates from across the Association of MBAs and BGA networks, all of whom attend or have attended either AMBA-accredited or BGA member schools. The survey looked into how students and grads believe business schools can work toward reducing global poverty — and one way that got strong support was collaboration among schools to address the problem.

“There is overwhelming confidence among business students and graduates in the capability of business schools to make a real difference in contributing to the alleviation of global poverty,” says Will Dawes, research and insight manager at BGA, in a news release accompanying the survey. “Further collaboration between business schools may be one way in which the business management education sector can do more to help the poorest in society, by working together on projects, sharing research and collectively lobbying for their work to be seen in the business community.”

TWO-FIFTHS IN NEW SURVEY SAY SOCIETAL IMPACT IS MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE FOR B-SCHOOLS

This is BGA’s first report after launching January 21 as a “sister brand” to AMBA, an international accrediting agency that counts as its members the top 2% of schools in over 70 countries including London Business School, INSEAD, HEC Paris, IE, IESE, and many others — more than 250 in all. AMBA does not, however, have a presence in the United States.

The mission of AMBA’s new sibling BGA, as announced by its CEO Andrew Main Wilson, is to promote positive impact and lifelong learning at business schools around the globe — “welcoming business schools as members who clearly demonstrate a passion for practical, entrepreneurial business education with a proven commitment to social responsibility and sustainability, across all their program modules.”

In BGA’s new survey, conducted between December 18, 2018 and January 13, 2019, students and graduates were asked what they believe to be the most important issues facing business schools in the next five years. More than two-fifths (42%) cited the impact business schools have on helping the poorest in society. (Other top answers included the salaries people can achieve, 33%; and a B-school’s ranking in key publications, 27%.) 

Students and grads were also asked for their views on whether B-schools help those who are in poverty. While just over one-third (36%) said they are confident their school helps the poorest in society, respondents added they believe schools have an opportunity to do more or communicate more effectively the poverty-related work they are undertaking. Almost half (49%) say their B-school influences the way its students think about issues related to poverty, and almost three-quarters (76%) would personally like to promote the projects their B-school has created to help society. 

Meanwhile, more than half (56%) agree that business school students are more concerned about how businesses can improve the lives of those in poverty compared with 10 years ago. Just 14% disagree.

THE CAPACITY OF B-SCHOOLS TO HELP TACKLE POVERTY

Three-quarters of BGA’s survey participants (75%) agree that B-schools can make a substantial impact to reduce poverty globally. And there is large agreement that the global business school community needs to do more collectively to help address poverty around the world (52% strongly agree and 35% agree with the sentiment). Asked to rate their school’s impact thus far on a scale of 0-10, where 10 is the maximum amount of impact, the average rating given by students and grads was 4.75.

Collaboration is seen as the key. Overall, 86% of survey participants would like their B-school to work more closely with other schools to help alleviate poverty, and more than eight out of 10 (81%) agree that the collective effort of the business school community is crucial in helping businesses work better for those with low incomes and in poverty.

The students and grads were given more than an opportunity to make general statements. They also were presented with a list of possible actions schools might take. The top vote getter: more funding to directly run programs that support entrepreneurs from poorer backgrounds (63%). Other top mentions included increasing awareness of the role B-schools play in addressing poverty-related issues (58%); greater emphasis on poverty reduction as a purpose of B-schools (55%); and more curricula in MBA programs dedicated to alleviating poverty (50%).