IPADE Evaluates Its Impact

Impact study surveys stakeholders to see how well the school is meeting its mission.

WHEN IPADE BUSINESS SCHOOL celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017, one way we marked the milestone was to assess the impact our graduates had had on business communities in Mexico—as individuals, managers, family members, and members of their communities. We launched an impact study, conducted by an independent research team and supported by our faculty, to see what progress we had made toward fulfilling our mission “to develop leaders with global vision, social responsibility, and Christian values, who are able to transform organizations and society.”

The study, led by Marc Epstein—an independent researcher and co-author of this article—was inspired by a message in Epstein’s 2014 book, Measuring and Improving Social Impacts. The book, which he co-authored with Kristi Yuthas, emphasizes that, to evaluate their impact, organizations first must reflect on the goals they want to achieve. Only then can they analyze how they are impacting society and how they can increase positive social impact and reduce negative impact.

To do this, organizations build logic models—a concept first developed by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in 1998—that determine which of their activities have contributed to what kind of impact. Logic models have five elements: an organization’s inputs, or resources; its activities to achieve impact; its outputs, or results of those activities; its outcomes for target populations; and, finally, its impacts, or the causal relationships that have led to desired goals.

At IPADE, we began our impact study by building our own logic model. Our inputs, for example, are our mission, culture, values, resources, facilities, faculty, chaplain, and participants. Our activities include our teamwork-driven curriculum, case studies, tutors, international experiences, and relationships among our participants, faculty, and staff. Our outputs are our curriculum’s emphasis on leadership, management, and technical skills, as well as the development of Christian values, global mindsets, and a sense of social responsibility. Our outcomes refer to our goal of producing managers who improve organizations and business communities. Our impact refers to our goal of building a better society.

IPADE's Logic Model - small
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After creating the logic model, the team examined the cause-and-effect relationships among these five elements, so the school could better understand—and manage—the ways these relationships might yield tangible benefits for stakeholders (see graphic on facing page).

During the summer and fall of 2016, the research team collected data from three main sources. First, they studied archival data from IPADE internal reports and external media coverage in publications such as the Financial Times and Forbes.

Second, the team talked to 140 alumni from IPADE’s main campuses in Mexico City, Monterrey, and Guadalajara, who represented classes in every decade from the 1970s through the 2010s. Finally, they conducted confidential interviews with 34 business leaders—including senior executives, human resource managers, and recruiters from small companies to large corporations—about behaviors they had observed in IPADE graduates. All interviews were confidential.

The interviews revealed, for instance, that our most important inputs were our faculty, mission, culture, and values. The activities that produced the strongest results were the case study method and teamwork exercises. These led to the development of skills, a sense of social responsibility, and Christian values.

IPADE graduates told the interviewers they felt that their programs had helped them become not just better managers, but better human beings; they had learned to respect other people’s opinions and become better listeners.

Most executives were complimentary. One noted that IPADE graduates “were humane and good leaders who … understand human processes.” Another said that they “are always aware of the needs of the people to make sure that they can perform better at their jobs.” However, some were more critical. One respondent called our graduates arrogant; others felt IPADE students were not as technically skilled as graduates from other programs.

But even negative comments sometimes highlighted what we consider our program’s strengths. As one interviewee put it, “What distinguishes an IPADE graduate is the human quality. … They don’t come back with new skills, but they show enhanced assertiveness, vision, clarity, and ability to relate to others.”

Once the study was completed, we reported the results first to our faculty, and then to our board members. We shared the results with all of our alumni at our 50th anniversary celebration. We now are using the results to improve our programs, particularly by addressing areas of concern.

For instance, our tutor and mentor programs received surprisingly low marks, so we are strengthening these activities—we have appointed a senior faculty member and an IPADE board member to evaluate the mentor program. In addition, academic directors of different programs are working from other negative or mixed comments to make changes in the curricula.

Our dean also is using the study to lead a project to develop the future of IPADE. The project will focus on seven strategic areas, which we call IPADE’s 7 I’s: identity, impact, institutionalization, investigation (research), innovation, internationalization, and inclusion.

Finally, we are developing a new research project, which is still in its early stages. To gain a personal perspective, we will ask friends, spouses, parents, church members, and community associates of IPADE graduates how those graduates make a social impact in their personal lives. For a professional perspective, we will ask peers, subordinates, bosses, competitors, customers, suppliers, and other business leaders to compare the social impact of IPADE graduates to non-IPADE graduates. We also will ask senior corporate leaders, HR leaders, and recruiters to evaluate our graduates’ technical skills and personal qualities.

In addition, we will survey participants before they begin their programs and several times after they graduate—possibly three years, ten years, and 20 years later. We also plan web-based surveys that we hope will allow us to collect significantly more responses.

We believe that our first impact study shows causal paths that link our culture with our teaching methods and values to produce better managers, better human beings, and better communities. We feel that it is critical for all business schools to articulate their purpose, measure their scope, and understand all their impacts—whether positive or negative, intentional or unintentional—as they set out to train future leaders. Only then can they determine if they are achieving the desired social impacts, if they are making a difference, and if they can make even greater contributions to society.

Rafael Gómez-Nava is dean and professor of operations management at IPADE Business School in Mexico City, Mexico. Marc J. Epstein is an author and advisor based in Houston, Texas; he has previously been a professor at Rice University, Stanford University, and other schools. Antonio Casanueva is a professor of managerial control and information and the associate dean of IPADE Business School at the campus in Guadalajara.

Read the impact study.