THE WORLD INCREASINGLY expects business schools to produce solutions to societal challenges, as well as graduates who give back to their communities. But whether because of resource constraints or competing stakeholder interests, many business schools still don't match their actions in the market to their aspirations to make a difference.
They also face pressure from the rankings, which effectively measure
a business program according to the salaries of its graduates but
are less useful when it comes to gauging a school’s social impact.
This disconnect has inspired a large group of business educators—
brought together by the Mission Possible Foundation based in
Switzerland—to design the Positive Impact Rating (PIR). Its creators
are calling the PIR the first “by students for students” rating of
business schools. These educators hope the PIR will encourage more
business schools to couple their actions with social impact.
They spent two years developing the rating and completed the first
prototype of the system in May 2017. Subsequent versions were tested
in schools of different sizes, missions, and locations. The final version
was adopted by the endorsing organizations in September 2018.
In January 2019, the steering committee released a white paper introducing the PIR. The paper’s co-authors
include Katrin Muff of the Mission
Possible Foundation, Switzerland;
Thomas Dyllick of the University of St.
Gallen in Switzerland; Mathias Falkenstein,
CEO of XOLAS (formerly the
Higher Education Management Group)
in Berlin, Germany, and executive policy
advisor at LUISS Business School in
Rome, Italy; Clémentine Robert, president
of oikos International; David Scicluna,
former country manager of AIESEC
Switzerland; and Léo Gillard of World
Wildlife Fund Switzerland.
The new rating system is intended
“to support fundamental change in the
business school landscape with regards
to the school’s societal responsibility,”
the co-authors explain.
The PIR asks stakeholders questions
about nine areas that fall under a business
school’s purview. These areas are
organized in four dimensions: energizing
(which includes the areas of governance
and culture), educating (programs, learning
methods, and student engagement),
enabling (research and continuing
education), and engaging (institution as
a role model, public engagement). Participants
are asked to assess their perceptions
related to each area on a ten-point
Likert scale, from “I don’t agree” (1) to
“I completely agree” (10). They also can
respond “I don’t know” (0).
Schools can choose one of two forms
of the assessment. The 20-question
student assessment asks students and
alumni to provide their perceptions of
their schools along seven of the nine
areas. Or, schools can conduct the full
36-question assessment, which elicits
feedback from a complementary pair of
stakeholders from each of the following
groups: faculty, alumni, administrators,
career services staff, and program managers. By choosing two stakeholders
from each group, the rating can identify
any difference—or spread—in score
between the two respondents.
A school’s score in each dimension
determines its impact rating on a scale
from 1 to 5. Level 1 schools are perceived
by stakeholders to be mostly unaware
of the opportunity of creating social impact,
while Level 5 schools are perceived
to be changing society for the better.
PIR provides student organizations
and schools their own data for detailed
analyses. They also receive stakeholders’
qualitative answers to the question,
“What is the most important thing your
school should stop, start, and continue
doing in support of its commitment to
providing management education that
results in positive impact for the world?”
Members of the PIR General Assembly
will be tasked with verifying each
school’s rating, based on the data collected.
Schools that wish to publicize their
verified ratings can use the PIR logo for
external and internal communications.
The results of the first PIR student
rating will be unveiled at the World Economic
Forum in Davos in January 2020.
Schools that receive Level 5 ratings will
be invited to be recognized at the forum.
The PIR introduces a stronger sense
of accountability, which in turn could
help business schools measure the real
relevance and impact they provide for
society, says Falkenstein. He argues that
this could lead to a “radical rethinking of
management education paradigms.”
Falkenstein and his colleagues hope
that the PIR will inspire schools to
embrace disruptive, rather than incremental
change; design curricula that
train students to become management
innovators; and prioritize research with
relevance and impact on society.
As business schools adopt more
responsible management education
practices, says Falkenstein, “they can
become an important interface between
business, government, and society.”