Doing Well By Doing Good By Doing Social Innovation: Changing Higher Education

Peter Drucker, management guru, once said the evolving credo of “doing well by doing good,” is fast becoming smart management strategy, raising the concept of social responsibility to a new level.

Drucker, who said “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things,” tells the story of Julius Rosenwald, CEO of Sears Roebuck who warmly embraced and supported the 4H Clubs, which in turn, made Sears highly profitable. (Sears in 2017 is not doing so well).

The concept of the “social responsibility” of business--now engrained in the psyche of most corporations--is an ethical theory that corporations, like all of us really, have obligations to do things to benefit society at large. Many corporations --through their foundations mostly--routinely support schools, homeless centers, performing art organization and the like. This is corporate responsibility to be sure, but it is or can be more than philanthropy.

According to Nancy Adler, Professor of International Management at McGill University:

“As we enter the 21st century, leaders recognize that we cannot create financially successful companies and an equitable, peaceful, sustainable world by simply applying yesterday’s approaches to business. Global society’s hoped-for future can never be achieved through mere projections--linear or otherwise--extrapolated from past trends. Not even the best set of marketing, accounting, finance, and IT techniques, no matter how rigorously applied, will get us from here to where we want to go. The very essence of 21st-century leadership increasingly demands the passionate creativity of artists.”

The more our world depends on broadband, computers, and super-fast connections, the more we need, as the old Indian proverb says, to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, understand what someone else is thinking, how they feel, and be responsive. Biologist and author of The Age of Empathy, Frans de Waal, argues that that empathy is something innate, that we are born with the capacity to care for each other much like our primate cousins.

That is the whole point of Ashkoa U, an initiative of a global effort called simply Ashoka that is working with communities, corporations and related organizations around the world to help people better understand the importance of social innovation. Ashoka, in their own words, “has pioneered the field of social entrepreneurship, identifying and supporting the world’s leading social entrepreneurs ... individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social, cultural, and environmental challenges.”

Ashoka U, “Building on Ashoka’s vision for a world where “Everyone is a Changemaker ... takes an institutional change approach to impact the education of millions of students ... collaborate(s) with colleges and universities (over 40 and counting) to break down barriers to institutional change and foster a campus-wide culture of social innovation.”

Like Ashoka, Ashoka U emphasizes “empathy, teamwork, new leadership, and changemaking” and are quietly making a difference as they and their member universities because they believe “the way colleges and universities can stay relevant is to embed Changemaker skills such as empathy, teamwork, leadership and changemaking into their culture and across their curriculum.”

The University has been crying out for reinvention.The next generation must meet the challenges of a very different economy and a very different society in which innovation is the benchmark of success, but more, solving the world’s problems is tantamount to saving humanity.

This is a revolution in the remaking of higher education.

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