Social Impact Education: Business Strategy for Emergent Economies

Businesses have become big players in the production of knowledge. Deloitte and PriceWaterhouse Coopers are exemplar powerhouses of social impact research. This is because to pursue economic and social progress, it is not enough for only educational institutions to educate to innovate; we also need front-line players to advance new knowledge for social impact. "This generation is too old for education to be its growth strategy. It needs a growth strategy that will make it more productive..."1 says Ricardo Haussman in his article Does better education really drive economic growth? As globalization continues to demand transformative responses, it has re-directed both business and education imperatives: According to Jean Case, co-founder and CEO of the Case Foundation "The job of addressing social challenges, has largely fallen to the public sector."2 This notion is not past generations' ideas of businesses' Corporate Social Responsibility or Research & Development or even Higher Education's ideas for Internationalization; it is the future convergence of the three as a powerful emergent for global address.

Notably, it has been the evolution and practice that education responds to the needs of the economic landscape. In the past few decades, we have seen more focused preparation for the developing workforce assumed by both higher education and businesses for the evolving technological advancements, urgent environmental and social issues, the dynamics of volatile and interdependent economies, as well as the global skills gap and match. The difference between the two is that businesses have become research producers with applied purpose and macro-economic vision; this is aggressive and focused strategy to produce social impact research for innovation; "Only aggressive innovation will get us through -- innovation that changes the enterprise from top to bottom and that engages it far more intimately with a broad societal ecosystem of businesses, communities and institutions."3 In businesses, it has served as a means to make radical organizational shifts, develop untapped talent, initiate strategic partnerships and pledge resources to research. Why such a shift towards research on social impact? Because research informs where, what and whom we have not yet innovated for. It defines trajectory.

Businesses as Social Impact Education
"What society knows how to do is mainly in its firms, not in its schools."4 Businesses are front-line and on-site educators; although conducting research and on-site training is not new to business savoir-faire, invested resources that support, explore and report in-house research on social impact, is in itself innovative. Powerhouses like Deloitte and PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PwC) are global organizations that have extended beyond the breadth of their products and service towards social impact research that has been influencing ideas, skills and innovation as solid business strategy. So what does this mean for education and business? The most important innovations, partnerships and approaches are to be found within the intersections and complementary expertise of both business and education's research. Coorous Mohtadi, a member of MathWorks wrote in his 2015 Huffington Post article The Role That Business Can Play in Education: "Companies will prove their value to education by delivering usable knowledge and skills at every stage of education..." These powerhouses are not only aiming to address, in part or in whole, mechanisms for innovation, they are providing their research as education for social impact.

In regards to higher educational institutions, over the past few decades' internationalization has influenced stratified amalgamations and reform to curriculum, pedagogy and research towards global impact. This has advanced great leaps in responding to evolving STEM field advancements, the financial landscape, environmental and social issues and more recently a stronger focus on the global skills gap and match. If comparing the influences of globalization on businesses to the impact of internationalization on higher education, the question arises - is higher education leveraging research as much as businesses are, for powerful social impact? Is knowledge being leveraged as much as skills are for applied social impact? The 2015 ICEF survey on internationalization within post-secondary education globally, found that on average, respondents feel the need for knowledge as opposed to skills. As the next wave of change in higher educational institutions attempts to respond to the needs of the global skills gap and match with re-defined skills, it is just as important to re-define how we use new knowledge. ICEF Monitor states that "...by 2050, the world will see a dramatic shift in global economic power away from advanced economies with unmatched economic growth that now gives education even more agency to develop and offer 'different' knowledge to drive significant social and economic success...."5 The question then is how are businesses and higher education strategically aligning to become convergent powerhouses for social impact?

Strategy for Emergent Economies
Within emergent economies, strategic partnerships by businesses with educational institutions have already become formidable mechanisms for advanced market movement. The evolution of this in part, arose from "...although these multi-nationals recognize the potential to grow their business on social issues, they're also transparent about needing help from other sectors to get it done."5 Within businesses, emerging economies have become an acute focus for innovation and development: Unilever, Global Partnerships says "The depth and breadth of these partnerships are not only improving the quality of people's lives ...but they are serving as a growth engine for our business..."6 On the flip side, emergent economies are developing in-house resources by partnering with educational institutions for specific industry-skills development. For example:

  • "The Indonesian government clearly intends that the new ministry will be a vehicle for further reforms and for a more coordinated national response to persistent issues of linking graduate skills to labour market requirements, driving innovation, and creating links between academic research and industry."7
  • Dr. Zhou Ji, China's Education Minister says: "China is in a new process of developing its workforce and strengthening its economy through scientific research and education. I believe our collaboration with IBM in establishing SSME programs at universities throughout China will have a long-lasting impact on our economic and social development."8
  • Bamanga Tukur, Chairman, New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) Business Group says: "I think the climate for business in Africa has never been better than it is right now, with opportunities for productive, long-term investment and public-private partnerships that will facilitate and sustain economic growth and development."9

These evolving partnerships challenge and also unify businesses' and educational institutions towards national and social progress - through innovative collaboration. Businesses that are exploring strategic partnerships in diverse disciplines, investing in deep dive talent development and entrenching themselves in social impact research are creating a draft socio-economic impact model. Caudillo's article in McKinsey's & Company, Mapping the value of diversification says "...in emerging economies, the most diversified companies created the highest excess returns..."10 This strategy is the materialization and maturation of CSR and internationalization into the next wave of social and economic impact. "Our generation owes it to theirs to have a growth strategy for ourselves."11 If we can see statements from a super-player like China, an economic contender like Africa and an up-and-comer like Indonesia speak on a formal agenda to leverage education and business partnerships towards social and economic progress, then we are beginning to envision businesses and social impact education as strategy for emergent economies.