12 April 2023
Student Intrapreneur and Entrepreneur Toolkit and community of practice
Professor Tony Wall
Professor & National Teaching Fellow, Liverpool John Moores University
The criticisms of business and management teaching and learning remain live and cutting. A recent Times Higher Education piece, entitled Most business school research ‘lacks real-world relevance’ echoes a long trajectory of voices attempting to raise the profile of the ‘relevance’ agenda and - more recently - foreground the ‘responsibility’ agenda.
Recent special issues of scholarly journals such as the Academy of Management Learning & Education, Management Learning and the International Journal of Management Reviews also reflect such challenges. Even the latest articles that are in-press at the time of writing this piece are calling for ongoing transformation in how we understand business and management education.
There is now ample research which indicates that the subtle practices that are performed in business schools - as in any higher education institutional setting - influences the development of values and beliefs of staff and students (some even argue that this influence shapes staff and student personality). This influence might be understood as explicit (for example, the specific content of learning) or implicit (for example, the values embodied by those ideas). Indeed, a special issue in Management Learning is currently investigating the extent of such hidden perspectives.
Yet the nature of these values and beliefs are - under a responsible agenda - relational in the sense of students (and staff) being deeply connected to the people, place and planet around them. Or as described by the British Academy of Management and Chartered Associated Business Schools as a Shared Vision for Business and Management Knowledge Ecosystem.
This is where a new QAA Collaborative Enhancement Project delivered by Liverpool, Chester and Oxford Brookes Business Schools is seeking to drive new understandings and practices.
Strategies and insights into impact so far
Within a ‘connected’ business and management knowledge ecosystem, we already have insights as to how students can influence the world through teaching practice. For example, scholars in the British Journal of Management highlighted the key roles of dialogue, reflexivity, and temporality:
- Dialogue - students and staff talking through workplace challenges and opportunities, and engaging relevant ideas, concept and theories, can help develop organisational practices. This is not just about applying new ideas, but about the ideas that are sparked and prompted by those ideas (see provocative theory).
- Reflexivity - talking alone may well further entrench ways of working, so it is the ability of business teaching and learning to reveal or challenge manager assumptions and perspectives which creates greater potential for impact.
- Temporality - impact appears to be linked to time; the longer management teaching and learning is engaged in an organisational space, the evidence appears to suggest there is greater potential for impact from trust and the deeper awareness of the issues.
While this research gives ideas as how to tackle impact through teaching, it also raises pedagogical questions which will be explored through the project:
- Dialogue - who and where does this dialogue take place in part time studies, especially as students will often be learning at a distance? Does this help shape the types of projects and assessments?
- Reflexivity - which particular tools are more effective in revealing or challenging assumptions in organisations? To what extent are these implemented in projects, and how do academic assessments reflect the values around organisational impacts?
- Temporality - to what extent is the length of a programme facilitating or hindering certain types of impacts? How might it influence trust in developing the deeper levels or transformative aspects of change?
Impacts on sustainability: An entrepreneurial perspective
When we examine these impacts, and returning to the question of impact raised at the start of this piece, to what extent are practices promoting sustainability-related impacts, for the greater good in society? Specifically, what do we do in our business and management teaching and learning practices which actively promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in organisations?
The United Nations’ Principles of Responsible Management Education initiative has been foregrounding the SDGs for some time now through networks of champions and signatories, but to what extent are they now part of the culture of business education? Are they apparent in the assessed work of part-time students creating impact in their professional life? Or does work-based learning remain technically oriented around fiscal efficiencies?
In the context of part-time students balancing multiple workloads, we recognise the challenges of impact through time or resource limited students, and liken it to the activities of entrepreneurs, either starting a business or who drive change in organisations (as ‘intrapreneurs’). Here, we see the aspects of creating ideas and opportunities for creating social and environmental value, mobilising resources to realise those ideas and opportunities and putting this all into action to deliver that value (a description used for the everyday abilities for enterprise in Europe). Which of these competences are more apparent than others when we explore the different aspects of sustainability? And which do we think need to be addressed for future business and management knowledge ecosystems?
Whilst we will not answer all of our questions inspired by thinking about impact, sustainability and entrepreneurial abilities, this collective frame inspires us to explore what we are doing and develop a toolkit to help and inspire others in a broader community of practice which will last beyond the life of this initial project. We are examining the work of assessed work, and we will be gathering the views of practitioners as a platform to answer some of our big questions.
The Entre/Intre-preneur Toolkit & Community of Practice project team currently consists of:
- Associate Professor Lisa Rowe, Chester Business School
- Principal Lecturer Dr Simon M Smith, Oxford Brookes Business School
- Dr Fiona Armstrong-Gibbs, Lisa Knight, and Dr Fred Agboma, Liverpool Business School.
We expect the team to expand as our activity progresses, so please get involved.
- QAA Membership is also funding other Collaborative Enhancement Projects related to employability, enterprise, entrepreneurship and global citizenship - check them out via the web page.
- Subject Benchmark Statement: Business and Management