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LBS Innovation Series – Is Australia prepared?

Professor of Practice in economics at LBS, Dr Mark Cloney, asks: what are the key drivers of innovation, disruption and opportunity in the global food production and agribusiness sectors? Any why have the Dutch got it so right?

Changing consumer demand, particularly in Asia, corporatisation of farming, automation on farms and in processing, agtech and advances in the Internet of Things (IoT), digitalisation of supply chains, agricultural science advances, and the emergence of vertical farming are just some of the drivers changing the dynamics of the global food production and agribusiness[1].

The Netherlands

Are Australia’s food producers and agribusiness well-informed and placed to understand these challenges and to gain from the opportunities they offer? Countries like The Netherlands certainly are[2]. Despite its relative size, the Dutch are the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural products at $158 billion, or three times Australia’s exports[3]. Together with the USA and Spain, The Netherlands is one of the world’s three leading producers of vegetables and fruit supplying a quarter of the vegetables that are exported from Europe. Why? The Dutch are forward-looking, highly innovative and collaborative and have achieved worldwide recognition for their research, infrastructure and innovation systems. For example, Wageningen University and Research (WUR) is the number 1 agricultural university in the world for the third year in a row according to The National Taiwan Ranking of over 300 universities; while, 5 of the top 26 global agri-food companies have R&D facilities in The Netherlands[4].

Australia

So where does Australia stand in comparison? Nationally, the food and agribusiness sector employed approximately 522,000 persons and there were approximately 178,500 businesses trading in the sector (as at June 2015). According to the Australian Government’s Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda[5], food production and agribusiness are areas of competitive strength for Australia. Australia’s food and agribusiness sector includes food-related agricultural production, food processing and the major inputs to these activities. This includes: food products, processing and beverage manufacturing as well as key inputs; and, agribusiness that relates directly to food production and their supply chains.

La Trobe’s AgriBio Centre

La Trobe University has demonstrated a strong commitment to helping Australia create a vibrant future for those involved in the production of food, fibre and agribusiness. La Trobe plays its role in building human capital and undertaking R&D and scientific research that supports the food and agribusiness innovation system. For example, La Trobe’s AgriBio Centre brings together world-class research in the largest agricultural R&D organisation in Victoria. La Trobe recently announced funding of $50 million for its new La Trobe Institute for Agriculture and Food focused on solutions for global food security.  La Trobe is also a founding member and financial contributor to Melbourne’s Northern Food Group a partnership with the Victorian government, 5 local governments, 4 tertiary institutes, Yarra Valley Water, Melbourne Innovation Centre, and the Melbourne Market Authority among others.

LBS/NORTHLink Innovation in Food and Agribusiness Forum

So how can Australia’s food producers and agribusiness prepare themselves against ever increasing disruption, and better collaborate with world class researchers and scientists in this field? These are some of the questions being explored at the Innovation in Food and Agribusiness Forum organised by LBS in partnership with NORTHLink. The focus of the Forum is on hearing from industry speakers of successful innovation in the food production and agribusiness sector. It will present industry and government perspectives on how we can continue to improve innovation in this sector, particularly for SMEs and start-ups operating in a global context.

In particular, the Forum offers an opportunity to explore how we create the right collaborative partnerships and environment for food production and agribusiness to succeed globally in an era of increased disruption. Maybe we just need some Dutch courage!

 

References:

 

This blog is part of the LBS Innovation Series, developed by Dr Mark Cloney, Professor of Practice in Economics in the La Trobe Business School. The series was developed after the successful National Innovation Forum organised by La Trobe Business School, NORTH Link and Deloitte Consulting P/L.

More blogs in the LBS Innovation Series:

Exploring Vietnam

The Tourism and Hospitality International Study Program (THS3ISP) went on another successful Vietnam Study Tour.

About the tour

La Trobe Business School, in cooperation with Hanoi University offers students studying Bachelor of Business (Tourism and Hospitality), Bachelor of Business (Event Management) and Bachelor of Business Event Management/Marketing) an opportunity to visit Vietnam for a period of two weeks as an optional elective.

The objective of the study tour is to examine and observe the cultural, social and environmental aspects as a tourist, the impacts of government policy and the legacy of war. Vietnam has a very ‘dark’ history due to its strategic location between China and western societies and is therefore an ideal case study for political, cultural and tourist industry examination.

The assessment tasks include a case study relating to war and ethics, a daily reflective journal, a formal report evaluating the differences between the hotel and restaurant standards of Australia and Vietnam, and a group presentation based on photo journal on a given topic.

Who participated?

Itinerary

Students flew to Ho Chi Minh and started their trip with a city tour of Old Saigon where they visited the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Reunification Palace and the Opera House. They also visited the Cu Chi Underground Tunnel and the former site of the Australia’s Nui Dat Task Force base.

Visit to the Australian war memorable

 

Besides visiting sites in Ho Chi Minh, the students also attended lectures at the university.

University of Ho Chi Minh City

From Ho Chi Minh, the group travelled to Danang for a walking tour through Hoi An Old Town and a Vietnamese cooking class. Students also experienced a behind the scenes tour of the hotel they were staying in, the Vinh Hung Emerald, by the Resort Manager.

Meeting Mr Han – The General Manager

The trip then continued to Hue, including a boat ride on the Perfume River visiting the Thien Mu Pagoda and a tour of the Imperial City of the former emperor. The last leg of the trip included a guided tour of Hanoi and also an overnight cruise of Ha Long Bay, including a crispy spring roll cooking class.

Overnight Cruise at Halong Bay

Benefits for students

The experiences and benefits students take away from this trip are countless. Some of the benefits for students are: experiencing a different culture from a tourist’s perspective, immersing themselves into the culture including learning some of the language and eating the local cuisine. Students also gain a deep appreciation of the legacy of war, experiencing different religions, visiting World Heritage sites, meeting managers of hotels, supporting charity restaurants, visiting other universities and meeting local students. It provides a great opportunity for students to make new friends as no-one knew each other prior to the trip.

Find out more information about the Tourism and Hospitality International Study Program (THS3ISP)

The “Aldi way”

LBS researcher Dr Angela McCabe and Dr Tom Osegowitsch (University of Melbourne), wrote an article for The Conversation on the secret to Aldi’s success.

Aldi’s strategy

An important element of Aldi’s strategy is a severely limited range of “preselected” products, overwhelmingly private brands. The company’s smaller range (some 1,500 store-keeping units as opposed to 20,000 to 30,000 in a large Coles or Woolworths outlet) has several advantages – in terms of store footprints, warehousing infrastructure and supplier discounts, to name a few.

Strategy has limits

In embracing the “Aldi way”, the company has made hard strategic choices. But it’s turning away shoppers who value things other than what’s on offer at Aldi – larger choice, established brands, more service, plusher stores, in-store bakeries and delis or expanded fresh food sections. As a result, Aldi’s growth in Australia is going to reach its limits.

Read the full article here:

The secret to Aldi’s success is choosing what not to do

 

Angela McCabe is a Lecturer in the Department of Management, Sport and Tourism at La Trobe University. Angela McCabe’s research focuses on the mechanism of knowledge transfer and knowledge co-production in cross-sector collaboration. Her work has contributed to understanding the way in which behavioural and institutional dynamics affect teamwork and the production and dissemination of knowledge within university-industry-government networks.

Jamila Gordon – How LTU can make dreams come true

LBS alumna, Jamila Gordon, was interviewed by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD). The interview shows the amazing story of a Somali refugee who is now a high profile Non-Executive Director at Jayride & Advisory Board Member at Venture Crowd. Jamila sat on the university’s Board for five years and sits now on the Board of CareerSeekers, a not-for-profit that helps refugees and asylum seekers find roles within corporate Australia.

From Somalia to La Trobe

Jamila’s family had to flee her home country because of the Somali Civil War. She stayed in Kenya with distant relatives before she met an Australia backpacker who would help her emigrate to Australia. Her dream of going to university almost fell apart when every university in Sydney rejected her. La Trobe University, known for providing educational opportunities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, accepted Jamila. She became part of the LBS community studying a bachelor of Business (Information Technology).

In the interview Jamila talks about her journey and her career but also about how LTU taught her big-picture thinking, and mentions the great support she received from La Trobe University.

“Not only did they help me, they provided amazing support.”

Read the full article: What I’ve Learned: Jamila Gordon

Meet the new Dean and Head of LBS

Jane Hamilton is the new Dean & Head of the La Trobe Business School.  Business Newsroom sat down with her to ask her some questions about her long-standing relationship with LBS, her new role, taking on challenges, how she relaxes, and more.

 

 

Where do you come from and what brings you to La Trobe University?

I was a student at La Trobe University, at the Bendigo campus. Back then it was still the Bendigo College of Advanced Education, which became part of La Trobe in the 1990s. After finishing my degree I joined the staff as a tutor, and gradually worked my way up. I have been associated with La Trobe for about 30 years. I took an opportunity to work at the University of Technology in Sydney from 2000 to 2005 because I wanted more experience and exposure with my research. But after that, I came back to La Trobe because it is a great place to work.

 

How will you be approaching your new role as Head of School?

Being part of the LBS for nearly 30 years means that I’m very familiar with what we do. However, this is a new role for me so it gives me the opportunity to help LBS find a new direction for the future, and we’re working on a strategy to help us do that. We want to keep everything that’s good about LBS and build upon that. This means providing education that meets students’ expectations for the new world of work, help students get interesting jobs and prepare them for anything that might come to them in the future. I want all LBS students to have a fantastic experience with us.

In terms of research, LBS has great strengths in several areas. We have a number of research centres, and we would like to see them flourish. In particular, the two largest ones, the Centre for Sport and Social Impact and the Research Centre for Data Analytics & Cognition, are well connected with outside parties. We also have many academics that are experts in their fields and very highly rated internationally. Several of our research disciplines are rated above world standard and I would like to support them to keep continuing their good work.

Several of our staff come in as early career researchers. I would like to help them develop their skills in research so that they too can have a career in research. I would like them to have a satisfying career, feel connected within the school, have the possibility to engage with business and the community around them and allow them to produce research that is meaningful in a variety of ways. Their work might impact the way people do business, it might impact on the academic research field, or impact on people’s personal lives. There is a wide range of research happening within LBS and we need to support that to make our research output even stronger.

 

What do you know now that you wished you knew when you were a student at university?

I just loved being a student. Up until then, it was the most interesting thing that I had done, it was a joy to challenge myself and learn new things.

I wish I would have had a little bit more self-belief. When I started doing research I was so nervous about standing up in front of people and presenting my ideas. I didn’t know whether I had done a good job or not. Looking back, I did a good job and I just wish I had more confidence and more belief in myself.

 

Have you always been ambitious?

Yes and no. It’s not so much about ambition. I never thought I would be in a particular position, I wasn’t ambitious in that sense, but I do enjoy taking on new things and I think all ambitious people do. I think ambitious people enjoy the process of learning. Taking on a new position like this is where I get that joy of learning. When you’re a student all is new, and then when you’re in a job for too long it can get a bit stale, so you need to give yourself a new challenge and that’s what I like to do. You take on a challenge, you master that, and take on another challenge and you master that, and that constant stretching helps you develop.

I didn’t know that I was going to end up in this position, going from an LBS student to becoming the Dean & Head of School for LBS. It was quite a journey and I probably didn’t know what I was going to do, but every step of the way I challenged myself and took on that stretch, and it was very rewarding. I learnt this process over the years so probably if I knew this back then I would have taken more steps earlier, but that’s life.

 

What do you do to get rid of stress?

Lately I have been going for runs and I have been really enjoying it. If I don’t feel like running, I’ll go for a walk. I enjoy getting up early and going out. It helps me to get into work fresh and feel prepared for a long day ahead.

During my weekends I like to go outside and work on our bush block, walk around in nature, something like that. I don’t do very ambitious things, I like to do something that is out of work and outside. Just get basic, not having to talk to people or think about things too much. It gives me that contrast with my job.

I like to take at least one day during my weekend where I turn everything off so that I can just have that break. I work quite long days during the week, and sometimes you need to do some work on the weekend to get ready on Monday, but I do try and work really hard during the week so that I can have a bit of space on the weekend. Taking a break is important.

 

Last question, if people come across you at the coffee-machine, what’s a good conversation starter?

“Can I get you a coffee?” and I will always say yes! A simple “how are you today?” is also fine, ask me what I think of the cricket, or the footy. That will get me engaged in a conversation.

 

Professor Jane Hamilton was appointed as Dean and Head of La Trobe Business School in April 2018 and brings a wealth of experience and expertise to this important leadership position. Jane is a Professor of Accounting and holds a PhD from Monash University and a Masters of Accountancy from the University of New England, having completed her undergraduate studies in Bendigo. She brings a unique perspective to the role of Head of School, having worked at La Trobe’s Bendigo campus since 1989. Jane was Associate Head of the Business School from 2015 to 2018 and had responsibility for regional campus operations, international partnerships, and third-party teaching. As well as her experience in senior management positions, Jane has a distinguished record of teaching, research and partnership engagement at both La Trobe University and the University of Technology, Sydney.

LBS Innovation Series: Universities’ engagement with industry

Australia must get better at creating meaningful collaboration between universities and business. The Federal Government flagged innovation in Australia as a major policy focus with its $1.1 billion National Science and Innovation Agenda in November 2015. Dr Mark Cloney, Professor of Practice in Economics in the La Trobe Business School, shares his thoughts on creating meaningful collaboration between universities and business.

Bringing industry into the classroom

One way La Trobe Business School is working towards better engagement with industry is through hiring Professors of Practice. A concept born out of the school’s strategic decision to adopt an approach focused on bringing industry into the classroom. Professors of Practice, such as myself, are experienced practitioners in a relevant field of professional practice. We teach subjects and courses that provide a high quality and industry relevant learning experience.

Before I joined LBS, I was the Senior Executive Officer responsible for enterprises management, business planning, audit and protective security in the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water. My experience leads me to be able to develop innovative teaching programs in the economics discipline and risk management practice that enhance the student learning experience, and enhance their career-readiness.

Bringing research into the market

Besides bringing industry experience into the classroom, we also build relationships by organising events where academia and industry can come together. The National Innovation Forum organised by La Trobe business School, NORTH Link and Deloitte Consulting P/L is a great example of such an event. More than 90 business, local government, academic and industry group representatives from Australia and internationally discussing the question:

 

How can we create sustainable bonds between universities, business and not for profits with a view towards creating a more mature innovation culture and ecosystem?

 

The discussions on strengthening collaboration are centred on maintaining industry-university connections and relationships through regular engagement and dialogue and the use of accelerators and incubators. Thus, universities need to create open collaborative spaces and networks with industry where there is potential to commercialise ideas.

This implies that each side needs to engage far beyond the traditional exchange of research for funding model. The implication is that we need strategic partnerships that better blend the research-driven culture of the university with the innovation/data-driven environment of business.

 What more can universities do?

Forum delegate discussions and feedback show that some of the key points universities could consider in enhancing their engagement with industry are:

  • Streamline the decision making processes in terms of entering into collaborative arrangements with industry i.e. make it easier and break down barriers.
  • Changing the incentive system for academics to be equally rewarded for their industry engagement/collaboration as they are for their research.
  • Focus on talking the same language as industry (i.e. business practice) rather than academic theory (shaped by the need to publish).
  • Have a clear path of entry and handling strategy for business’ seeking collaboration opportunities.
  • Hold regular events that give business an opportunity to access and learn about its research and R&D activities.
  • Facilitate more frequent industry engagement/dialogue including events such as the National Innovation Forum which begin to bridge the gaps.
  • Introduce staff industry placements/secondments.
  • Work with industry on developing work-in-learning opportunities to develop more business ready graduates.
  • Establish quicker processes for changing curriculum and subject offering in response to industry need and the changing nature of work.
  • Offer all students opportunity to learn entrepreneurial skills i.e. to nurture start-ups and innovation.

La Trobe University, and La Trobe Business School, are already very active in many of these areas (e.g. La Trobe Accelerator Program; Professors of Practice, Work Integrated Learning and Placements; Industry and Community Engagement; Research and Innovation Precinct etc.) but we can always strive to do better.

 

Read the full NIF 17 Summary Report

  

This blog is part of the LBS Innovation Series, developed by Dr Mark Cloney, Professor of Practice in Economics in the La Trobe Business School. The series was developed after the successful National Innovation Forum organised by La Trobe Business School, NORTH Link and Deloitte Consulting P/L.

More blogs in the LBS Innovation Series:

LBS Innovation Series: Introduction

Business Newsroom brings you the LBS Innovation Series, developed by Dr Mark Cloney, Professor of Practice in Economics in the La Trobe Business School.

National Innovation Forum

The goal of the LBS is to teach and produce research that has a positive impact on the ideas and views of our leaders of tomorrow in business, government, and not-for-profit organisations. With that in mind, LBS organised the first National Innovation Forum (NIF) last year in collaboration with NORTH Link and Deloitte Consulting P/L. More than 90 businesses, local government, academics and industry group representatives from Australia and internationally came together to explore how we can create sustainable bonds between universities with a view towards creating a more mature innovation culture and ecosystem.

Key themes discussed during the NIF Forum were:

  • The role of incubators and accelerators in engaging start-ups and SMEs and connecting university-industry innovation.
  • Global forces shaping opportunities for business (including start-ups and SMEs) over the coming decade.
  • Business perspectives on the opportunities and barriers to university-industry collaboration.
  • Changing nature of business models and start-up tools.
  • Developing business environments where innovation can thrive.

Mark has compiled the discussions on these key themes and turned it into the LBS Innovation Series, giving you the latest news, information and developments in the innovation space.

 

Watch Mark’s introduction to the LBS Innovation Series:

What is innovation?

Kenneth Morse explains innovation as ideas or invention plus commercialisation. So innovation adds value for consumers, but it can’t do this if it remains an idea or an unknown invention. It’s the idea plus the commercialisation of that idea or invention that leads to innovation.

What is the importance of innovation to social and economic change?

According to Klaus Schwab we have entered a fourth industrial revolution and like the three previous industrial revolutions, we are in the midst of a profound change to our economic and social structures.

The first industrial revolution from the 1760s was built on the construction of railroads and mechanical inventions such as the steam engine; the second in the 1860s on mass production and the harnessing of energy in the form of electricity; while the third from the 1960s was built on digital or computer revolution. These revolutions caused radical disruption and change. This is because the core of all these shifts are innovation and new technology that reformulate the traditional models of economic growth and societal structures.

The Fourth industrial revolution

The fourth industrial revolution (or 4.0) began in the 1990s and is characterised by new digital technologies and devices, platform economics, metadata manipulation, WIFI and the Internet of things, by cheaper, smaller and more powerful sensors, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

“How will revolution 4.0 play itself out? What are the key drivers? What opportunities does it offer? How can we manage the risk to society of the disruption it brings?”

The aim of the series is to explore these questions and gain useful insight that inform the ideas and views of our leaders of tomorrow. Watch this space for some great presentations by the following key players:

  • Mark shares his thoughts on creating meaningful collaboration between universities and business.
  • Antonio Palanca, CEO and Co-founder the HiveXchange, talks about his start-up science story.
  • Kate Burleigh, former Managing Director of Intel Australia/NZ and now country manager of Amazon Alexa Skills across Australia and New Zealand, looks at why students and businesses with a global mindset are more likely to succeed within the digital era.
  • Craig Scroggie, CEO NEXTDC – Australia’s leading Data-Centre-as-a-Service provider, welcomes us to the 4th Industrial Revolution.
  • Dr Stephan Buse, Deputy Director of the Institute for Technology and Innovation Management (TIM) at Hamburg University of Technology, views Academia-Industry collaboration and engagement, and how universities can strengthen firms’ innovative ability.
  • David Williamson, CEO Melbourne Innovation Centre gives us a case study in innovation.
  • Christine Christian, Chairman of Kirwood Capital, a Director of FlexiGroup Limited, ME Bank Limited, Lonsec Fiscal Group, Victorian Managed Insurance Authority and New-York based Powerlinx Inc, discusses the critical factors that determine why start-ups succeed (and fail).
  • Nick Kaye, founding Chief Executive Officer of the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship, explains how the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship (SSE) came about.
  • Dr. Ben Mitra-Kahn, Chief Economist at IP Australia, elaborates on the University-industry collaboration and IP.
  • Christine Axton, Director in Monitor Deloitte’s Strategy practice, gives us answers to questions such as “how do companies hold on to their ability to innovate? And how do they achieve, and keep, an innovation premium in the market?”

 

Dr Mark Cloney is Professor of Practice in economics at the LBS. Prior to joining La Trobe, Mark was the Senior Executive Officer responsible for enterprises management, business planning, audit and protective security in the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water. Mark teaches in the economics discipline and risk management practice.

Why risk management is so crucial the start-up economy

Traditionally business risk management has been used to reduce and better understand the likelihood and uncertainty various ‘events’ can have on businesses achieving their objectives e.g. financial uncertainty, legal liabilities, strategic management decisions, cyber threats, accidents, natural disasters and business continuity etc. Increasingly, however, business risk methods are being incorporated into new start-up sciences, business design and prototype testing for new ideas, products and services well before firms go to market. Application of these risk based start-up sciences is also a key strategy to help new start-ups attract potential investors by minimising investor risk.

Disruption

The global business environment is being driven by new digital technologies and disruption. This includes 3D printing, quantum computing, blockchain, artificial intelligence and new platform economics led by Facebook, Google, Uber, and Alibaba etc. (see Klaus Schwab, 2016, The Fourth Industrial Revolution). It continues to be a problem, however, that a lot of entrepreneurs and start-ups fail because they do not clearly understand the ‘risks’ associated with their business proposition from the start. In this context they waste time, money, resources and effort building the wrong product or service for the wrong market at the wrong time.

Risk mitigation and systematically de-risking

So increasingly building a successful product and business is essentially about risk mitigation and systematically de-risking your business model overtime by identifying and testing the problem your product or service is attempting to solve. Applying more rigorous start-up scientist helps reduce the ‘risk ‘of business failure. The approach requires you to develop a feasible solution and prototypes and to try out on consumers to give feedback before launching the final product to the market. Start-up sciences include Design Thinking, Lean Canvas and Innovator’s Method etc. to reduce risks and manage uncertainty across the key end-to-end start-up design process.

For example, in 2012, Ash Maurya redesigned Osterwalder’s earlier Business Model Canvas to develop his Lean Canvas idea.  The Business Model Canvas provided a template describing nine essential elements of an existing business: customer segments, value propositions, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, resources, activities, partnerships, and costs. Maurya’s Lean Canvas is a one-page business modelling tool that helps increase the probability of success by starting with the customer and using information or data derived from business-model hypotheses to lower risk and reduce uncertainty.

National Innovation Forum

At the La Trobe Business School/NORTH Link National Innovation Forum held in September 2017 a number of business leaders, consulting firms and academics came together to discuss Australia’s innovation system and how to increase innovation particularly for start-ups and SMEs. Several of the presentations chose to focus on the use of start-up science as a means to reduce business risk and manage business uncertainty.

For example, Antonio Palanca, CEO and Co-Founder of the HiveXchange presented a case study on his business, which has created a new form of business-to-business e-commerce called trust-based e-commerce, which is designed specifically to meet the challenges in perishable produce supply chains. Palanca described the company’s journey and how the use of Lean Canvas methodology shaped field experiments and prototypes to reveal problems early that became the foundation of HiveXchange’s trust based e-commerce software. Palanca explained that the benefit of this approach was that as you go through the stages you reduce risk and therefore become more attractive to investors and you can drive more commercial innovation on a global scale.

Similarly, Christine Axton, Director in Monitor Deloitte’s strategy practice, presented a short overview the innovator’s method and illustrated its application in a case study. Based on the work of Nathan Furr and Jeff Dyer (2014) the innovator’s method is designed to help firms to specifically manage uncertainty in the innovation process. The innovator’s method offers a set of tools and methods to consider and test uncertainty at each of the end-to-end innovation process steps.

Several other presenters at the Forum referenced Eric Ries’ book The Lean Start-up: Creating Growth through Innovation, as a major influence on their business or teaching practice. The thrust of Ries’ book is that start-ups tend to be much higher-risk endeavours than they need to be because they build elaborate products before testing them with consumers. Applying Ries’ build, measure lean-loop, allows firms to reduce waste, optimise production processes and find out what their customers really want before they go to market.

 

What the above illustrates is that the traditional application of business risk methods and tools are changing. The future of business risk management is no longer just seen as a method to identify, assess and control threats to an existing firm’s systems, people, capital and earnings.  It is increasingly used as a key part of the start-up science that is nurturing a new generation of start-up businesses and de-risk businesses overtime.

 

This Blog is written by Dr Mark Cloney and originally published in Risk Management Institute of Australasia (RMIA), The Risk Magazine, No.3, March 2018, p.20. Read the full magazine here. Mark is Professor of Practice in Economics at the LBS. Prior to joining La Trobe University, Mark was the senior executive officer responsible for enterprises’ risk management, business planning, audit and protective security in the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water. Mark teaches in the economics discipline and risk management practice.

Developing a Sustainability Disposition

In 2008, La Trobe Business School (LBS) was one of the first schools to become a Signatory to PRME. LBS has been actively engaged in both embedding responsible management within its school as well as contributing to the PRME network. LBS is starting their second term as a PRME Champion. Ten years on, LBS was selected to be a PRME Champion along with 38 other business schools from across the world who are taking transformative action on integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into three key areas: curriculum, research and partnerships.

In 2015, LBS put in place a second year subject focused on Sustainability which is mandatory for all students enrolled in any Business Degree at La Trobe University. Because of its focus on developing a sustainability disposition in students rather than just educating them about the issues, the course has been very well received by students and continues to be an exemplar of cross-disciplinary subject content within the School.  PRIMEtime interviewed Dr Swati Nagpal  about this innovative course.

Dr Swati Nagpal receiving the LBS Award in recognition of her continual support of the PRME initiative

 

What is La Trobe Business School’s approach to sustainability in the classroom?

LBS understands the obligation as an institution to advocate for responsible management education throughout the school; in its four departments and its research centres, and by advocating and supporting responsible management initiatives and operations across the university.

A patchwork of subjects addressing Sustainability Education in Business degree courses at La Trobe was replaced in 2015 by a core second year subject entitled ‘BUS2SUS – Sustainability’, for all students enrolled in any Business degree. More than 2,500 students are now enrolled in this compulsory subject every year.

The subject is based on a blended learning design that allows for greater scalability across the entire portfolio of majors within Business and across all our campuses in Australia and abroad. With sustainability as the lens or context for change, students are introduced to systems thinking, tools for solving wicked problems, and the role of advocacy in managing change for sustainability.

How have you approached the design and delivery of this core course?

The process of embedding sustainability thinking into the core business curriculum presented a number of challenges, including distinguishing sustainability from related streams of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and non-financial measurement and reporting. The curriculum design was ultimately guided by the need for a future set of skills, rather than by identifying disciplinary content that business graduates might require. These skills include critical thinking, creative problem solving, ethical awareness and teamwork. For example, by working in small groups in class, and engaging with ‘wicked’ global sustainability issues such as climate change, global poverty and renewable energy, students are required to apply a systems lens to examining the true nature of the issues and potential solutions.

There is also an emphasis on creating a ‘safe space’ in classes to tackle often controversial social and environmental issues such as indigenous disadvantage in Australia, the refugee crisis and the potential for a sugar tax. This has required class teachers to be briefed and trained in pedagogical techniques that require reflexive practice and approaches to manage conflict.

The course puts a focus on developing a sustainability disposition. Why do you think this is important?

Research on education for sustainability, student surveys and teaching feedback have taught us that developing graduate skills for sustainability is not enough to create the impetus required for students to be change agents for sustainability, there also needs to be an emphasis on creating a ‘mindset’ change. This is enabled in the subject through use of a range of pedagogical design elements to create a learning environment that seeks to bring about this change. For example, through the use of case studies, examples and problem-based scenarios that require students to reflect on their underlying values base and question the status quo in management thought. As such, this subject places a focus on both generic graduate skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, while also creating the disposition towards sustainability and ethical decision-making.

How are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) embedded into this course?

Using the SDGs as a guide, students are introduced to the interplay between the social, environmental and economic pillars of sustainability, and the implications for ethically complex decision-making. Ultimately, educating students new to the SDGs places us in a unique position as the entry point in their educational experience. We believe this is critical in developing their awareness of global issues and challenges so that they can enter the workplace fully equipped to advance and implement policies and practices that will contribute to sustainable business.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

The question of whether business schools should approach embedding sustainability into core curriculum or as an elective has not been resolved to date. Our experience at LBS in taking the ‘core subject’ approach has been positive since we have the institutional support in terms of the University’s focus on sustainability and our historical emphasis and ethos of social justice. Therefore, gaining institutional support for furthering the sustainability agenda is key, along with the resources to make it happen.

The challenge in any modern business subject in sustainably is an emphasis on both the development of graduate skills and students’ disposition towards sustainability and ethical decision-making. This requires modern educators to span the boundary of the classroom and identify opportunities to engage with industry partners and other stakeholders to continuously produce innovative teaching materials and approaches that inspire and motivate students to pursue business ideas that align with the SDGs.

 

What other initiatives at your school you are particularly proud of in this area especially in relation to the SDGs.

In 2017, LBS embarked on a series of workshops that brought together delegates from business, local government, education, not for profit and community sectors to discuss what the SDGs mean for them, and create opportunities for collaboration among the sectors towards implementation of the goals.

This outreach project on the SDGs is an international effort by our CR3+ network which includes LBS and PRME Champions Audencia Nantes School of Management (Nantes, France), ISAE/FGV (Curitiba, Brazil) and Hanken School of Economics (Helsinki, Finland). All four business schools have committed to hosting similar workshops in their countries.

Two Australian workshops were held in Wollongong and Albury-Wodonga on 15/11/17 and 29/11/17 respectively. In addition to the original aims as set out in the project proposal, the choice to focus on regional areas was two-fold; firstly, to develop our regional campus’ capacity to build and sustain cross-sector engagement and partnerships on the theme of the SDGs, and secondly, to focus on areas where UN Global Compact Network Australia presence is limited.

This post is part of a special feature throughout the month of February focused on schools in Australia and New Zealand. This blog post was originally published on PRIMEtime. Read the original article.

 

LBS School Manager Donna Burnett receives 2017 Award for Excellence in School and Faculty Management!

By Donna Burnett

The ATEM Best Practice Awards for 2017 was held at the Arts Centre, with over 150 staff from Tertiary institutions throughout Aus and NZ.
Recognising professional management and administration in the Tertiary Education sector is fundamentally important not only to the staff recognised, but to the industry as a whole.

Whilst ATEM has worked extremely hard for 41 years to promote a culture where professional managers work to partner academics in the education enterprise, Universities in general still have a long way to go to achieve the same goal.

This award has sought to show that we are equal partners in the profession.

I have received an incredible amount of support from the Leadership team within the LBS and support from Managers within the College. This support has enabled me to grow and flourish in my role and has treated me as an equal partner in the operations of a large and multidisciplinary school.

Working together without hierarchical boundaries has enabled effective School Management, but has also broken down many barriers and allowed professional staff to have a voice in an Academic world.

 

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