Michel Kalika, Director, BSIS, shares conclusions of the recent Business School Impact System (BSIS) Virtual Symposium
The 2021 BSIS Symposium was organised through eight sessions that covered all the topics that business schools face today. During the last two weeks of April, 25 experts participated in the sessions and shared their experience on the impact of business schools. Eight videos from different schools gave the participants further testimonials about increasing and assessing impact.
The symposium’s conclusions were presented the day before 1 May, a day on which in some countries bunches of Lily of the valley are offered as a token of good luck. I am happy to offer all of you this bunch of Lilies of the Valley.
The first conclusion of the symposium is the need to distinguish between inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and impact. Indeed, very often when business schools talk about their impact, they mention activities or outputs. In order to identify the outcomes and impact, schools are now improving their information system and we can observe real changes in behaviours.
Several experts insisted on the necessary flexibility of impact assessment that is not an exercise of verification of the achievement of standards. An impact assessment is a contingency approach in which it is necessary to adapt to the status, the context, the country, etc. of the business school.
The question of the impact zone(s) is a very important one, the impact of a business school depends of course on the impact zone(s) that are considered. Once the impact zone is specified, it is possible to identify the role of the business school in its ecosystem, the different relationships that it has created and their strengths. Wilfred Mijnhardt from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University enriched the discussion by proposing the wheel of the ecosystem, a visual representation of a school’s ecosystem.
Institution’s mission and strategic positioning
During the symposium, it also became quite clear that impact assessment is strongly related to the mission, the strategy and the organisation of the school. When we ask questions about impact, the answer of the business school is very often formulated in terms of decisions regarding strategic positioning and their implementation.
Impact assessment requires a cultural change inside the business school and that, more than just figures, it is a question of a narrative around the impact of the business school.
Of course, several experts and testimonies quoted the necessity of clearly identifying the stakeholders that are mainly concerned by an impact assessment. They can be internal or external to the school, but the impact assessment is very clearly done with them in mind. For those business schools that are part of a university, the mother organisation is often the first stakeholder to convince about the impact of the business school.
When looking at diversity from different perspectives, it becomes very clear that it is a strength that generates impact. Challenges and positive actions of business schools in the area of gender balance, internationalisation and social inclusion generated an active debate.
Impact and quality assurance
The important connection between impact and rankings and the different approaches of both rankings and business schools was the basis of an in-depth reflection. Although business school rankings are important reference points for some schools, in the same way as journal rankings are for faculty development, including impact criteria provides these rankings with more credibility. The pandemic has increased the speed of research, collaboration, as well as social relevance.
The link between impact assessment and accreditations is not straightforward. On the one hand, the objectives are not the same, but on the other hand, there is clearly an overlap in the information that is collected. Working through an interesting case presented by HEC Liège and looking at how the created impact can be translated for accreditation purposes, made this very clear.
Different stakeholders look at business schools through the impact lens and the conversation between business schools and representatives of public authorities as well as companies provided insights into the increasing weight of impact on their strategies.
Finally, it is clear that impact assessment requires a cultural change inside the business school and that, more than just figures, it is a question of a narrative around the impact of the business school.