Ivey initiative ships business knowledge worldwide
By Paul Mayne
February 13, 2014
In just six weeks, one African university has fast-forwarded decades, thanks to the Ivey Business School’s 39 Country Initiative.
A nine-tonne shipment of more than 436 boxes of course packs, journals, books and business cases – totaling more than 10,000 items – has made its way from London to Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa University. The university plans to use the books to bring its business education into the modern era.
“It’s not just the volume of books, but the quality of the books,” said Yamlaksira Getachew, an Ivey Business School PhD candidate (General Management) and former faculty member at Addis Ababa. “When I was working there, we would have books from the 1950s, or the 1980s at the latest, and be using them as textbooks. There were no journals I could refer to do research.
“This shipment will prove to be beneficial to the university. Those who want to make a difference in their teaching, by incorporating by the latest developments in their areas, they are going to find this very helpful.”
Ivey’s 39 Country Initiative makes educational materials more accessible in the least developed countries around the world. Of the 39 eligible countries, 32 are in Africa, with others including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia, Myanmar, Tajikistan and Haiti.
The idea for the program started in 2010 with the idea of making Ivey’s case studies available for free to business universities.
“What we realized was there were some limitations to its immediate use. Can they actually download it,” said Paul Beamish, director of Ivey’s Engaging Emerging Markets Research Centre. Access to computers in business schools in these countries can be limited.
For instance, only two students owned laptops among a class of 30 Getachew taught at Addis Ababa. The school of 3,000 students just five or six total computers in its library. “Plus, the access for Internet is very low,” he added.
“It was not enough to simply make the cases available, we had to take it further,” Beamish said.
But the idea to ship tonnes of materials wasn’t even in the mix – at first.
“The situation is so dire we have to get a system where there are somehow multiple hard copies available to the students, so they quit wasting their lives cueing up to take turns reading a single copy,” he continued. “If we can get multiple copies, that are permanently available in their libraries, then the students in these countries can be much more productive with their time.
“One of the acute problems in the really poor countries is a poor level of productivity. It is hard to get anything done when you’re poor.”
Many of these schools have experienced gradual progress over the years. But a large influx of materials is a “game changer.”
“These libraries have never grown in one great swoop like this. This is a really dramatic shift in terms of the content that’s there,” Beamish said. “In business, we call it a ‘step-function increase.’ In terms of the ability to do a better job, to be more productive, at the student and faculty level, it is tremendous.”
During the first half of 2013, prior to the move to the new Ivey Building, faculty and staff received a series of messages regarding the collection of materials for shipment. More than 1,000 faculty and students donated to the cause, with dozens of others around campus providing the remaining logistics. The $5,000 cost to ship the container to Ethiopia was covered through a private donor.
“It is hard to overstate the positive impact of this quantity of high-quality material for university-level education in one of the world’s 39 poorest countries,” Beamish said. “There is no question we can do it. Our objective now is to set up a model to show other business schools they can absolutely do this as well.”
Beamish said there is “no copyright” on the idea. He simply hopes it will catch on with other business schools.
A website, ivey.uwo.ca/centres/engaging/39-country-initiative, provides a blueprint to universities on how to mimic the program – from initiating the project and packing the boxes to loading a container and having the proper export forms.
“You don’t have to call it an ‘Ivey program.’ You can call it after yourself, I could not care less,” Beamish said. “We (Canadian universities) have such an enormous volume of content that we take for granted – that we shouldn’t. In other parts of the world, there is a dire need, much more than we realize.
“Any school can do this if they want to. It’s doable.”
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