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My Highlights from the 2014 GBSN/EFMD Conference in Barcelona

Posted By Guy Pfeffermann, Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Since last year’s Tunis conference on Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship eleven business schools had joined GBSN, bringing the total above 70 across all continents. I was impressed and gratified that more than a hundred came together at short notice, as the conference had had to be moved from Ghana, to discuss management education for the developing world.

To me the most emotional moment was Rebecca Weintraub’s presentation about Harvard’s Global Health Delivery Project. GDHonline spans more than 182 countries. GDH communities focus on critical health issues and provides expert guidance that is credible, relevant and timely. She told us how Lorenzo Dorr, who was a Liberian physician’s assistant is training community health workers in rural Liberia in order to try to contain Ebola. What a tribute to the power of good management education!

I was also moved to see so many of our member school representatives come up with concrete commitments. This year, University St. Gallen invited ten doctoral students from the developing world to take part all expenses paid in their prestigious Summer School in Empirical Research Methods. To four young scholars from the Lahore School of Economics this was a life-changing experience. University St. Gallen pledged to repeat their invitation in 2015, and we will try to gear it to GBSN’s Ph D Mentoring Program, which started with students in Nigeria and Kenya. As you know, we have been trying to get an online Ph. D course off the ground, and I was hugely gratified when Jim Dean, Provost of the University of North Carolina, pledged to offer the world’s first on-line Ph D course for developing country candidates at low cost; I have no doubt that other top schools will then follow his example. Many other schools pledged action.  I was thrilled that the AACSB intends to work with GBSN in support of capacity-building for the developing world.

The gala dinner was emblematic of the conference itself: a succession of tapas and no main course; the conference was extremely lively, thanks in no small part to the virtual absence of formal speeches and only a couple of PowerPoint presentations. Instead, participants delved into small group discussions.  I was immersed in a discussion of experiential learning. Running successful MBA student teams is an art, and I learned much from some of the world’s top experts that will be useful to many business schools in the developing world. Tuck School and the American University in Cairo will pursue this topic in more depth in March at a GBSN Event in Egypt. 


The conference made me look back at my own journey. When I started GBSN, the notion that better management matters to development was an intuition rather than an established theory. At the time, the development community ignored the importance of management to raising standards of living (and is still, for the most part, ignoring it). A dozen years later, the theory has turned into reality. Empirical research shows that fully one-quarter of the productivity gap between rich and poor countries can be attributed to differences in the quality of management.

In other words, what business schools teach has a direct bearing on improving the living standards of the world. I feel really motivated when I see the impact of management education on African health institutions, and for this I thank all my friends and colleagues who are broadening and deepening the developing world’s pool of well-trained leaders, managers and entrepreneurs.

Guy Pfeffermann is the Founder & CEO of the Global Business School Network

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