Stephanie Schmidt

An Inclusive Business Executive Education : A new program to bring out innovation and change

Do you remember some of your most productive learning moments as an adult? They likely involved solving problems that were relevant to your life or working environment, and in an informal atmosphere. Learning moments in the inclusive business field are no exception. I vividly remember some “accelerated” learning experiences like arriving in Rwanda with what I thought was a solid business plan for the production of essential oils with small-scale farmers and having to quickly understand how to deal with different types of players and dynamics at work. Or enlightening conversations with veteran social entrepreneurs who have developed powerful insights with years of problem solving on multiple challenges related to creation of social and economic value, for instance.

Today corporations increasingly realize that adopting more inclusive, sustainable and responsible business practices reinforce the positive impact they have on society at large, but also trigger new business opportunities with consumers, producers or suppliers. The motivation behind these efforts is diverse: corporate strategists learn about “untapped” markets at the base of the pyramid; R&D managers seek to develop new products or services; supply chain teams seek to source products in a way that is more sustainable and transparent; and finally, an increasing number of employees – from plant workers to CEOs seek to reconcile what they do at work and aspirations to leave a better planet for their children.

However, inclusive business efforts are often fragmented and spear-headed by small teams, if not individuals. Only a few companies manage to develop a vision of “social impact in a for-profit way” that is anchored throughout the organization. Based on interviews and a focus group that we conducted with Hystra with several corporations, we identified several specific training and on-going learning needs. First, for those few companies that seek to streamline a more inclusive approach throughout their business, the issue is how to quickly bring dozens of new project managers up to speed on these topics and to sensitize the functional/business managers affected by these new business approaches. Second, for those companies with established sustainability/ inclusive business functions, the dedicated team often feels the need to step back, share and connect with other practitioners in the field in order expand their knowledge, skills and networks.

In order to meet these needs, HEC Business School (ranked first globally in executive education by the Financial Times in 2013) – Ashoka, the largest global network of social entrepreneurs – and Hystra a leading consulting firm in hybrid strategies – have joined forces to launch an Executive Education program on Inclusive Business. The program, far away from the classroom, combines sessions about applied inclusive business strategy and operations, with experiential learning, peer learning and encounters with key stakeholders.

This one-week program includes two options respectively focused on emerging and Western country environments: Kenya from March 30-April 5, 2014 and Northern France from June 24-27, 2014 for a group of 20-25 participants each. In addition to corporate participants, we are targeting 25 percent of leaders from the social entrepreneurship sector, citizen or public sectors who are using the power of market-based approaches for solving social problems, and/or who are working with corporations to deliver social and economic value. The course will serve as the engine to grow a global community of inclusive business leaders as well as a hub to create and disseminate applied knowledge related to these topics.

We trust that this program can contribute to further building the field by enabling more companies to engage and more people within companies to be trained. Be part of this change by spreading the word in your networks and maybe being part of the first cohort for this fully certified course. P

Please check the program here and contact Juliette Carcano at Ashoka ( or Armelle Hellara at HEC ( for more information.

Stephanie Schmidt is currently launching Ashoka’s Full Economic Citizenship initiative (FEC) in Europe.