Beyond Sustainability: The Inspiration for AIM2Flourish

AACSB International's Dan LeClair talks with AIM2Flourish's executive director Roberta Baskin about the inspiration for AIM2Flourish, a project that aims to "shed a bright light across the planet looking at ways that companies are tackling [the UN's] Sustainable Development Goals," to benefit global society. is housed at the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit in the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.

October 2016

Dan LeClair: [00:00] What inspired the development of AIM2Flourish? What was the impetus?

Roberta Baskin: [00:16] This idea was percolating in David Cooperrider's mind for probably decades. At least more than a decade ago when I took his class on appreciative inquiry. He's one of the fathers of appreciative inquiry.

[00:28] I have, as a reporter, such a deficit based brain. Always thinking about problems, what's wrong. I couldn't wait to tell you about a company doing something bad. It is so refreshing to use this other part to kind of reconnect my synapses in a new way. To think about, "Well, who's doing it right? And where are they? And what are they doing? And how can we shine a bright light on that?"

[00:51] David's original idea, and he's an incredible visionary and missionary, was to think about a Nobel Prize for business. Why isn't there a Nobel Prize for business? Why not? What emerged was, why don't we celebrate the many rather than just taking one business and saying, "Look at this."

[01:10] Why not shed a bright light across the planet looking at ways that companies are tackling these Sustainable Development Goals, and giving students the opportunity to play the role of detective, do the research, write it up, and have this experiential learning?

[01:27] It's really transformative management education. They get out of the classroom. They do this work. They're inspired. The business leader is inspired. The world gets to read about what they've uncovered.

LeClair: [01:40] I remember at the Global Forum this past year, I think it was in June, you had just launched. You were pretty excited about that. Already you've begun to see the impact of some of your work?

Baskin: [01:56] Yeah. It's amazing. Actually when we first spoke, Dan, we were very much a pilot project and very beta. I still feel that we're beta. We're listening intently to what the professors give us in the way of feedback.

[02:10] We have monthly global calls on the third Wednesday of the month, where we listen to, "OK. What works, and what are the stories that you have to tell? And what kinds of questions do you have?"

[02:21] This professor community is networking with each other, also. We have learned that sometimes a job emerges with a student or a mentoring kind of relationship, where the student has told us that they feel they have somebody who's going to be there for them when they graduate.

isn't really enough. Sustainable is kind of like holding the line. Flourishing is going beyond, is really creating the kind of planet and place for humanity that we need.

[03:01] We do need to get rid of poverty and hunger. We do need to address water issues in the environment, gender equality, and peace. If we do all of that right, and it's the next business leaders that are going really be tasked with it, then the world's going to be OK.

LeClair: [03:20] What's next?

Baskin: [03:22] What's next for AIM2Flourish?

LeClair: [03:25] Yeah.

Baskin: [03:25] We're really interested in exploring languages. We feel that English is a popular language, but not the only language out there. Some of the feedback from professors have said that it would be easier if the students could work in their native language. One of the professors, George Dionne in Mexico, he completely translated the professor toolkit into Spanish.

[03:52] Some of the professors are acting like coaches for other professors. Isabel Rimanoczy is another professor here in Florida who is just amazing in terms of a visionary and somebody who's very creative in her thinking, big heart, and has really helped us expand the word to professors.

[04:14] We have five schools that have made AIM2Flourish a core curriculum requirement. Including David Cooperrider is using it with appreciative inquiry now, where the students automatically file their stories on AIM2Flourish.

LeClair: [04:31] How can other business schools get involved with it?

Baskin: [04:33] Oh, please. Yes.

LeClair: [04:36] We work with a lot of them. 1,500 business schools in 90 countries.

Baskin: [04:40] Case Western Reserve University is one of them.

LeClair: [04:43] Sure.

Baskin: [04:44] We are really hopeful that other universities will also pick this initiative up. It belongs to the world. We are here to help. We have a very tiny mighty little staff. We have these professors who are excited about how it's working and are also sharing what works and tweaking as we go.

[05:08] I invite anybody watching this to go to AIM number 2 flourish dot com. Create a profile. Just take a look under the hood.

LeClair: [05:18] Start to learn. Yeah. Start to learn about it.

Baskin: [05:22] Join us.