Ashoka U Reflections

We Know Our Graduates Are Good, But Will They Do Good?

Published on: February 10, 2022 

Ashoka U Chief Network Officer Heather MacCleoud joined Alex Triantis, Dean of Johns Hopkins Carey Business School and Mette Morsing, Head of PRME (Principles of Responsible Management Education UN Global Compact) for a discussion about the potential of business schools at the 2022 AACSB Dean’s Conference.  
Adapted from session at the AACSB 2022 Deans Conference (Virtual) 

How can business schools better prepare learners to take on societal impact roles after graduation?

Convergence in accelerating technologies, demographic shifts, environmental disasters continue to illustrate our interconnectedness as a globally integrated society and continue to increase inequities around the world. 

The World Economic Forum (WEF) 2022 Global Risks Report noted that 89% of respondents “perceived the short-term outlook to be volatile, fractured, or increasingly catastrophic.” In addition, fully 84% of respondents expressed negative feelings about the future—that is, they were ‘concerned’ or ‘worried’. The WEF noted that such “[p]ervasive pessimism could create a cycle of disillusionment that makes galvanizing action even more challenging.”  

Why Social Impact? In addition to this pervasive pessimism, trust in governments and NGOs to address societal and global issues has continued to decline. The Edelman Trust Barometer 2022 noted that “Business is now looked to as the stabilizing force delivering tangible action and results on society’s most critical issues.” This means that “Societal leadership is now a core function of business.” 

What do you see as general commitment of business schools (from a mission and strategic plan perspective)?


Business schools need to ensure that their graduates are able to survive and thrive in our environment of constant change. These graduates also need to be prepared to work in business environments that are increasingly looked upon to address some of the world’s most challenging issues. This means that graduates must become “changemakers”. A changemaker is someone who is taking creative action to solve a social problem. Changemaking involves empathy, thoughtfulness, creativity, taking action and collaborative leadership

Changemaker: A changemaker is someone who is taking creative action to solve a social problem. Changemaking involves empathy, thoughtfulness, creativity, taking action and collaborative leadership. 

AACSB International (formerly the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accredits business schools around the world. In 2020, it incorporated societal impact into its accreditation standards. Within the context of these standards, societal impact “refers to the ways in which a business school’s mission and strategic plan guide actions that positively influence society—at local, regional, national, or international levels. Business schools are empowered to define impact objectives and strategies that align with the communities they serve.” 

In addition to preparing students to become changemakers, business schools as organizations may also be thought of as changemakers as they address societal issues.  

Strategy & Organizational Structure

How can business schools ensure they are positively influencing society? Business schools can begin by bringing “changemaking education” into both curricular and co-curricular activities. Changemaking Education is education with the belief that anyone and everyone can make a difference. It promotes innovation and collaboration to address the world's most pressing challenges.  

Changemaking Education: Education with the belief that anyone and everyone can make a difference. It promotes innovation and collaboration to address the world's most pressing challenges.  

However, in order to reach its potential for societal impact, a business school must also adopt a “culture of changemaking”. This ensures that changemaking education opportunities are integrated into the rest of the business school experience. This includes leadership, ongoing research and support of changemaking education, and the ways in which the school impacts its many constituencies: alumni, employers, faculty, donors, parents, and even regulators.  

A ”culture of changemaking” includes cognitive empathy, collaborative teamwork, systemic action, and shared leadership. It means that: 

  • change is iterative and ongoing;
  • experimentation is encouraged; and  
  • everyone contributes to change.

Has this commitment changed over time, particularly in the past two years?

Absolutely. The accelerating pace of change and converging issues make this commitment more urgent than ever! The visceral intersections of the COVID-19 pandemic with systemic societal inequities led to calls for significant social justice, reform, and reconciliation. Technological advances led to record-breaking vaccine development but also enabled a global shift to online learning and remote working virtually overnight. 

Does structure matter from perspective of outside organizations such as your own working with the business school; what do you think works best?

Yes, structure matters. In order to better prepare their students, business schools must embrace changemaking as both an educational framework and a framework for institutional change. In our work with business schools and some of the most innovative leaders for societal impact, we have learned that the most important aspect of an institution’s structure is its culture of changemaking as outlined above. 

How do you enable a culture of changemaking? You must: 

  • embed purpose in how you lead;   
  • engage with social impact partners;   
  • encourage social innovation; and  
  • institutionalize the change. 

Over the years we have found that doing the following is very helpful: 

  1. start with early adopters and experimentation (e.g., pilot projects); 
  2. identify patterns, engage with co-creators; 
  3. develop partnerships with key stakeholders; 
  4. leverage their strengths; 
  5. shift the narrative and expectations; and of course 
  6. institutionalize the change. 

What are some models of business schools working together with other entities on campus?

An Ashoka U Changemaker Campus is a designation given to an entire higher education institution. However, our work began in business schools with a focus on social entrepreneurship. Over the years as we have expanded our focus to embrace the entire campus, we have seen business schools spread their impact across their entire campuses as well. Some examples include: 

Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Guadalajara

Changemaker Campus since 2011 

  • Integrating changemaking across campus and now across LATAM 
  • Partners with local companies 
  • Hosts regional summits focused on changemaking education 
  • Hosts regional summits focused on changemaking in business 

The Tec 21 educational model developed at Tec de Monterrey, Campus Guadalajara will be adopted across all 25 Tec de Monterrey campuses with more than 90,000 students. It features challenge-based learning, flexibility/customization, inspiring professors, and memorable experiences.  

The Ashoka U resource Becoming a Changemaker Institution features campus examples on forming a campus-wide change team, supporting faculty, and semana i - a challenge-based innovation week, through which students participate in a real-world immersion project with a company or a civil society organization to promote a humanistic look and cultivate skills in leadership, collaboration, and communication.

Rollins College

Changemaker Campus since 2012   

  • Offers an undergraduate Social Entrepreneurship major and minor; this is an AACSB-accredited program taught from the lens of changemaking, social impact, and the UN SDGs.  
  • Offers a Market Your Experience resource, which is a summary of key take-aways from social entrepreneurship major; a list and explanation of transferable skills acquired through program activities/classwork; and sample resume action statements for experiences/skills acquired through the major.  

The Rollins Career and Life Planning office offers social Impact tags on internships and jobs, integrated into Handshake B2B eCommerce platform, with many social enterprise, non-profit, and CSR opportunities.  

Cornell University

Changemaker Campus since 2008  

  • Created a network map across their institution to identify and show connections of those that indicate their research or teaching connects with Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship.
  • Featured in guidebook Becoming A Changemaker Institution

Cornell created a Grand Challenges Program (aligned with UN SDGs) and leveraged the principles of an “engaged department” to shift “from individual faculty courses and faculty-staff silos to a collective culture of curricular redesign aligned with a common set of values, learning goals, and commitment to Cornell’s land grant mission of educating the next generation of global citizens for service".  

University of Maryland, College Park

Changemaker Campus since 2008  

  • Leading expertise in engaged learning, teaching, creativity, and human centered design.  
  • Hosts the Do Good Challenge to incentivize social problem solving and venture creation.

The Center for Social Value Creation (CSVC) is based in the School of Business  
Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship mission: "Our mission of engaging all 40,000+ UMD students in I&E stems from UMD’s vision and continual commitment to make I&E the highest priority. Achieving this goal requires an extended, campus-wide partnership."    

How can business schools work with your organizations to better train students and provide opportunities for growth (particularly for those who have relatively few activities already, and who may be stretched thin, financially/staff/faculty)?

To engage faculty, staff, and administrators:

Ashoka U has made access to its resources and publications free to encourage higher education institutions and stakeholders to integrate changemaking across programs and campuses. Our major publications share findings and best practices learned from over a decade of working with changemaking in higher education. The publications include: 

We have also made recordings from over 300 presentations from Ashoka U conferences freely available. 

Ashoka is a living encyclopedia of social innovation across the globe. Our changemaker community consists of 4,000+ Fellows, 100+ Young Changemakers, 250+ change institutions, and 300+ partners across more than 95 countries. The global Ashoka community offers convenings, publications, trainings, workshops, partnership development, and many other resources and opportunities for those interested in changemaking and in leading societal impact. 

To engage students: 

Ashoka offers the Changemaker Index - an online self-assessment of one’s current changemaking competencies. It is connected to free resources to encourage individuals to develop and further strengthen these important skills, knowledge, and mindsets.  

Ashoka also offers a free weekly webinar series: Welcome Change. This series features Ashoka Fellows sharing their stories about becoming societal impact leaders with innovative ideas and significant reach. Recordings of previous events are on YouTube here.  

Learn more about the cutting-edge work of business schools and programs at Ashoka Changemaker Campuses:


Budinich, Valeria; Fernande Raine, Diana Wells, “System changers – for a new era of value creation,” in The Future of Business Schools: Purpose, Action, and Impact, eds. Rico J. Baldegger, Ayman El Tarabishy, David B. Audretsch, Dafna Kariv, Katia Passerini, and Wee-Liang Tan (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2022). 

Angie K. Fuessel, Becoming a Changemaker Institution (Arlington, VA: Ashoka U, 2020). 

Marina Kim, Erin Krampetz, and Beeta Ansari, Changemaker Institutions: How Higher Education Can Use Social Innovation to Better Prepare Students, Transform Campus Culture, and Lead Society toward a Better Future (Arlington, VA: Ashoka U, 2018).