What can business schools do for creating community social mobilisation?

By | March 5, 2012

bradford-new_logo_blackDelroy Beverley, Director of Propertysolutions at Bradford-based housing association Incommunities Group, recently joined Bradford University School of Management’s Advisory Board. He holds a number of board level positions, advises many businesses on diversity and inclusion and was a trustee of one of the world’s largest and most influential charities. He is also a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute and recently sat on the judging panel for the British Libraries in association with Chartered Management Institute management book of the year. In 2010, Delroy was elected to the National Apprenticeship Ambassadors Task Force in recognition of his contribution to addressing worklessness through diversity. He is also an Ambassador for Constructionskills the Sector Skills Council and Industry Training Board for the construction industry.

I would be the first to acknowledge that have I been incredibly fortunate and humbled to have met and worked with some of the UK’s brightest business leaders. I am also privileged to have studied at some of the world’s best universities and business schools. I have done so because I believe passionately in knowledge and the wisdom of “knowledge empowerment”. Stepping out of the workplace into a learning environment provides a rare opportunity for reflection, which is hugely valuable in business and in life.

But what about those that aren’t fortunate enough to be able to study at world class business schools? How can we create “social entrepreneurs” in hard to reach communities to those less fortunate? How can we ensure that the business leaders of tomorrow and the work they do helps boost social mobility for the many and not just economic mobility for the few?

Through my work within Incommunities, we try to create an environment that fosters those types of successes. Five years ago, I took a personal decision which was endorsed through Incommunities executive team that it would make societal sense to forge closer links with Bradford University School of Management – a world class business school with an international reputation right on our doorstep. It is a place that creates leaders and inspires people, which is what we need in many communities throughout the country.

Here are some ways that I think business schools can ‘share their knowledge wealth’ with local communities.

Make business education have a real life impact

Business school students need to have the opportunity to have a real life impact through their studies if they are going to have a real life impact when they graduate.

Over the past five years, Incommunities have offered a number of projects to the School of Management’s MBA students. The projects, which are formally advertised and recruited for, are real pieces of work that are critical to the business – things that we would have had commissioned such as a strategic marketing review, performance management framework and a customer relationships strategy. The students are given office space and become part of the organisation during their time with us. They have routine one-on-one time with me, attend senior management team meetings and make real business decisions.  We don’t pay them in cash terms but what we give them in life terms is priceless – the chance to put their MBA skills into practice and have a real impact. They experience what it is like to part of a business team that makes a difference on the ground and get to see the results of their work.

Use business skills to facilitate long term social change

Business schools and their graduates are perfectly placed to facilitate long term social change because they are all about thinking outside the box.

As Director of Incommunities, Propertysolutions one of the UK’s largest social housing providers, I see it as my role not just to provide leadership to a fantastic team, but to help Incommunities create legacies within the communities in which we work – not just to deliver short term construction solutions. We ensure that we have a much wider influence on our estates than just housing.

A key part of this is helping people to get back in to work and then they become role models and ambassadors in their communities who inspire future generations.

Young people on our award winning apprenticeship scheme now get additional recognition for doing social good. More importantly, they are representative of the people in our communities. As we sit here today we can proudly say that over 30% of our apprentices are women, 25% are black astonishing when you consider the challenges within construction. In addition, Incommunities 2 years ago recruited the first ever Asian female apprentice gas plumber, again a remarkable achievement all round.

The real impact of all this may not be seen for a generation but we are in the business of not just creating sustainable communities but creating a better future for our grandchildren. I am clear in my mind that business schools can become a fostering ground for community business leaders for the future. It’s a mindset thing!

Give business school students greater ‘life experience’

Many people that go to and teach at business schools are already privileged and in most cases well educated. This means that the business school experience may lack a ‘real life’ perspective. Take for example my personal life experiences, which mean that I am well placed to say what the solutions are for supporting and mobilising deprived communities. I am passionate about social mobility and social engineering because I have lived it. I used education to lift me out of poverty – and now I am helping others do the same through our apprenticeship scheme.

Business school students need to have the opportunity to step out of the classroom and see what is happening on the ground and hear from those who have ‘lived’ what they are learning about.

I am excited about joining Bradford University School of Management’s Advisory Board. From the first meeting, I can see that there is a real enthusiasm amongst the group and they will be a fantastic bunch of people to work with. I hope to bring my life experience and professional experience to bring both some quick wins and long term impact for the school, its staff and more importantly the local community stakeholder’s.

Inspirations that drive me forward

It would be difficult not to share with you and acknowledge the people who have influenced my life. They are the creator (known by many names) for blessing me with a loving and supportive family, inspirational friends/colleagues and positive community and global role models, my ancestors whose courage, strength and survival under extremely difficult, in some cases oppressive situations and environments, enabled my existence. To the inspirational leaders, authors and visionary leaders whose work I have read and who shine the torch for humanity, justice and equality for all. Fortunately, during the most difficult times in my life, their words, actions and example, has inspired and empowered me to believe in myself and my ability to value life in all it‘s physical forms and manifestations.

Martin Luther King said — “You cannot teach people anything, you can only help them discover it within themselves”