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09 June 2023


Nova School of Business and Economics

Nova School of Business and Economics

Introduction and Institutional Background

Nova School of Business and Economics (Nova SBE) is a leading business school in Portugal, that stands amongst the best in the world on the areas of Finance, Economics and Management. For us, leadership and excellence cannot be dissociated from our world’s most pressing challenges and needs. As such, it stands at the core of Nova SBE’s mission to be a community dedicated to the development of talent and knowledge that positively impacts the world. Therefore, in our operationalization, we have formally defined impact as our community’s contribution towards the challenges framed within the SDG agenda.

Integrating SDG at our school is a multi-team effort encompassed across different teams. We have, however, a team working on sustainability and impact, mainstreaming and furthering our commitments to both PRME and the SDG agenda.

Our journey on SDGs is then threefold. We begin by raising awareness, requiring our new students and staff to undergo an SDG training workshop as part of their integration to our school. We then monitor our academic curricula and research against their SDG contributions, work on the sustainability of our facilities and operations, and on a diversity and inclusion policy action plan. Finally, we developed and implemented an SDG-focused, impact platform – the Role to Play. On one hand, the platform presents some of our impact stories, while on the other, it actively promotes impact through volunteering opportunities, open to staff and faculty alike.

Beyond our internal efforts, we too wish to inspire outwards, reason why we have taken upon the challenge to take part in the reactivation of the PRME Iberia Chapter, which we currently chair.

One of the SDG integration Challenges

An example of embedding a specific SDG / or the overall challenge of the SDGs in the content of a module/project

The Action

Realizing our curricula’s higher incidence, and capacity, to tackle SDGs 8, 9, 16 and 17, we have, across our bachelors, masters, PhDs and executive education programs, introduced 63 new courses that also address SDGs 1, 2, 3, and 5 (People), and 12 and 13 (Planet). Furthermore, we have added ten new courses that transversally address all SDGs. One telling example of this is the ‘Managing Impactful Projects” course. This subject, taught at a bachelor’s level, challenges students to engage with an external organization to co-create sustainable solutions that tackle existing problems and foster organizational contribution to the 2030 Agenda. Concretely, students are expected to engage with an impact-led organization to co-create with them a project that creates more social value (should be aligned with the SDGs). This course also counts with on the support of external partners like Accenture or Junior Achievement Portugal, who support students in their expertise areas.

The Outcome and Impact

This course has been in high demand, registering 457 students during last year. The high number of students translates automatically to an equally high number of projects being developed, and organizations being affected. In 2020, the course had incubated 85 projects, across 83 impact-led organizations.

Sofia Geraldo, a student from the MIP course, shared her experience: “The MIP course introduced me to the language of the SDGs, giving me a broader understanding of the concept of impact and how it can be applied to the context of different organizations. The opportunity to co-create with a real organization during such unprecedented times made me aware of the challenges organizations are currently facing in implementing and measuring their impactful initiatives.”

Lesson Learned: issues / challenges when introducing the innovation, and how to resolve them

The challenge in designing this course lied with how to materialize the SDGs. This required pedagogical and methodological approaches and activities as to how introduce the SDGs and their contributions to student’s lives. We decided that it was by doing that they would best learn the SDGs composition, making this more of practical course rather than one to think. It is through collaboration to organizations in projects that students learn what are SDGs targets, goals, and indicators.

Overall, it was likewise challenging teaching an entirely new language in merely 12 weeks, extending its application beyond countries to NGOs and companies alike. We mitigate this challenge through in-class discussions on concrete case-studies.

Lastly, it was likewise challenging introducing a subject where every group works collaboratively, and where they understand the gain in knowing 400+- peers are doing the same. This required some innovative ways of communicating that what they’re doing relates to a community that is much larger than them. Concretely, we introduced key moments of celebration, in which they – both the training students but also the ecosystem of organizations - become aware of how their group’s journey is part of a wider collective journey.

Resources in Need to Adopt or Adapt this Approach

To implement this project, we count with the active engagement of faculty to coordinate and deliver the course, but also from various guest speakers, who, given the course’s intrinsic tight link to social organizations, must also play an active role. Concretely, this means finding organizations, assess their impact through the SDG framework, run a development project addressing a specific SDG and measure the impact of this project in terms of goals, targets and indicators whilst linking to the SDG operationalization. Faculty must provide the necessary support for this journey to run in 12 weeks only and repeat itself every year

Furthermore, this course also relies on the overall commitment of Nova SBE to the SDGs, reiterated to bachelor students throughout their 3-year journey through Dean statements, and SDG trainings.

Lastly, we relied on the help of tangible and explicit pedagogical aids, such as physical ‘SDG cubes’ and case studies of companies explicitly adopting the SDGs.

Short, medium, and/or long term Goals

Given this courses’ ongoing success, we continue our efforts to offer students meaningful content and collaborative, hands-on experience on how to manage a client, co-develop and implement an SDG-based project. In the long-term, we aim to see students bringing in SDG language to subjects that do not explicitly use it. We aim to prepare them for an SDG related career.

Supporting Materials

Impact Report


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