Today, AACSB International (AACSB) —the world’s largest business education network—announces the Suliman Olayan School of Business (OSB) among 24 business schools as highlights of its Innovations That Inspire member recognition initiative.
This annual program recognizes institutions from around the world that serve as champions of change in the business education landscape.
In concert with its Connected for Better campaign, emphasizing business education’s positive contributions to society, AACSB’s 2021 Innovations That Inspire initiative showcases business schools creating positive societal impact. OSB is recognized for “Khaddit Beirut SME Impact Initiative.”
"Business schools everywhere are defining impact objectives and strategies that align with the communities they serve, and the examples featured through AACSB’s Innovations That Inspire initiative perfectly demonstrate business education as a force for good," said Caryn L. Beck-Dudley, AACSB president and CEO. "We are excited to honor OSB for its innovative approach to society's challenges."
The Khaddit Beirut Small & Medium Sized Enterprises Impact Initiative
Khaddit Beirut (meaning "Beirut Shake-up" in Arabic) aims to provide a community led, evidence based, locally driven road map for reform. Current initiatives target education, business, the environment, and healthcare to provide a holistic approach to sustainable problem solving.
The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) has highlighted the Khaddit Beirut SME Impact Initiative to help local small businesses as a 2021 Innovations That Inspire winner.
The emphasis on local business assistance is an important part of Lebanon's recovery and a keystone to Khaddit Beirut's recovery plan. SMEs in Lebanon have a large influence on the local economy and employment. Nearly 95% of businesses are included in the sector which employs 50% of the workforce. Improvements to such an influential sector can reverberate throughout the economy affecting people up and down the socioeconomic ladder. That is why Khaddit Beirut has targeted SME's as a cornerstone of Lebanon's recovery.
Connecting Local Businesses to the World
Lebanon was already isolated because of the COVID pandemic and banking collapse when the country was rocked by the Beirut blast cutting business access to global goods and finance.
"We launched Khaddit Beirut SME Impact Initiative just after the blast, as we recognized the importance of SMEs in job creation, and strengthening the social tissue" says Alain Daou, co-chair of the SME Impact Initiative at Khaddit Beirut and Professor of Entrepreneurship at OSB.
During an unprecedented social and economic decline caused by multiple simultaneous crises, Khaddit Beirut at the American University of Beirut's Olayan School of Business is in a unique position to provide support to a local community in dire need. The Khaddit Beirut SME Impact Initiative assembles teams of Lebanese from inside and outside the country to help with the unique economic challenges facing Lebanese businesses. The SME initiative also works with several organizations to rebuild shops affected by the Beirut Blast and is a contact for international groups looking to directly help local businesses.
A Marriage of Experience and Experiments
Khaddit Beirut's SME initiative is a community led, collective, reflective, and systematic approach to the challenges faced by local businesses. Experts, community stakeholders, and Lebanese diaspora engage as equal partners in problem solving. Answers are formulated in conjunction with all group membership acknowledging the legitimacy of experiential knowledge while aiming to incorporate evidence driven research techniques. This hybrid approach marries the fluidity of a social movement with the rigor of academic research techniques.
"Khaddit Beirut is not an association," says Najat Aoun Saliba the Co-Executive Director of Khaddit Beirut and Professor in Analytical Chemistry at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at AUB. "It is actually a call for Lebanese living in or outside Lebanon to work together on a clear and transparent methodology to help people in Lebanon."
A Grassroots Approach to Problem Solving
Traditionally, the most challenging social and economic policy problems are handled through a top-down approach. Experts, the politically influential, and resource donners impose solutions after much study. This sets up an uneven power dynamic between the "studied" and those doing the studying. The Khaddit Beirut SME initiative aims to include local businesses in a conversation that is a dialogue, not a decree. This grassroots approach results in solutions that are more holistic, inclusive, and ultimately more sustainable.
"We Lebanese deserve a better life; We Lebanese know how to live a better life," says Lina Daouk-Oyry, Associate Professor at OSB at AUB and founding member of Khaddit Beirut. "Together, we can achieve a lot."