Collaborative Case-Writing Benefits 100,000 Students
Few local cases are available for non-Western countries. Ten business schools are addressing this challenge through collaborative case writing.
The Social Enterprise Knowledge Network (SEKN) is a 10-school partnership dedicated to co-developing cases on companies in Latin America and Spain (Ibero-America). SUSTENTUS, a sustainability centre at Mexico’s EGADE Business School, is a founding member of SEKN and shares more about the network’s powerful collaborative process.
“Eighty to ninety percent of my students say case studies are their favourite part of class,” says Francisco Layrisse, Operations Coordinator of SUSTENTUS, a sustainability centre at Mexico’s EGADE Business School. “But students are demanding current cases on local companies.”
EGADE faces the same challenge as business schools in most developing countries: Most case studies come from developed countries, making it more difficult for local students to relate to the content.
EGADE and 9 other business schools
, including Harvard Business School (HBS), are addressing this issue through collaborative case writing. In 2001, these schools banded together to form the Social Enterprise Knowledge Network (SEKN).
SEKN members have published over 70 case studies on Latin American and Spanish (Ibero-American) companies, satisfying the need for locally relevant material. But the power of SEKN’s work goes beyond the number of cases it publishes.
Three features of SEKN’s collaborative case writing process make it unique and effective:
- Members do parallel research on the same challenge: Every 3-years, SEKN members agree on a common challenge, upon which each will conduct research. Using an agreed upon set of criteria, members identify a set of organizations to research. Members then work in parallel, studying the organizations in their country using an agreed upon protocol.
- Each case is reviewed by all SEKN members, using three cycles of peer-review: Members use the Network’s annual meeting to discuss the first draft of all cases. This allows all members to give input on each case and facilitates analysis of trends across cases. Members then submit revised cases for formal peer review by two other schools. After the second round of revisions are made, cases are submitted to HBS for final review and publication.
- Outputs include both teaching cases and books: During a 3-year cycle, each member produces four rigorous cases, including teaching notes. At the end of each cycle, empirical findings are analyzed across cases and findings are summarized into a single book.
According to Kim Clark, former Dean of HBS, SEKN’s collaborative processes are a truly unique. “It is rare for HBS to engage in research partnerships as an institution, and, for sure, we have never before belonged to a partnership such as SEKN. It is not like most research consortia, where each authoring institution or academic focuses on a single subject, with their work then being collated to come up with a combined project. SEKN’s output is truly a collective effort that carries much higher value.”
SEKN’s work is made possible by funding from the Avina Foundation and private companies like FEMSA.
SEKN has covered three topics to date:
- Social partnerships (corporate-NGO alliances)
- Effective management of social enterprises
- Socially inclusive business