By Debbie de Lange
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) not only matter to me, I believe that they are critical. These goals impact my behavior, work, and are interwoven into my daily thoughts, maybe not always explicitly, but in substance. I wonder why they matter to me so much whereas I am not sure whether they matter to many around me, outside of my ONE (and many other) colleagues, of course. Would I be wrong if I were to say that the average person does not think about them? The related issues are urgent priorities for the entire world, that’s why they are the UN MDGs. Why doesn’t this topic, our progress towards the goals, make the news on a regular basis? The eight goals are listed below:
1) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2) Achieve universal primary education
3) Promote gender equality and empower women
4) Reduce child mortality
5) Improve maternal health
6) Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7) Ensure environmental sustainability
8) Develop a global partnership for development
Also, here is a link to our progress: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/2012_Progress_E.pdf.
The goals are interrelated and the environmental concerns of my ONE colleagues and I (See Goal 7) affect all of the other goals, directly or indirectly. I could not begin to explain all of the linkages here. I think that to most of us in ONE, many or most of the connections are obvious.
Maybe, for this blog entry, I will ask, why should we care about these issues if we are faculty or PhD students in business schools? At least a million answers are possible and maybe you will contribute some of your own. My first reaction is to suggest that the MDGs set the priorities for business, based on a stakeholder theory view (Freeman, 1984). All of the world’s countries and leading development institutions devised the goals after producing a hard won stakeholder consensus. Thus, the strategic goal setting has been done – why reinvent the wheel when huge amounts of our resources have been invested in determining these goals?
Moreover, today, we have a focus on entrepreneurship in academia for a variety of reasons and related to the financial crisis of 2008 when we bumped head-on into the too-big-to-fail phenomenon. Change may have to come from new enterprises, but we are also hopeful about intrapreneurship. The MDGs represent a set of broad entrepreneurial business opportunities. The challenge is for all those who are working in the area of entrepreneurship, whether strictly for-profit or of the social entrepreneurial type, to consider the connection of entrepreneurship to the MDGs as a topic for your research and/or to connect your research (and teaching) in some way to the MDGs.
On the other hand, if you are an entrepreneur, take a look at these goals so as to discover business opportunities. Find the solutions! Elon Musk has them in mind and with an amazing vision he seems to be charging ahead with Tesla (2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year) and Solar City. It takes guts to win and he is winning. Today, it seems to often take guts for business faculty to tie in their research and teaching to the most pressing problems of our times, and the greatest set of business opportunities, but that is for another discussion. I will comment now though, that if relevance is our issue in academia, then directing our research and teaching towards the MDGs is our opportunity to demonstrate it. The world has told us so, loud and clear.
Freeman, R. Edward (1984). Strategic Management: A stakeholder approach. Boston: Pitman.
United Nations. [http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/ website accessed May 20, 2013].