The Bob Gaglardi School of Business and Economics was the sole Canadian recipient of the 2022 Innovations That Inspire awards presented by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
In 2022, AACSB’s Innovations That Inspire focused on efforts to elevate diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in business education, and 24 schools were recognized worldwide. TRU Gaglardi, the only Canadian recipient, was selected for the Splatsin-TRU Business Development Project.
In response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, TRU Gaglardi endeavors to increase collaboration with Indigenous communities and the businesses within to develop educational programs that respond to regional needs. The Splatsin-TRU Business Development Project provided an opportunity for the school to support the inclusion of Indigenous people in education and economic environments.
The Splatsin First Nation — the southernmost tribe of the Secwépemc Nation and the largest Interior Salish-speaking First Nation in Canada — applied for and received a Community Workforce Response Grant which provides funds for relevant skills training with the end goal of secure and sustainable employment for unemployed or precariously employed British Columbians. The nation requested TRU Gaglardi’s support to ensure the training was regionally relevant, and the school strove to work respectfully and collaboratively with the Splatsin First Nation to develop programming that was culturally relevant and appropriate.
The Splatsin-TRU Business Development Project was offered as a series of 21 interactive sessions, using a combination of in-person and virtual formats, from March to June, 2021. Sessions were facilitated by 10 of the school’s instructors and included topics such as creating a business plan, small business entrepreneurship, new venture creation, marketing, risk analysis/management, legal considerations, reading financial statements, choosing business partners and hiring.
Twenty program participants wrote business plans for a wide range of business ventures and connected their business plans to Indigenous cultures by incorporating educational storytelling, using traditional materials and natural products, or by including dancing and drumming. All those who completed the program received a certificate of completion.
One of the major outcomes of the project was the creation of the White Buffalo First Nations Business Development Co-operative, started by five of the program participants. The co-operative, which recently applied for incorporation, works to provide support and services to aid First Nations entrepreneurs.
Based on the success of the project, seven more bands are forming a collaboration to apply for funding for a similar project, with future plans such as holding a forum on barriers to business development for First Nations.
The annual AACSB Innovations That Inspire award recognizes institutions from around the world that serve as champions of change in business education. Find out more about Innovations That Inspire and the Splatsin-TRU Business Development Project at aacsb.edu.