A network to reshape the world of business

Amba has launched a new initiative to unite alumni from all over the globe

Networking opportunities are often cited as one of the main reasons to study for an MBA. Business school brochures boast of worldwide alumni networks that will help to build your business black book and, in doing so, further your career. Ordinarily, these networks would be limited to the students and alumni of a particular school, but this February the Association of MBAs (Amba) launched an initiative designed to build a "super network" of graduates and students from the world's business schools. The Global AMBAssadors programme seeks to establish a "mutually supportive global MBA network that actively promotes and embodies ethical leadership while helping to improve engagement with alumni, MBA seekers and employers".

Sharon Bamford, chief executive of Amba, says: "We want to give our accredited business schools and their chosen students or alumni this opportunity to establish a new network of MBA champions who can create opportunities to expand their knowledge, management experience and ideas among an improved global MBA network." But she argues that it's about more than that. "We want this group to be a real power for responsible and sustainable business. These are a passionate group of people who will go back out to their networks and countries across the world and continue to promote ethical leadership. They will lead by example. If the managers of the future are committed to responsible practices then this will become part of daily business."

This year, 20 business schools from across the world will each designate a student AMBAssador to represent their institution. At the inaugural conference in February they discussed the goals of the movement and set out a framework to further explore sustainability, geopolitical and faith issues and their impact on business leadership.

The AMBAssador for the French business school EM-Lyon, Bruce Cooper, says: "Networking was a key driver for me when I was thinking about applying to business school – I wanted to meet like-minded professionals with whom I could share ideas and draw inspiration from. But I did not expect to be able to be part of such a diverse and international group."

Cooper believes that the group has already gathered a lot of momentum through a nearly constant exchange of ideas and initiatives to partner school alumni and business leaders. "My personal task is to bring onboard some key players in business who characterise the values we wish to promote. I feel privileged to be part of a movement which aims to have a positive, ethical and sustainable impact on the future of business," he says.

Naush Akram, a manufacturing project manager, studied for his MBA at Ashridge Business School in the UK and is their representative for the AMBAssador programme. "When I started my MBA, the ability to learn from my peers was incredibly important to me. I had invested all of my life savings to that point in the course fees and so I looked for a programme that offered the best opportunities for peer-to-peer learning. I found this at Ashridge and it has been hugely beneficial to me – but the AMBAssador programme is taking MBA networking another step forward. To be able to easily feed off the experience and ideas of MBAs from around the globe – and from top quality schools – is invaluable and something that can only grow in strength and influence."

One of the first challenges the group has been set is for each to interview a leading business person or entrepreneur in their home country to find out how they promote responsible and ethical leadership. The winner of the challenge will be announced at the upcoming UN Global Compact Rio+20 sustainability conference due to be held in Brazil this June, where they will present their findings.

For Sharon Bamford, such initiatives are an opportunity for the group to grow, but it is also important to maintain the quality of members and integrity of their actions: "The Global AMBAssador network will grow as an online networking community. The AMBAssadors have committed to introducing employer connections to the group to encourage a global recruitment platform and open up opportunities for MBA alumni. But the quality of interaction is also critical. Amba's accreditation criteria ensures the participants in MBA programmes develop their understanding of risk management and sustainable value creation on the basis of environmental, social and governance impacts of business. This criteria is important, as it means that participants and other stakeholders such as employers can expect the group members to have the knowledge and training to contribute through strategic leadership, intellectual rigour and professional ethical values."

The group will also be charged with identifying opportunities for events in their regions. Bamford explains: "Our Chinese and Western Australian AMBAssadors are already organising an event in Shanghai in April to connect alumni and students from that region. They have organised speakers from Harvard University, University of Guelph, a well-known IT director, and a leading entrepreneur. This epitomises the collaboration across regions and the opportunity this programme gives MBA graduates, students and employers to forge relationships and build new networks."

Next year, Amba will be holding a Global Leadership Conference for AMBAssadors in South Africa, at the Stellenbosch University business school. The event will include the current AMBAssadors and a new cohort of MBA students and alumni who have been selected by their business school.

"The aim is that in three years time the Global Leadership Conference will be open to all MBAs from accredited business school internationally," says Bamford. "It will be the conference for MBAs to share best practice, continue their professional development and champion innovative education and leadership. They can also enhance their global network and hear from MBAs who have already become successful business leaders, professors and entrepreneurs. In the current climate, we need groups like this to make a difference and to start a new era in business practices."

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