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ABIS GlobalNewsManaging the Responsible Business Challenge in Africa

Managing the Responsible Business Challenge in Africa

On the 24th of April 2017 the Responsible and Sustainable Business (RSB) Lab submitted a research proposal to the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council under their ‘Research Networking Highlight Notice for International Development’ call. The grant was titled ‘Research in Ethical African Leadership Network’ (REAL-Network) and is an online research network involving academics and African leaders across sectors and is designed to study the impact of the ‘Values-Driven Leadership (VDL) programme in Kenya, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa.

The VDL programme empowers African leaders to ‘give voice to their values’ through ethical action when resistance is faced and is delivered via 3-day workshops which utilise the Giving Voice to Values (CVV) pedagogy to address ethical challenges such as systemic corruption, institutional inefficiency, sustainability challenges and inequality. 

As part of the project and following seed funding from Nottingham Business School, we have established a pilot version of the online REAL-Network that is currently being reviewed and tested among the team of researchers linked to this initiative. In addition to this, the RSB Lab held a workshop in Johannesburg from the 6th -9th of June. Attendees from Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, UK and South Africa attended our ‘Train the Trainer’ workshop which allowed researchers to study the impact of the VDL programme in the context of development challenges in their geographical context and the feedback gained through this event allowed us to improve and expand the digital platform of the REAL Network.

The REAL-Network is essential for developing insight on the types of challenges African leaders face in their everyday work environment.  Most importantly, it will develop knowledge on where the VDL programme succeeds and fails in empowering African leaders. The REAL-Network will contribute to broader efforts among researchers; business; governments and NGOs who seek to enhance the role of African leaders in addressing development challenges by empowering them as ethical African leaders to lead sustainable ethical organisations.  

Preceeding this, on the 11th -15th of November 2016, following a successful Newton Fund application, the RSB Lab held a Trilateral workshop in Cape Town, South Africa.

Giving Voice to Values

The aim of the workshop was to introduce early career researchers to the ‘Giving Voice to Values’ (GVV) approach as a strategy to develop values-driven leadership in various contexts (government sectors, business, NGOs).

Giving Voice to Values is an approach to research developed by Harvard Business School academic Mary Gentile. It is part of an action research approach where the researcher becomes part of the process instead of observing or impacting from the outside.

The Workshop

The trilateral cross-cultural and trans-disciplinary workshop brought together researchers from South Africa, Egypt and the UK and from the disciplines of leadership studies, philosophy, applied ethics, organisational studies as well as from the healthcare sciences (doctors, pharmacists, dentists).

The idea was to illustrate how the GVV research methodology can bring researchers together across disciplines to contribute towards giving values motivated action more prominence in society and business. The healthcare sector was used both as an example and as a specifically identified focus for further research.

In addition, various strategies for acquiring funding for research projects and for publishing research were shared by the mentors facilitating the workshop.



The workshop was experienced very positively. The positive outcomes from the workshop are the following:

  • Understanding the connection between philosophy, ethics and organisational studies. In other words seeing how philosophy can be applied philosophy (or applied ethics)
  • Being introduced to GVV as a research methodology specifically interested in bringing to light the inherent values in an organisation
  • Being more empowered to supervise students doing research in applied ethics
  • Making contact with researchers and institutions that could be collaborated with in research projects, as well as in the supervision of students
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