Professor Frances Westley recognized as leader in corporate social responsibility

Published: 10 July 2003

Professor Frances Westley was named as one of seven Knight School Pioneers — a distinction awarded by Corporate Knights magazine to celebrate and recognize Canadian business school professors who have furthered the evolution of corporate social responsibility issues.

To find the nation's most progressive professors, Corporate Knights, a quarterly magazine that monitors and promotes CSR across Canada, asked Canadian business schools and the Knight School Advisory Panel (KSAP) — leading individuals from the media, academia, business and NGO communities — to nominate individuals in six different categories. The panel then chose the individuals who had made the largest impact in furthering the evolution of the triple bottom line.

Dr. Westley was awarded this distinction thanks to her commitment and innovative thinking in the non-profit sector, and her work in linking private and voluntary sector initiatives. In 1999, she developed the McGill-McConnell Program for National Voluntary Sector Leaders. The program, offered by McGill's Faculty of Management and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, was the first Canadian graduate-level program specializing in the voluntary sector. Designed for senior and emerging leaders of Canada's national voluntary organizations, the program aimed at enhancing their capacities to understand, adapt and respond creatively and effectively to the underlying forces transforming Canadian society and the world.

Three cohorts of 40 voluntary sector leaders completed the program, and the last cohort graduated this June 2. The highly diverse group came from all parts of the country and represented NGOs from all sizes and causes. During an external evaluation of the program, graduates mentioned that the program made them more confident leaders, reinforced their commitment to the non-profit sector, and helped them change their mindset. The program also had a significant impact on each participant's organization, as they worked on an anchoring project that allowed more people in the organization to benefit from the learnings. In terms of the impacts on the voluntary sector, it helped draw attention to, and re-energize the sector by developing a solid base of 120 well-trained leaders with renewed insights and enthusiasm.

Partly on the achievements of this program and on the McGill Faculty of Management's reputation for research and teaching on innovation, Dr. Westley was approached in fall 2002 to partner with DuPont Canada in the creation of the McGill-Dupont Initiative on Social Innovation. This project draws on private sector and academic expertise to identify and develop practical methodologies and tools for achieving breakthrough change in social problems such as poverty and homelessness.

The McGill Faculty of Management is presently exploring various alternatives to give sustained life to both programs, through the addition of partners. McGill wishes to build on the unique expertise gained through these programs and further contribute to the development of social innovation in general and the non-profit sector in particular. "The demand for leadership development tailored to the voluntary sector is huge," says Frances Westley. "These are the people whose organizations most centrally seek to make Canada a more compassionate, healthy and sustainable society."

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