The 2021 (virtual) Responsible Research Roundtable (RRR) convened on June 28 and 29 2021, bringing together 84 academic researchers (57%) and business leaders (43%) from 70 institutions in 15 countries (click here for the list of participants) with a shared belief in the imperative to transform business school research to serve society more directly to create a better world. The Roundtable’s participants reflected a range of experiences and perspectives in dialogue addressing three objectives:

  • Identifying the benefits and challenges of engaged research (Why?)
  • Generating demand-led research (What?)
  • Solving wicked problems through knowledge co-creation (How?)

A series of speakers provided inspiration, ideas, and provocation related to these questions, along with breakout discussions to further explore and share experiences and ideas, and a final reflection panel on what is learned and advice for the future. Here is the agenda.

Mikael Homanen kicked off the first panel on the why question by drawing upon his experience with the UN Principles for Responsible Investment to urge academics and practitioners to “open up” to new ways of working together. Adding to the conversation about why engaged research is so important, Andrew Hoffman warned of a crisis of relevance in academia paired with a general societal distrust of information, and encouraged scholars to learn the new rules of engagement related to knowledge sharing platforms and networks. Go here for a video recording of this panel.

Addressing what research to pursue, Tima Bansal guided the group on how to frame “meso” level research questions that bridge researchers’ pursuit of science with business’ pursuit of opportunities. Keith Tuffley emphasized the business and societal case for knowledge co-creation, calling for research that reveals real pathways for organizations and sectors to transform. A video recording of this panel can be viewed here.

In exploring how wicked problems could be solved through knowledge co-creation, Lise Kingo stressed the importance of “hybrid” people and the development of “trust capital” as critical enablers of successful academic-industry collaborations. Arturo Franco described how insight communities could move research from a project-based to a platform-based model, allowing for funding pools and mediation between different timelines and expertise of academic and business partners. (Video recording of Kingo and Franco remarks here). Maurizio Zollo (video here) emphasized the importance of “bridging” initiatives aimed at fostering cross-disciplinary collaboration, field experimentation as a core methodology, and laboratories for ideation. Finally, Dominic Waughray (video here) painted a picture of the opportunities possible when researchers and business leaders commit to collaborate in applied learning and co-design initiatives.

Through two rounds of breakout group discussions, participants converged around several key issues they saw as most important for collaborative research involving business schools and societal stakeholders. Poverty and inequality, the future of work, and sustainability all emerged as priorities for attention, as did the need to explore different metrics for how work is valued—both on the business side as well as on the academic side.

Participants also offered and ranked ideas for how the ideas and commitments expressed in the Roundtable could be transformed into ongoing collaborative action. Broad interest emerged in further pursuing “insight communities” to facilitate convening, collaboration, and common learning on key issues. Participants also were broadly interested in the development of model archetypes for successful centers and networks, as a resource informing the emergence of new initiatives.

The Roundtable ended with a panel of five speakers offering reflections on the two days and advice for further advancing responsible research (see video here).

Ideas from the Roundtable will fuel follow-up actions to engage the Roundtable participants to pursue promising ideas through specific initiatives by ‘self-forming’ groups.