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The 10th ESADE Alumni Madrid Annual Conference ''Talent and values to transform the world'' held on October 26th in the VIP box at the Santiago Bernabeu football stadium, gathered alumni from around the world to listen to several speakers including Oscar Camps, founder of the NGO Proactiva Open Arms.
The tough experience of this entrepreneur and lifesaver who managed to turn the media spotlight on the tragedy of refugees in the Mediterranean, was offset by the entertaining performance of Goyo Jimenez, a multi-facetted stand-up comedian.
The director of ESADE Alumni, Xavier Sanchez (Lic & MBA 97 / AMP 08), welcomed the audience and introduced the conference, thanking the sponsors SEAT and CaixaBank for supporting the event once again this year. Sanchez explained that the theme of this year’s conference was chosen because ''as individuals, as leaders and as a group, we must get involved'', and insisted that there must be real, mutual collaboration between business and the third sector (i.e. non-profit organisations). ESADE Alumni has been working on this area for some time now through Alumni Giving Back.
Individual and collective social responsibility
Joaquin Uriach (MBA 94), ESADE Alumni president, recalled that justice, solidarity and respect for dignity are core ESADE values embodied by the evening’s keynote speaker, Oscar Camps. ''We train talent'', he said, ''Talent with values. We train professionals able to transform the world.''
He appealed to the huge individual and collective responsibility we have as regards the main challenges of humanity. ''To respond to this volatile, changing and uncertain world we must adapt,'' he said, going on to describe today’s structures, institutions and mindsets as ''obsolete.''
These current challenges must be tackled from two angles, according to the ESADE Alumni president. A macro approach involving major, supranational organisations, and a micro approach focused on small organisations such as the NGO Proactiva Open Arms or ESADE Alumni itself.
Uriach described the ESADE spirit as ''showing solidarity, helping each other, taking action and making a contribution.'' ESADE’s contribution, mentioned earlier by Xavier Sanchez, is Alumni Giving Back, also celebrating its 10th year as a project in which alumni donate consultancy services to third-sector organisations. The figures speak for themselves: 1,500 alumni have already taken part, providing more than 100,000 hours of consulting for more than 200 organisations, including the NGO founded by the guest speaker, Oscar Camps.
The professor and director of the ESADE Institute for Social Innovation, Ignasi Carreras (SEP 06), then took the floor to outline the training and development of responsible leaders. He explained that one of ESADE’s main functions is to train socially responsible leaders. Drawing upon his previous experience in the NGO Oxfam Intermón, Carreras described the current situation in which increasing numbers of people around the globe are forced out of their homes through no fault of their own and become refugees.
The director of the Institute for Social Innovation quoted Ignacio Ellacuría, the Spanish philosopher and theologian murdered in El Salvador: ''It is our duty to get involved.'' In the business world, this means transforming organisations into responsible companies. ''And this means making a profit whilst respecting fundamental rights and the environment, collaborating with other stakeholders to find solutions, and creating shared value for shareholders and society too.''
According to Carreras, despite the crisis there are more responsible companies today, but there is still a gap between social and environmental challenges and companies’ ability to solve them. ''Let’s not forget'', he said, ''that companies have powers that could achieve impressive results if they were used for this purpose.'' Carreras believes that the transformation of society calls for all kinds of agents including NGOs, public authorities and businesses.
Managers are responsible to a great extent for this shift in the mindset and functions of the business world. All responsible companies have responsible managers, non-opportunistic leaders with values who are transparent, cooperative and concerned about the future.
From Badalona to Isle of Lesbos
Oscar Camps, the evening’s keynote speaker, was introduced as this type of manager and leader with values. In September 2015 he left everything and founded Proactiva Open Arms using the human and material resources of his water safety and lifesaving company where he was CEO.
Camps told the audience how he combined his love of business with another of his passions, the sea, years ago and founded Pro-Active Serveis Aquatics, a small company in Badalona that now provides coastline lifeguard services in four regions of Spain.
The refugee crisis in the Aegean Sea and along the Greek and Turkish coasts, with the iconic photo of little Aylan’s corpse on a beach, drove Camps and a partner to travel to the island of Lesbos to help. ''We found thousands of people arriving every day and dozens drowning. No authorities were there, just volunteers.'' Their offer to collaborate with the authorities and large NGOs received no reply, so they decided to work by themselves.
More than one year later, Camps and Proactiva Open Arms are still struggling not only to save the lives of refugees, now in the Mediterranean, but also to raise society’s awareness of this tragedy in Spain and around the globe.
A call to action
Camps gave a very moving talk interspersed with explanations and videos of the activities of recent months, and appealed to ''stop using the rational brain and start using the emotional side'' in order to empathize and start doing things differently in order to change world.
The Proactiva Open Arms founder appealed to alumni. ''I need you all, because by creating misery in other countries we are all responsible for this situation.'' He lambasted both Europe’s failure to act and the slow response of traditional NGOs ''who need a reality check because, at the end of the day, we micro NGOs have to do the dirty work.''
Feel, see, be indignant: the first steps towards taking action according to Camps, bearing in mind that flows of migrants are unstoppable. ''People have always moved around. Rivers, seas and frontiers have never stopped them and never will.''
He described his NGO as ''four geeks putting a lot of people to shame, an example of how something small can achieve great things in a situation that should not be happening here in Europe, in European waters.''
Oscar Camps ended his speech with a request: ''As leaders, you must get involved and repair Europe’s dignity because what is happening is unacceptable. My mission today has been to shake off your indifference and make you react.''
Francisco Longo, Deputy General Manager of ESADE, brought the institutional contributions to a close by confirming that ESADE’s mission is to train great people with robust values able to take action or condemn situations whenever necessary.
Longo then reviewed this year’s main innovations, particularly the new international programme, the Master in Global Strategic Management run in conjunction with the University of Virginia (USA) and Lignan College at Sun Yat-Sen University (China), which already has 59 students of 14 nationalities.
He also mentioned the 4th Promotion Programme in Madrid to combat gender inequality in companies. He also emphasised Student First, a strategic project to radically overhaul traditional teaching models in order to tackle the challenges of globalisation and the technological revolution affecting every sector.
''Today’s new world,'' said Longo, ''forces us to change the psychological contract with both students and teachers.'' Students must be more autonomous and responsible, and teachers must change from being lecturers to adopting a more horizontal, participative, collaborative and interdisciplinary approach.
ESADE has been developing Student First for one and a half years with pilot tests in different areas and subjects. After a series of positive appraisals, Francisco Longo confirmed that this year one third of faculty would join the project with rollout completed in three years.
Longo confirmed that in addition to new programmes and structural or physical changes, ESADE remained focused on becoming a global benchmark for creating responsible leaders and encouraged the entire alumni network, one of ESADE’s main assets, to get involved.
The event ended with an entertaining performance by the comedian, actor, presenter and director Goyo Jimenez featuring a light-hearted look at emotional leadership.
In keeping with tradition, the audience was able to discuss the content of the talks during a lively cocktail.
Follow and participate on the event with the hashtag #EDayMAD
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