Decolonising the Business School: Going beyond diversity and inclusion at Birmingham Business School.

Going beyond diversity and inclusion at Birmingham Business School.

Birmingham Business School has embarked on a three-year project to decolonise its activities across its various operations. This project is part of the mission of the School to embed a culture of responsible business and inclusive values into our teaching, learning and research. Building and expanding on our Diversity, Inclusion and Equality pledge, we are committed to the urgent, and critical need to understand how colonialism continues to be present within our academic structures today, and work together to dismantle these systems of power for a more equal, just and inclusive School. This responds to a growing call to address this issue within the Business School environment.

Indeed, within the Business school environment, there has been a slow uptake in engaging with the decolonial turn, and more research is needed to understand models and practices that can be used when engaging with decolonial work within the Business School context. With this in mind, we ground our work within the following collective beliefs, approaches and principles:

  • This is not something that can be imposed but must be debated, collaborated on and co-created
  • A safe, supportive environment where decolonisation and issues of coloniality can be discussed is crucial.
  • The project needs to be inclusive, allowing everyone within the School to be involved in its evolution.
  • This is an ongoing journey, not a finite process and shouldn’t be treated as a tick box exercise but more a life-long commitment to continue reimagining and relearning.

What does decolonising mean?

The term “decolonisation” can mean many different things to many different people. For us, we’re working with a contextual definition that, in short, is recognising how colonisation and the values upheld by colonisation are still present today in the Western Business Schools and thus there is a need for a process of decentring Eurocentric/Western hegemonic thought and practices to allow space for alternative worldviews.

We believe every part of the Business School needs to be looked at critically, from what is taught within our curriculums to the way we teach, in what we choose to research and what we publish, the way we work with our partners and in the day-to-day operation of our School. Some scholars argue that Business Schools have been an engine of dissemination and reproduction of colonised systems of knowledge and practices whereas others argue that it supports systemic racism, making this work ever more critical within this environment. We’re starting by interrogating our histories, to unpack and understand how our thinking has been shaped by these colonial legacies and begin the challenge to rethink, reframe and construct our School in a new way which no longer preserves the Eurocentric and other dominant colonial lenses.

Visual minutes from the Decolonisation Project launch, in December 2022Visual minutes from the Decolonisation Project launch, in December 2022. Created by Julia Miranda.

Project aims

  • To recognise colonisation within BBS programmes, teaching, research and the way the school operates and to find effective ways to dismantle it, enabling a decolonised reimagining of our business school curriculum and research and related activities.
  • To develop a series of activities to build on and expand students and staff knowledge of what colonisation means in context and how it manifests in the Business School environment and to discuss and agree what it would mean to have a decolonised Business School at the University of Birmingham;
  • To assess current activities and practices in the School and encourage and enable reflexive practices amongst both staff and students;
  • To support the development and implementation of new decolonised practices across teaching, research and other School activities – this will be done in a co-creative and collaborative way building on existing research and literature;
  • To make sure the project is informed by decolonisation scholarship and to conduct research into our decolonisation experience as well as the impact and effectiveness of the changes put in place and to showcase our learnings.

Research team

  • Caroline Chapain, co-lead of the BBS Decolonisation Project, Associate Professor, Department of Management
  • Emma Surman, co-lead of the BBS Decolonisation Project, Associate Professor, Department of Marketing
  • Rweyemamu Alphonce Ndibalema, co-lead of the BBS Decolonisation Project, Associate Professor, Department of Management
  • Anita Lateano, Research Fellow on the BBS Decolonisation Project

Wider team and previous members

  • Professor Jo Duberley, Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor (ED&I) and Professor of Organisation Studies, Department of Management
  • Chynna Hinds, Research Intern
  • Dr Henry Price, Research Fellow
  • Dr Christian Darko, Associate Professor of Labour and Development Economic, Department of Management
  • Professor Fiona Carmichael, Professor of Labour Economics, Department of Management
  • Dr Liza Jabbour, CoSS EDI lead and Associate Professor in Business Economics
  • Susan Njuguna, Research Intern

Events and activities

Forthcoming

  • May 2024: Decolonising Assessments in Teaching: A Collaborative Exploration workshop, run by Dr Kelly Rogers, which will delve into the implications of decolonisation on assessments beyond exam content.
  • May 2024: Exploring the relevance of decolonisation in post-socialist contexts seminar by Prof. Krzysztof Stachowiak, to examine the relationship between decolonial practices and post-socialist dynamics, highlighting similarities and differences.
  • April - June 2024: Business History through the looking glass of [De]colonisation: A BBS seminar mini-series looking at history’s significance in shaping our thinking, in our research and teaching and the potential value of Business History’s contributions to our understanding of the pasts, presents and possible futures of colonising and decolonising.

Activities so far

  • April 2024: Decolonising the Curriculum workshop. A session designed to explore and understand not only the 'what' but also the 'how' of curriculum decolonisation.
  • March 2024: Decolonisation across Universities seminar. A seminar discussing the diverse strategies, challenges, and outcomes associated with the ongoing efforts to decolonize the higher education curriculum. We were joined by Dr Alice Robson and Dr Bronwen Burton from the University of Bristol and Dr Joycelin Eze-Okubuiro from the University of Leicester.
  • March 2024: Decolonial Dialogues podcast series. Our brand new podcast series was launched, looking at decolonisation from different perspectives. Developed with Susan Njuguna, a BSc Economics graduate from BBS.
  • September 2023: Reflections after one year of the project, CoSS Essentials. Reflecting on the first year of the project, we held a session for the College of Social Sciences to share our experience and learn from each other.
  • September 2023: Decolonising BBS film premiere: As part of the BBS Education Conference 2023, we held a film screening which premiered two films made during workshops with students and staff exploring the topic of decolonisation.
  • February – September 2023: Decolonising the Business School seminar series: Throughout the academic year 2022/23 we be hosted a series of seminars focusing on decolonisation, challenges and discourses surrounding the project. 
  • May 2023: Decolonising Professional Services. Our first enquiry what decolonising means for Professional Services was through a day long workshop, held in partnership with Black Walks Heritage Network and New Vic Borderlines to start to understand how to decolonise our operations.
  • March / April 2023: Decolonising the Business School: A student’s perspective. In partnership with New Vic Borderlines, the Decolonisation Project ran a series of workshops with students to delve deeper into the topic of decolonisation and gain their perspective to how it applies to their experience at Birmingham Business School.
  • March 2023Citation Justice workshop. To celebrate International Women’s Day, in collaboration with Library Services, we held a workshop looking at Citation Justice, what it means and how we can practice it. We heard from FEM (Female Empowerment Maastrict), who spoke about their citation guide, followed by discussion about how we can begin to practice citation justice in both our teaching, and research practice. 
  • February/March 2023: Using art to decolonise business and management education. In a series of workshops, developed by Caroline Chapain and Emma Surman in collaboration with the Barber Institute for Fine Art, Management and Marketing students from BBS were taken out of the classroom and into the gallery. The workshops, sponsored by the PRME UK network under their teaching innovation seed-corn fund, focused on exploring issues of race, colonisation, reflexivity, ethics and critical thinking through discussion of specific art pieces in the context of each module. The collaboration between BBS and the Barber is an ongoing activity with workshops continuing to take place in the 2022-23 academic year.
  • December 2022: Decolonisation Project launch event. Showcasing the work to date within Birmingham Business School, and a roundtable discussion from BBS staff about what decolonisation means to them.
  • September 2022: Thematic session on Enabling Diverse Voices and Experiences in Business Education: from Inclusive Pedagogy to the Decolonisation of the Curriculum organised at the 2nd Birmingham Business School Education Conference led by Caroline Chapain, Fiona Carmichael, Chris Darko and Liza Jabbour.
  • February to September 2022: QR research on Business schools, research cultures and (de)colonisation: understanding the lived experience of research and practice(s) undertaken by Caroline Chapain, Jo Duberley, Henry Price and Emma Surman; presentation of the early findings from the research were made at the 2022 British Academy of Management Annual Conference and the 2022 Journal of Management Studies Conference in August and September 2022. 
  • May 2021: Decolonising the Business School workshop A workshop that brought together students, staff and external speakers to discuss what decolonisation can mean in theory and/or practice and what is needed to undertake decolonial work in Birmingham Business School.

Related Events

Get involved

Staff

  • We’re pleased to announce that we have available five prizes of £1,000 for seed funding for Birmingham Business School staff to begin their own process of decolonisation within a teaching, research or networking-focused capacity. For more information, please contact a.lateano@bham.ac.uk
  • A canvas course looking into how you can begin the process of decolonisation within your own work, alongside a dedicated resource list is available to all University of Birmingham staff.

Students

External organisations

  • We’d like to hear from you about your own work on decolonising. Get in touch by emailing a.lateano@bham.ac.uk.