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SnO: At the Forefront of Tomorrow's Challenges

15 October 2015

Since 2008, a vibrant community of professors and PhD students has established a new inter-disciplinary center at HEC Paris: Society & Organizations (SnO). Its stated mission is to guide organizations through a socially and environmentally increasingly complex world and to train future responsible leaders to live up to its challenges.

SnO Durand et Faivre-Tavignot Climate

Sustainable development, impact investing, circular economy… All these notions, which were confidential one decade ago, have now gained a much larger audience, fueling the global shift that is reshaping the world. To support this major – and exciting – turnaround, positions itself as a compass, providing organizations and students with insights on the challenges they face – climate constraints, social inequality, technological disruption – so they can grow and become major stakeholders in the transformation of business and society. “SnO is a joint initiative, in both research and pedagogy fields, to build knowledge on contemporary phenomena and diffuse it to the students.” Rodolphe Durand (H.93, D.97), Professor of Strategy & Business Policy at HEC Paris and Academic Director of the SnO Center, summarizes. “We contribute to question the current business models, giving framework, both theoretical and practical, to think and implement a necessary change of mindset.” Bénédicte Faivre-Tavignot (H.85), Affiliate Professor of Strategy & Business Policy at HEC Paris and Executive Director of the SnO Center, adds.

Tomorrow is our Research

Founded in 2008, SnO is “an inter-disciplinary initiative that brings together 25 professors and 15 Ph.D. students from nearly all departments of HEC Paris, plus affiliate members and research fellows from all around the world. That synergy is something unique” Rodolphe Durand emphasizes. “We combine the theoretical lenses from different disciplines to study various topics: new trends of management, the impact of new energy sources on the value chain, responsible finance, the role of NGO, etc.” That mix happens to be a powerful drive: over the last four years, SnO has become a vibrant center of thought recognized throughout Europe. Its members have produced more than 100 research papers, half of them in so-called “alpha publications”. The Center also contributes to increase HEC Paris international legitimacy and visibility through the organization of international events, such as the Golden international workshop last May or the annual edition of the Medici Summer School, co-sponsored with MIT Sloan School and University of Bologna Business School. Under the framework of COP 21, SnO was also the proud promoter of the emblematic “2° Challenge, Climate is our Business” event that took place on October 1st on the campus.

What's new in pedagogy?

SnO is also very active on the teaching side. “We design new programs and innovative teaching methods to train future responsible managers and executives” Bénédicte explains. The Center thus promotes experiential learning via the FACT impact program, which provides first-year (L3) students an opportunity to work for social entrepreneurs and NGOs. SnO also commands the MSc in Sustainability and Social Innovation, that merges the former MSc in Alter Management and MSc in Sustainable Development, and two second year (M1) flagships electives: the highly successful Certificate Social Business / Enterprise and Poverty that 60 students attend each year, and the brand new Sno Certificate, which will be awarded upon completion of two SnO courses and a minimum four-week field experience within the FACT program or a socially responsible internship. In 2015, the Center also launched two MOOCs, “Time to reorganize! Understand organizations, act, and build a meaningful world” and “Devenir entrepreneur du changement” – “we plan to translate the second one in English as soon as possible” Bénédicte underlines. “We have many other ambitious projects” she adds “we want to extend the reach of the FACT impact program, to reinforce existing courses and electives and to create a third version of “Sustainable Globstat”, an on-line business game aimed at raising awareness of sustainable issues among Grande école students.”
This year, SnO is also looking for funds to help the career department launch and scale up a pilot talent development program of coaching and co-coaching, the “Career launch pad”, which will offer M1 students precise and stimulating guidance in their career paths: “To us, achieving a better understanding of oneself, and defining one’s professional goals and contributions, is a key condition to become a responsible leader” Bénédicte explains. “This first session will include around one hundred students but we want to expand the offer progressively to 200, 300… and maybe even 600 participants!”To implement or roll out all these ambitious projects, the SnO Center needs financial support from the HEC Foundation and its donors. Be ready to contribute to build tomorrow’s world!

Two Chairs have supported the SnO Center:

Social business/enterprise and poverty chair, sponsored by Danone, Schneider Electric and Renault. Managed by Frédéric Dalsace (H.85) and Bénédicte Faivre-Tavignot (H.85), it aims at promoting social and inclusive business.
ENGIE (formerly GDF-SUEZ) Chair. Managed by Rodolphe Durand from 2010 to 2015, it focuses on sustainable development business models and value strategies, particularly in the energy sector.
A third chair around the importance of firms’ values in the context of family firms should be launched soon, and SnO is looking for corporate partners to create a fourth one on “Sustainable Cities”. 


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