What’s the point of a business school anniversary? ‘Re-membering’ and re-energising for the next one according to Julie Davies and David Buisson.
Although universities represent some of the aworld’s oldest continually operating organisations (the University of Karueein was founded in 859 in Fez, Morocco), business schools are relative newcomers with more recent birthdays. (ESCP Europe claims to be the world’s first business school, established in 1819). Nevertheless, we see anniversaries as significant milestones to highlight the value of business schools.
While being sceptical about how to measure the tangible benefits of a business school anniversary, we suggest they are timely reminders of the sector’s resilience, durability, legitimacy and adaptability. Business school anniversaries provide unique opportunities to (re)unite past, present and prospective members, to reflect and celebrate, and to renew shared missions to sustain business school life for future jubilees.
As members of the international advisory board of iaelyon School of Management in France, we celebrated the school’s 60th anniversary last year. The 12 months witnessed a series of events as well as the publication of a commemorative history of the school and history of management in Lyon.
The actual anniversary day included over 60 workshops with academic conferences, sports, a huge picnic, a quiz in the city, singing, gardening, wine tasting, blood donations and it culminated in a gala with a 1950s fashion show.
The year came and went very quickly. But we are interested in capturing any lessons we can share from Lyon by highlighting how the business school sector can benefit from anniversaries by establishing legacies well after fireworks and light shows have been extinguished.
So, what makes for a successful anniversary year campaign? Drawing on illustrations globally, we propose seven guiding principles:
- Plan at least two years ahead with dedicated and professional resources
- Be future-focused and bold about your ambitions to realise changes
- Ensure long-lasting anniversary legacies and synergies among diverse voices
- Determine clear strategic intent and explicit ROI measures (especially budgets)
- Craft your narrative carefully for a shared and inspiring sense of purpose about continuity and change
- Ensure inclusive stakeholder engagement, including the central university and civic involvement
- Implement a professional (social) media strategy to strengthen key communities and messages to generate future opportunities with a robust database and student-led projects – while having fun!