The World Inquiry into Business as an Agent of World Benefit was started in 2002. It was a research project that used the phrase “business as an agent of world benefit” not as a statement, but as a question – where could examples of business as a force for poverty eradication, business as a force for world peace, business as a force for well-being, be found? This worldwide action-research initiative used Appreciative Inquiry to learn more about the positive role that business could have in society. From 2002-2015, stories were collected about business innovations in sustainability, social entrepreneurship, and full-spectrum flourishing. In 2015 the World Inquiry project became the globally-used AIM2Flourish program; now used by over 165 professors at universities spanning the world.

AIM2Flourish is a unique program that asks students to seek out businesses that are meeting one or more of the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development and interview the business leaders or entrepreneurs associated with the innovations. The stories of these companies and innovations live on because it is our belief that the sharing of ideas and innovation through success stories will promote conversations, connections, new thinking, and learning that will lead the world toward a healthier and more peaceful future. As of May 2022, there are more than 4,000 published stories on the AIM2Flourish platform.

What sets AIM2Flourish apart is the combination of learning about the UN Global Goals, using them as a framework for viewing business innovations, going beyond internet research to conducting interviews, using Appreciative Inquiry as an interview technique to identify inspiration and strengths, and having the chance to publish and share the story. This unique combination of ideas and experiences has offered countless students a perspective-shifting opportunity to view business in a new light and set their own career paths in the direction of world benefit.

Now, with the collaborative online international learning (COIL) experiential activity conducted in Winter 2022, we can see the AIM2Flourish program taken to a new level by having cross-cultural student groups read and analyze the published stories in the context of each Global Goal. The heart of the AIM2Flourish assignment is the Appreciative Inquiry interview; getting students out of the classroom to speak with business leaders and social entrepreneurs. The heart of the COIL activity is the critical thinking interaction with students from around the world. At the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit, the home of AIM2Flourish, we believe in the power of conversations worth having and stories that connect us all. COIL is a new paradigm of AIM2Flourish conversations, one where students get the chance to learn through peer-to-peer conversations and critical reflection; sharing their diversity of thought and experience with students around the world.

It has been an honor to watch Critical Reflections on Innovative Flourishing Businesses in the Context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals come to fruition. It is a powerful example of the dedication of our youth today to making the world a healthy, peaceful place for everyone.

Megan Buchter

Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit

Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio