Knowlege Into Action Festival 27-29 APRIL 2021

On 27-29 April 2021, ABIS - The Academy of Business in Society convened its annual Knowledge Into Action Forum in the form of a Festival for the first time, spreading over 3 days.

The event was a unique opportunity crafted for our members to harness the emerging developments in sustainability and value-centered models, as well insights on future needs and learning paradigms to support the sustainability transformation.

Each day focused on a different topic, with expert panel discussions and interactive co-creation sessions where participants took an active role, shared their opinions, contributions and takeaways following specific methodologies. In the three days, we embarked on a journey to sense:

  • Is there a shift towards responsible, value-centered business and economy? (Day 1)
  • How can it look like? (Day 2)
  • What kind of competences and learning paradigms does this require? (Day 3)

The event targeted our network of sustainability change agents in business, academia and NGOs – and anyone looking to be inspired and take an active role in shaping collective impacts on the environment, people and communities. We were pleased to have welcomed:

  • participants from 20 countries all over the world at the live event!
  • representing over 45 organizations

We hosted 14 incredible and diverse speakers from B Lab, Circle Economy, Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, Concordia University, European Youth Forum, WEF Global Shapers, Junior Entreprises Global, Natura &Co, Oikos International, Presencing Institute, PRME, UN Global Compact and Stellenbosch University. We are very proud to have organized a gender equal conference this year - with 57% female speakers.

We were also honored to have on stage leaders from young generations who exchanged their thoughts, vision and ideas with senior leadership figures from academia and other sectors. This was an important moment to understand the shifts that are emerging and movements led by youth.

You can now find the session summaries, recordings and resources for further learning in the following pages.

Day 1 - 27 April

What business and economy is emerging?

On Day 1, we started by taking stock and sensing into the shifts that are happening in the world. The panel session on "Emerging business models and economic systems" explored the developments and calls for alternative economic systems such as inclusive or stakeholder capitalism and circular economy, also taking into account the challenges of the post-Covid recovery and social distress.

  • Moderator: Alexia Perversi, Director Global Sustainability Services, Mazars
  • Louise Scott,Vice President of R&D, Natura &Co
  • Marc de Wit, Director of Strategic Alliances, The Circle Economy
  • Marcello Palazzi, Global Ambassador, B Lab
  • Doug Lynam, Partner, LongView Asset Management & Member, Council for Inclusive Capitalism

Alexia Perversi kicked off with the ongoing challenges precipitated by COVID-19, climate change and biodiversity crisis and how these call to rethink economic and business models. Doug Lynam explained the approach of inclusive capitalism, which recognizes the benefits and limits of capitalism and the global demand for fairness - socially, geographically, and intergenerationally. A positive development in this regard is the shift of assets and investments to environmentally and socially responsible funds. Marcello Palazzi continued with an overview on the B Corp movement, a community of almost 4000 certified businesses creating benefits for not only shareholders, but also other stakeholders. B Corps take a life-regenerating approach for people and for the planet, combining earning profits impacts, collaborating with cities and countries to enhance change at a systemic level.

This philosophy is espoused by Natura&Co, and Louise Scott explained how prioritising purpose instead of profits and quantifying societal impact has become beneficial for the company as well, and ensures sustainability in a broader sense. Natura &Co has three main challenges: mitigate climate change, transition to a circular economy, and promote social wellbeing, with the aim to become carbon neutral. Finally, Marc de Wit shared a poignant point of how dramatically our consumption and production have increased, with only 10% of materials eventually going back to the economic system.

This is why the circular economy is needed as a way to rethink the whole economic system. The Circle Economy contributes to this change by explaining best practices and identifying what actions can be taken. In essence, products need to be reusable, have a longer lifespan, and produced in a cleaner way. Overall, the panelists shared some optimism as they see evidence of new business models, and an increasing mind shift and acceptance that a more sustainable and circular reality is possible and beneficial.

The following interactive session featured a Fishbowl discussion. The format allowed any participants to contribute with specific knowledge and concrete sustainability initiatives and innovations. Some of the points raised dealt with the need to taking systemic approaches, responsive business, drivers for collaboration, leadership and "walking the talk". (Curious about this format? Check out the Resources section below).


Day 2 - 28 April

The future leads the way

The central session of the event on "What is the future calling for?" put the spotlight on young leaders - whom we at ABIS call movers - who shared a powerful vision, reframing, and drive for the transformation towards more value-centred, pluralistic, inclusive, sustainability-driven economy and education.

  • Moderator: Baback Yazdani, Professor and Executive Dean, Nottingham Business School, NTU & Chair of the Board of Directors, ABIS
  • Francisco Rodrigues, President, JE Global
  • Sophie Charrois, International President, Oikos
  • Monika Skadborg, Board Member, European Youth Forum
  • Kamila Camilo, Partner, Impact Beyond & Davos Lab Taskforce Member, WEF

Sophie Charrois stressed the need, both in economy and in education, to “encounter stakeholders with questions” and truly listen, as well as to give space to human aspects and the “heart” - our personal stories, what really moves us – which is what is often missing to transform knowledge (our head) into action (hands). Monika Skadborg emphasized how priorities shift when taking into account the timeline the young generation lives in. She put into perspective how close the future really is, why youth are willing to pay for the sustainability transition, and therefore the need to include youth in current decision-making.

Francisco Rodrigues called for more entrepreneurial learning for a sustainable future. This is what the junior enterprises concept he champions is about – creating projects for students to put into practice what they learn in their studies, allowing them to deal with change, to learn fast and react quickly, not afraid to take decisions and implement innovative solutions. As a young female leader from the Global South, Kamila Camilo shared the vision of a future which is participative and collaborative, where access to food, public health, education and decent conditions are guaranteed by collective efforts, a stakeholder capitalism where partnerships are key and youth is given adequate space and tools. “If not now, maybe we won’t have any future to talk about”.

Further discussion focused on life-wide learning, intergenerational equity, more integrated and holistic approaches to education; the role of local contexts, university leadership and individual professors, as well as demands for more inclusive and forward-looking politics.

Are you craving some powerful inspiration? Click here to ACCESS THE RECORDING!

The following interactive session featured playing a full session of the Scenario Exploration System - a serious game developed by the European Commission which helps to engage in systemic thinking and explore alternative sustainable futures. In this interactive, dynamic learning experience, participants explored how different stakeholders can react to and influence societal trends and engage their foresight skills, change agency, and understanding of complexity. (Scroll to the end to find more information on the session and this tool in the Resources section).

Day 3 - 29 April

New Learning Paradigms

The last panel "What do businesses and business schools need to learn?" of our KIAF reflected on new mindsets and competences that are needed to deal with this increasingly complex human society, social divides, and environmental challenges. We discussed how businesses and business schools can become innovative and learning organizations to navigate new waters.

  • Moderator: Ivo Matser, CEO, ABIS & Vice President, IEDC - Bled School of Management
  • Mette Morsing, Head of PRME, UN Global Compact
  • Njeri Mwagiru, Senior Futurist, University of Stellenbosch Business School
  • Eva Pomeroy, Social Innovator in Residence, Concordia University & Core Team Member, Presencing Institute

The panel discussion started off with the statement of Mette Morsing that the purpose of corporations shifting from profit maximation to betterment of society, should also be at the center of business education teaching and it’s still not reflected in textbooks and pedagogies. There needs to be a more collective lens on understanding and measuring the success of management education, which includes the development of student agency, the ability to identify critical questions and a breadth of emotional and social skills needed in management. Another element that was added by Njeri Mwagiru is the importance of adopting foresight and futures thinking to and engage with the contradictions of the future we are pursuing vs the future we are envisioning, to open up for preparedness, and to move from thinking to testing and scaling viable solutions). There is a lack of know-how both in business and business education, and a great opportunity to develop such skillset.

Eva Pomeroy stressed how education should help students ignite passion and purpose, and align these to what is necessary in the world (“What is significant to me and the world about what I am learning?”). This would mean cultivating key qualities like deep curiosity, empathy, humility and vulnerability that often do not show up in learning objectives – cognitive skills are extremely valuable, yet these are the only skills we are nurturing. The lively discussion that followed generated a wide variety of insights on drivers, characteristics and examples of new educational models in terms of:

  • innovative, dialectical learning interventions (peer learning, faculty-student mentoring, dispersed learning, reflective approaches)
  • context (local orientation, bringing society into the classroom, collaborative partnerships)
  • content and structure (e.g. social and environmental justice, design science, economics for biodiversity, cross-disciplinary knowledge)
  • assessment (from quantitative to qualitative, self-reflection, portfolios of narratives)

You can listen to the brilliant perspectives and ideas of our panelists in this RECORDING!

The following interactive co-creation session on the future of business education  featured a 3 Horizons exploration, which purpose was the help participants to initiate transformative action and acquire the perspectives of futures consciousness. The session harnessed the learnings from the event and participants insights which generated a map for possible developments in business education. (The session outcome as well as other relevant materials can be found in the Resources below).

Resources for action

In this section we are sharing with you a list of resources that you can use in your own activities to effectively engage any relevant stakeholders to turn knowledge into action. You can use them to learn about the methods we used in the interactive sessions. There are lots of great resources available online and wide range of applications in a variety of contexts (higher education, primary and secondary education, conferences etc.). For the purpose of the sessions within our KIAF, the ABIS team found the following pages useful:

Fishbowl conversation

Scenario Exploration System

Three Horizons practice

Follow-up activities

We are proud to help translating knowledge into action with the following activities:


We at ABIS are thrilled that our participants and speakers enjoyed this year´s theme and discussions. Here is what they shared with us!

"It is always good to be reminded of where we are - as many conferences do - , but it is so much better if we are stimulated to think outside the box, about a wider context, the future. Some of the speakers were brilliant and the scenario building at the end was very impressive."

"On the first day I participated in conversations around sustainability that were emotionally charged and the speakers revealed new insights."

"I am an educator and I loved the heavy focus on learning. Very timely and relevant for me."

"Very relevant as all the topics discussed are what we as an institution and business school are grappling with."

"SES workshop was absolutely great!"

"I think under the circumstances you all have done an amazing job ABIS! Kudos"

Thank you and see you soon!

Created By
ABIS Admin