In 2002, Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University launched an initiative that caught Chuck Fowler’s eye: the world inquiry into “business as an agent of world benefit.” It was then that faculty and students across the school established a data bank to discover and showcase profitable business innovation in the arena of environmental sustainability and social entrepreneurship.
By 2009, the Fowler Center was established thanks to a timely and generous gift from Chuck and Char Fowler. Originally named the Fowler Center for Sustainable Value, the donation launched the inquiry into the existing business as an agent of world benefit initiative, driving it to a new level of priority, scale and scope as an interdisciplinary center of excellence.
“Sustainability is here to stay,” said Chuck Fowler at the time, “and it’s not just the right thing to do, but it’s a business innovation engine—doing good and doing well are totally and mutually reinforcing, and sustainability provides an overarching ideal and storehouse of leadership tools to make it so.”
The Fowler Center's aim is clear: To not only build on and leverage this legacy, but to create the world’s finest research, education and applied center for business as an agent of world benefit.
Evolution of the Fowler Center
- Fifth Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit: The Great Leadership Reset: In collaboration with Berrett Koehler Publishers, the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit hosted the Fifth Global Forum virtually from October 19-28, 2021. The 10 day event drew nearly 10,000 participants from around the world and featured 35 sessions with 42 speakers from the business and leadership communities.
- The Business of Building a Better World: The Leadership Revolution that is Changing Everything: Edited by David Cooperrider and Audrey Selian published by Berrett Koehler Publishers.
- ThinkImpact: The Fowler Center, in partnership with the Veale Institute for Entrepreneurship and with support from the US State Department, launched a co-curricular social entrepreneurship program for students of all majors to learn more about social entrepreneurship and create their own ventures.
- Fourth Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit: Discovering Flourishing Enterprise and AIM2Flourish inaugural Flourish Prizes: The Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit welcomed 300 participants from 31 countries to Cleveland, Ohio, from June 14-16, 2017, for the fourth Global Forum. The event, held at Case Western Reserve’s Tinkham Veale University Center, featured keynote speakers, an appreciative inquiry-based agenda that allowed for corporate teams and working groups organized based on shared interests to explore and innovate, and the inaugural presentation of the Flourish Prizes.
- AIM2Flourish: AIM2Flourish launched in June 2015 at the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) Global Forum conference and the UN Global Compact’s 15th anniversary celebration.
- Third Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit: Flourish and Prosper: The third Global Forum brought together more than 650 leading business executives, management scholars, civil society leaders, and government policy makers from around the world to identify and leverage new solutions to create greater value for business and society. The collective effort over two-and-a-half days led to breakthrough innovation ideas in eight mini-design summit areas. These ranged from agriculture and energy to metrics, the circular economy, cities, consciousness of connectedness and pioneering work on a U.S. Grand Strategy along with a new prizing project to showcase Business as an Agent of World Benefit.
- The Strategic Innovation Lab: The Strategic Innovation was a project hosted by the Fowler Center from 2014 until 2017. The project posited that sustainability needed to become our nation’s 21st century strategic imperative. The project published the book, The New Grand Strategy: Restoring Prosperity, Security, and Sustainability in the 21st Century.
- Flourishing Enterprise: The New Spirit of Business: Written by Chris Laszlo and Judy Sorum Brown with contributions from the Fowler Center’s Distinguished Fellows published by Stanford University Press.
- Fowler Family Fellowships: Established in 2014 through the gift of Chuck D. and Char A. Fowler, the Fowler Family Fellowship supported students in the full-time MBA program with a passion for sustainable value and who demonstrated exceptional ability, allowing them to focus on transformational ideas and business practices. The Fowler Family Fellowships were awarded from 2014 -2019.
- Fowler Center Teaching Case Studies: The Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit partnered with Ivey Publishing to co-brand teaching cases that focus on Sustainable Value and Flourishing Enterprise. These cases are written by Weatherhead School of Management faculty and candidates of our PhD, MBA and graduate programs. The teaching cases are available for purchase on Ivey Publishing’s website and are used by instructors as teaching tools, primarily in graduate-level courses.
- Fowler Center for Sustainable Value: With the timely and generous gift of Chuck and Char Fowler, the Fowler Center introduced The Fowler Center for Sustainable Value—launching the initiative to a new level of priority, scale and scope as an interdisciplinary center of excellence. The center’s aim became crystal clear: to build on and leverage the legacy and to create the finest research, education and applied center for sustainable enterprise in the world.
- Second Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit: Manage by Designing in an Era of Massive Information: In June 2009 at the Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit, 600 leaders of design, sustainability, business, policy and management envisioned and designed ways to enhance their fields while meeting pressing social and environmental needs. Participants worked to make their projects take flight in their communities, offices, board rooms and schools.
- First Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit: Management Knowledge Leading Positive Change: Held Oct. 22–25, 2006, at Case Western Reserve University and online, the forum brought together top business leaders and educators to focus on ways of doing, researching and teaching business that is both profitable and successful in addressing the world’s most pressing social needs. This innovative event brought corporate and thought leaders together in a unique setting to combine theory with practice as a means of developing actionable next steps for companies and business schools seeking to respond to social issues like the environment, health and poverty while also making a profit.
- Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit and World Inquiry Bank: In 2002, Weatherhead School of Management launched an initiative called the “world inquiry into business as an agent of world benefit” where faculty and students across the school established a data bank to discover and showcase profitable business innovation in the arena of environmental sustainability and social entrepreneurship. After 2,000 interviews, we soon realized that the data bank was documenting a revolution.
- Appreciative Inquiry: The birthplace and co-founding of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) happened in the doctoral program in Organizational Behavior at Case Western Reserve University in the collaboration between David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva in 1980. In 1984, Cooperrider completed his doctoral dissertation “Appreciative Inquiry: Toward a Methodology for Understanding and Enhancing Organizational Innovation." Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a strengths-based, positive approach to leadership development and organizational change. AI can be used by individuals, teams, organizations, or at the societal level; in each case, it helps people move toward a shared vision for the future by engaging others in strategic innovation.