Wes Hall, founder of the BlackNorth Initiative, and Reza Satchu, Founding Chairman of NEXT Canada, bring anti-racism education to Harvard - inspired by the courage of one young entrepreneur.
TORONTO, Nov. 25, 2020 /CNW/ - Wes Hall, Executive Chairman of Kingsdale Advisors, and founder of the BlackNorth Initiative, has just been featured in a new Harvard Business School case study. That's a rare honour that few leaders in Canada have achieved, and one that positions anti-racism at the core of the business learning agenda. The case, titled "Wes Hall and the BlackNorth Initiative", is co-authored by Reza Satchu, recently appointed Harvard Business School Senior Lecturer. After Mr. Hall shared his personal journey with this year's NEXT Canada entrepreneurs, Satchu was inspired to help turn the Black North Initiative into an educational tool and seek out an international audience for important anti-Black racism business practices. With HBS cases comprising the majority of the case-based curriculum at many business schools around the globe, the impact of Hall's initiative, focussed on dismantling systemic anti-Black racism at every layer of the corporate world, will impact thousands of business leaders for many years to come.
Satchu, who has taught entrepreneurship for more than 15 years, credits Aileen Agada, a recent graduate of the Next 36 accelerator program, for inspiring him to write the case after she called on him to better utilize his position to affect change, unlocking a chain of events that would bring Hall to the NEXT Canada classroom. The case chronicles Hall's personal experience with discrimination and the obstacles that he overcame to build a successful business, as well as the issues he faces in scaling the BlackNorth Initiative. Overall, the case builds a powerful argument for the importance of anti-racism practices in the business community.
"The BlackNorth Initiative challenges Canadian businesses to take a business-centric approach to identifying and addressing systemic anti-Black racism. Ultimately, it will create better representation for Black Canadians and an overall improvement in their prosperity and quality of life. Though there is hard work ahead, I want the BlackNorth Initiative to be seen as a symbol of hope – inspiring action amongst all Canadians," explains Wes Hall. "To see our initiative featured in a prominent case study at one of the world's most prestigious business schools is an important milestone on our journey. This is a powerful way to ensure we're talking about anti-racism globally – including shaping the actions of future business leaders around the world."
Much like BlackNorth itself, the case study was born of a powerful will to not only call for change – but move people to act now. Just as Hall was taking a public stand against the persistence of systemic racism, Next 36 entrepreneur Aileen Agada was contemplating how to make change herself. A young entrepreneur, whose company BeBlended aims to improve the quality of life for Black women by using technology to create inclusive and accessible hair care services, Agada was selected from hundreds of applicants to join NEXT Canada's premiere accelerator program. Agada was moved by the George Floyd tragedy to act on the racism she has faced throughout her life. NEXT Canada urges young, ambitious entrepreneurs to visualize a better future and act boldly, so she contacted Satchu and asked him point blank: "How can you do more to move the needle on anti-racism right here, right now?"
"I had no idea that my vulnerable conversation with Professor Satchu would create such a cascading effect, let alone be the catalyst to this HBS case study with Mr. Hall" says Agada. "Although I was initially hesitant to speak up, I'm glad I decided to step outside my comfort zone and share my thoughts on the lack of BIPOC representation within corporate Canada. I was tired of being the only Black woman in the room and I wanted to bring my perspective to NEXT's attention. Although initiating the conversation was tough, this experience and seeing the end result has encouraged me to always speak up and use my voice to have a positive impact."
"When Aileen asked me why I wasn't more actively using my position to affect meaningful, material change, that was really eye opening for me," says Satchu. "I had to acknowledge that unless I was actively speaking out, then I was part of the problem. So, after our call, I took swift action, bringing the narrative to the classroom and facilitating a class where students were encouraged to openly express their thoughts about systemic racism. To keep the conversation going, I then invited Wes for a follow up session during which he shared his extraordinary personal journey and the BlackNorth Initiative."
Now, Satchu has worked with Hall to move beyond rhetoric and do just what Agada asked him to do - shine the light on Hall's passion and make anti-racism practices part of the foundation of successful businesses and table stakes for young leaders around the world. As Satchu states: "As an entrepreneur and an educator, I believe that business leaders can make a real difference. By working together, we have created an important educational tool that can be used in future years by NEXT Canada, HBS and other business programs globally. BlackNorth is an impactful Canadian initiative and we hope that this case will inspire business leaders around the world."
As Wes Hall adds, "It is important for everyone to see and understand the tremendously corrosive effects of racism. However, to have racism examined and discussed within a dynamic university environment ensures that the topic of racism will not be seen as static, trapped in time or peripheral to society. Rather, it will become evergreen, ever relevant and of central importance through the discussions that the case study will encourage. Now that more people are starting to truly see the issue of racism, the BlackNorth Initiative and like-minded leaders will work systematically to identify and dismantle systemic anti-Black racism. As we make progress, the benefits to all citizens will become apparent – inspiring further waves of support, inspiration and action."
About Wes Hall – Wes Hall is the Executive Chairman & Founder of Kingsdale Advisors, The Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism and the BlackNorth Initiative. He has been named one of Canada's most powerful business people and most influential power brokers delivering an unparalleled track record of success for North America's biggest names including: Air Canada, Barrick, BHP Billiton, Citigroup, CN, CP, Encana, Goldcorp, Talisman, and Suncor. Wes has been appointed to the Ontario government's Capital Markets Modernization Task-force, and received the designation ICD.D from the Institute of Corporate Directors in partnership with the Rotman School of Management of the University of Toronto. Wes was the recipient of the Vice Chancellor's Award and received an Honorary Doctorate, both from the University of the West Indies.
About Black North Initiative – The BlackNorth Initiative was created by The Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism to combat anti-Black systemic racism in Corporate Canada. The initiative challenges senior Canadian business leaders to commit their companies to specific actions and targets designed to end anti-Black systemic racism and create opportunities for all of those in the underrepresented BIPOC community.
About Reza Satchu - Reza Satchu is Founder and Managing Partner of Alignvest Management Corporation, Founding Chairman of NEXT Canada and Senior Lecturer at the Harvard Business School where he teaches Launching Technology Ventures and The Entrepreneurial Manager. He has taught entrepreneurship for over 15 years at the University of Toronto, NEXT Canada and the Harvard Business School. Additionally, Mr. Satchu has successfully co-founded, built, and managed several businesses including Alignvest, KGS-Alpha Capital Markets, StorageNow and SupplierMarket. He has received Canada's Top 40 Under 40 Award and the McGill University Management Achievement Award. Mr. Satchu has a BA in Economics from McGill University and an MBA from Harvard University.
About NEXT Canada - NEXT Canada is a national, non-profit organization that develops exceptional entrepreneurs to build world-class ventures through three programs (Next 36, Next AI and Next Founders), resulting in a more ambitious and competitive Canada. NEXT Canada alumni have launched over 230 ventures that have raised over $850 million of equity capital and have created over 3,000 new jobs.
SOURCE Next Canada
For further information: MEDIA CONTACTS: Chloe Mills, Hill+Knowlton Strategies (on behalf of BNI), Ph: 416-413-4565, [email protected]; Jenn Patterson, NEXT Canada, Ph: 416-317-5253, [email protected]