By Immediate Past President Jeremy Clegg

In 2021, for me, the highlights began with securing AIB’s footprint in the great regions of the world, preparatory to a future in which our offerings reach new heights worldwide. Our organization already had a global reach but, for one reason or another, in very important parts of the world, this potential was not, or could not, be effectively realized. Now, I believe it can. We have, over this last year, reduced the headcount of chapters from 18 to 13.

Two new regional chapters, South Asia and Asia Pacific, have replaced several national chapters. Consolidating national chapters into regional chapters has a number of benefits. Critical mass is one, but another is empowering chapter leadership teams to function independently of the constraints that strike on a national basis. The AIB Executive Board has been gratified to see the signs of revitalization that have followed.

The great strength of AIB lies in our chapters, our Shared Interest Groups (SIGs), our journals, our AIB Fellows and last, but not by any means least, in you, the members. We are a volunteer organization. Each of us contributes through our activities, all the way from leadership roles in parts of our Academy through to presenting academic papers and attending activities, thus making AIB a vibrant forum.

Past President Lorraine Eden identified AIB as an organization that has pursued geographical diversification (the chapters) and product diversification (the SIGs). Lorraine perceptively saw that AIB’s product diversification had not progressed as far as it should. Our SIGs are nurseries for capacity-building and the rapid adding of value on a worldwide basis. The establishment in 2020 of our Sustainability SIG, now joined by the Emerging Markets SIG in 2021, both in the company of our SIGs in Research Methods, Teaching & Education, and Women in AIB – which celebrated its twentieth birthday this year – offers us the intellectual and academic firepower to raise the quality of research and scholarship around the world.

In previous years, our chapters and SIGs were not in the custom of coordinating directly with each other. The AIB Board organized a roundtable meeting between chapters and SIG leaders at AIB 2021 Online to jump-start a new era of dialogue and collaboration. The meeting was a huge success, and all present agreed this was our model for the future. In the steady state, our vice presidents of administration – whose primary board role is to nurture the development of chapters and SIGs – will ensure barriers-free communication between these components worldwide.

AIB now has a truly global matrix structure, in which the knowledge generated in our SIGs can be effectively deployed in our chapters, so energizing regional conferences and workshops and raising academic caliber up to the highest level, everywhere.

Add to this structure our journals – JIBS, JIBP and AIB Insights – embodying AIB’s commitment to scientific rigor, discovery and the application of knowledge to real-world concerns, plus our AIB Fellows to share their expertise as they did so wonderfully at our annual meeting, and we have the winning “value adding formula” for our members, both present and future. And AIB is becoming what I had hoped – an internally connected “learning” organization, better able to innovate and anticipate the great challenges that are surely still to come.

2021 was AIB’s Year of Diversity & Inclusion, championed by current Vice President of Administration Dana Minbaeva. As of 2022, we remain on a mission to raise the caliber of our Academy through D&I. We wish to make AIB the sort of organization anyone with aspirations will want to be part of and, in our own small way, a microcosm of the world that any of us would wish to live in. We build that level of academic quality by tackling barriers faced by our excellent colleagues around the world.

With regard to extending opportunities and influence for AIB and its membership, we took an important step forward in working with UNCTAD’s Division on Investment and Enterprise (DIAE), led by Dr. James Zhan. DIAE is a natural partner for AIB – focusing on multinational enterprises and all forms of international business as they impact upon the developing economies of the world. Past President Robert Grosse and Journal of International Business Policy Deputy Editor Ari Van Assche, together with a small AIB team, spearheaded our Academy’s new bond with UNCTAD on behalf of the AIB Board. Thanks to their efforts AIB had a share in the main program of the World Investment Forum, held over October 17-21, 2021 in Abu Dhabi. We can now reach policy makers and practitioners through this new institutional relationship. Our open call to AIB members to submit their work for consideration for panels at the Forum just underlined how we are now able to make career-building opportunities widely available to all.

No longer in silos, AIB’s internal dimension enables us more confidently to connect externally. Partnering with organizations and sponsors that share our ethos and ethics, such as the Sheth Foundation, has enabled us to construct workshops in education and research, particularly for junior faculty in developing and emerging economies, and wherever structural barriers prevent access to international-caliber scholarship and research. Our AIB Asia Pacific Chapter has now run three workshops given by top scholars covering research development in International Marketing and Global Strategy and teaching development in International Marketing. And our AIB South Asia Chapter ran four further workshops comprising two teaching-focused and one each on publishing and research skills, spanning International Marketing and International Business. This is the future for our chapters, as AIB extends our capacity-building worldwide.

To maintain this momentum, AIB needs ideas and suggestions for investments from our SIGs, from our chapters, and from yet wider networks still. That is why, on Monday, July 26th we held our first-ever AIB Deans’ Roundtable. This is a presidential initiative to gather together deans of business schools to find out how AIB can serve them better. The Roundtable is a “first” for our Academy. Although we enroll our individual members from business schools, we have never engaged systematically with deans to develop a common agenda and to work with them. It is overdue for us to do so. AIB was represented by all four presidents at the time – Chuck Kwok, who presented a summary of the 2020 AIB-AACSB Global Curriculum Survey, our President Farok Contractor, President-Elect Maria Tereza Leme Fleury, and me. This first meeting was a full house of some 14 deans across the world and was chaired by Sanjay Gupta, Dean of the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University, where the AIB Secretariat is headquartered. Its success has spurred us to seek a continuation in 2022.

2021 saw AIB return to a regular board changeover. Our outgoing 2020/21 Board bade farewell to our longest-serving board member, Chuck Kwok, who departed after a record four years, with my – and our – most sincere appreciation for his sage advice throughout and for his colossal achievements in revitalizing AIB in eastern Asia, leading to the formation of the AIB Asia Pacific Chapter. Rebecca Piekkari, also completed her term of service after helping AIB to deliver our first-ever online conference, which pulled in a number of participants second only to our all-time high in Copenhagen, 2019. Rebecca had worked with her “Future Models” Task Force to envision and recommend we hold AIB 2021 Online. A great piece of advice that saw the academic and developmental attractions of the program assembled by Gary Knight and Andrew Delios yield our very close third largest-ever conference. As Vice President Administration, Luis Dau brought energy and enthusiasm to the Membership Committee, and left us a great asset in the form of his work with the International Business Uniqueness Task Force to articulate better than ever before why academic research and teaching on IB cannot, and should not, be sidelined. Throughout 2021, the AIB Executive Board has made wise decisions and has worked industriously to leave AIB further ahead as an organization than we could have hoped two years ago.

As you all know, our 2021/22 Board welcomed back Maria Tereza Fleury, formerly our 2019 AIB Copenhagen Program Chair. Maria Tereza serves as President-Elect, at a time when we stand in great need of all the innovativeness and experience that she embodies. Kazuhiro Asakawa joined as Vice President Program to serve as 2023 Program Chair, brimming with enthusiasm to make a difference. And Jennifer Oetzel, as Vice President Administration, joined Rebecca Reuber and Dana Minbaeva, just as the nodal role of VPA has reached its critical height in binding our organization together through a two-way dialogue with our chapters and SIGs, making AIB more flat, wide and deep than ever before.

Although the world is still largely focused on the process of recovery, our current President, Farok Contractor, has brought his trademark global vision to piloting AIB through 2022. At a time when we want to be in the safest of hands, I, and we all, can give thanks that we are.