By Jeremy Clegg, AIB President, AIB Fellow

In this article, I should like to update you on the advances AIB has been making in one of the most economically important parts of the world, east Asia. Up to this point, chapter resources and leadership expertise have been allocated unevenly throughout the region, with some groups functioning exclusively on a national level—the current China, Japan, South Korea chapters—and others internationally—the Southeast Asia Regional Chapter.

After lengthy strategic planning, including members of the AIB Executive Board, chapter leaders, and member-volunteers based in the region, the decision has been made to consolidate all of the above-named chapters into a single, all-inclusive, transnational unit: AIB’s new Asia Pacific Chapter. This change will officially go into effect December 5 at the conclusion the AIBSEAR 2020 Chapter Conference.

We believe that, not only will this allow AIB to operate more effectively in the region, delivering greater value to members and creating exciting new programming opportunities, it will also serve as an organizational model for how our chapters can combine local expertise with international reach.

Understanding Regional Chapters’ Strengths

One of AIB’s greatest strengths is its chapter network. Chapters allow AIB members to participate in activities closer to their “home base”, both in physical space and–especially important now–in terms of time zone. These local engagement opportunities also benefit AIB as whole, expanding our membership and growing our international network of leaders and volunteers.

A particular advantage of regional-, rather than country-based, chapters is that they are diverse by nature, bringing AIB members and leaders together across national barriers—something that AIB strongly endorses. Regional chapters also promote economies of scope and scale–pooling expertise and enabling larger-scale events that attract more people. And for those of us who work at universities, these events have the added kudos of being international.

Given these comparative advantages, the AIB Executive Board undertook the task of assessing where chapter regionalization can produce the greatest immediate benefit.

The Strategic Approach

In August 2019, under the presidency of Chuck Kwok, the AIB Board bit the bullet, setting us on the path to reform in our global chapter structure. The principle was to reorganize country chapters into regional ones wherever our existing groups were having difficulty in meeting AIB’s objectives. At the same time, the Board recognised that greater communication was needed with chapter leadership on how these changes should be implemented.

Beginning in June of 2020, we embarked on a series of meetings with incumbent chapter chairs in China, Japan, South Korea, and the Southeast Asia Region (AIBSEAR) to explore our options.

Establishing an International Leadership Team

Converting the existing country-based chapters into a new regional chapter became a question of recruiting a diverse and geographically representative leadership team. Following a search process in China and in South Korea, we were able to identify excellent candidates willing to become country directors. In Japan, our serving chapter chair, Professor Jusuke Ikegami of Waseda University, had already set out a plan for increasing AIB’s services to its members and future members, and was enthusiastic to serve as a country director within a new regional structure. In China, Dr. Lei Li, of Nottingham University Business School, at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China, was appointed as Country Director for China, swiftly followed by the appointment of Professor Geon-Cheol Shin, of the School of Management, Kyung Hee University, as Country Director for South Korea.

In the process of reinvigorating AIB’s activity in the region, we realized that an opportunity existed in Singapore to upgrade its representation. Our Singapore-based AIB Executive Board member, Andrew Delios volunteered to support this effort and was appointed Country Director. Finally, in September, in response to a formal request from the Chair of the AIBSEAR Executive Board, Professor Yingyot Chiaravutthi, the AIB Board unanimously approved that the AIB regional chapter known as The Southeast Asia Regional Chapter of the Academy of International Business (AIBSEAR) will become the Academy of International Business Asia Pacific Chapter.

At the same time, the Board approved the merger of the current membership and chapters of China, Japan and South Korea into this new Asia Pacific chapter. The new Asia Pacific Executive Board incorporates each of the existing AIBSEAR Board leadership, who remain in place. The newly appointed country directors therefore join professors Chiaravutthi, Bradley Barnes, and Geng Cui, along with other regional representatives. AIB’s deepest thanks go to each of the chapter’s officers, and to Wenting Zhu, for their distinguished service, and their enthusiasm for this new endeavor.

What is more, under the leadership of Chuck Kwok, the new Asia Pacific Chapter will be supported by an Advisory Council. Serving on this Council will be professors Sea Jin Chang, JT Li, and Jane Lu – each of whom are leading scholars in the Asia Pacific region. Their role will be to offer guidance to the new regional chapter and to draw in other leading academics to engage their membership. Council members will also work to enhance AIB programming within the region through things like workshops, doctoral consortia, paper development workshops, and original research presentations.

Charting the Path Forward

A final point I should just like to make is that the transition to a new regional chapter does not mean that nationally based events will not take place. Far from it, in fact the AIB Executive Board envisages a re-energized program of national activities, drawing on the new resources available to the Asia Pacific Chapter. Planning for 2021 events in Japan, China, and South Korea are already underway.

The reform of AIB’s geographical offerings continues in other areas of the world, and it will fall either to me or my successor as president, Farok Contractor, to bring further news to you on this. Realizing our aspirations will take time, and dedication. We have the people in place who have pledged to make this initiative a success and advise us on any future regionalization efforts.

The reborn Asia Pacific Chapter promises a higher level of investment in AIB’s offerings in the region. AIB will invest in this new regional chapter by securing the participation of leading scholars in its activities and providing financial support to make the group an exemplar within our association.

There are, doubtless, fine details to tidy up. However, the way ahead is clear, and it is to realize the vast potential in this great region of the world. It is truly a new chapter in AIB’s history.