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Los Andes and Harvard Business School record accounts from entrepreneurs

Professor Andrea Lluch is part of the Creating Emerging Markets project, which has researched the development of companies and organizations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Professor Andrea Lluch is part of the Creating Emerging Markets project, which has researched the development of companies and organizations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
06/10/2017
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Studying history can be an inspiration. It helps to explain an ever-changing world, and allows for deeper understandings of societies and cultures. Studyingthe history behind organizations and entrepreneurs from different parts of the world, especially those who come from emerging markets, brings additional insights. It also can open the door to innovation, organizational strategy, and the improvement of the environment and the generation of values for societies.

Collecting and preserving testimonials from business leaders in emerging markets is the objective of the Creating Emerging Markets (CEM) project, led by Harvard Business School (HBS). Historian Andrea Lluch, professor and researcher of Uniandes School of Management, has conducted many interviews with entrepreneurs in Latin America—from countries like Colombia, Chile, Peru, and Argentina. These interviews are part of CEM’s historical archive.

Creating Emerging Markets explores the evolution of enterprises and organizations in Africa, Asia and Latin America, through interviews with major business leaders in these regions. These are people who have had the opportunity to help their own regions. In the interviews, they discuss the crucial moments in their careers; relate ideas about entrepreneurial spirit, innovation, and sustainability; share their views on family enterprises and brand sustainment; and even explore the issues of corruption and climate change.

Professor Lluch emphasizes the historical nature of the project. Without dismissing the importance of current events, the interviews are designed to be reflective—scrutinizing the past in order to shed light on change and continuity over time. Indeed, the interviews seek a long-term vision. “This guarantees that the material lives longer than the news”, Lluch says.

The project’s history

From the beginning, the project was conceived as a public good, such that academics, researchers, and teachers around the world could gain access to the CEM archive through the Harvard Business School Library(Consulting http://www.hbs.edu/creating-emerging-markets/about/Pages/default.aspx). “The material is produced in the language of the region and is subtitled in English, to create the broadest possible readership”, explains the professor. Each month, an average of a thousand individuals from all over the world visit the CEM website, showing that it is truly a unique resource that can support a diverse range of research projects, help solve new sets of research questions, and serve as a source for articles or books.

“This initiative began in 2009 from a centralized project in Latin America, in which I was a researcher. Since 2012, and thanks to the leadership of Professor Geoffrey Jones of HBS, the initiative went global. With my entry in Uniandes School of Management in 2015, I had the possibility of adding Colombia into this project”, remembers Professor Lluch. “It’s important to make visible our Faculty’s contribution as strategic partner in the region for this project”, she states.

In February 2017, she conducted two interviews: one with José Alejandro Cortés, who led Grupo Bolívar for over 60 years and is one of the creators of the Fundación para el Progreso de la Región Capital (ProBogotá Región), and another with Antonio Celia Martínez-Aparicio, President of Promigas, recognized Colombian entrepreneurs that have led those organizations over several decades.

Lluch stresses the importance of this initiative because every interview “can be used to study things like administration and organizational challenges, and because the interviews allow teachers to address complex, often intangible, issues such as leadership, resilience capability, and sustainability trade-offs”.

Importantly, these stories are not all about success cases, but rather about highlighting the critical aspects that any person or institution goes through. “This is very important in Latin America, given the political, social, even geographic difficulties. I have conducted eleven interviews in Argentina, ten in Chile, eight in Peru and—so far—two in Colombia. I hope to continue searching for material to recreate the history of our countries from the perspective of entrepreneurialleaders”, she says.

CEM also includes interviews in countries like México, Costa Rica, Brazil, India, Turkeyand different countries in Africa. Every country and region has its own set of issues, challenges, strengths, and weaknesses, and this contributes to the diversity of the project, magnifying the benefit spectrum. “Before, the interviews were only supposed in audio, but now they are done in video, as long as the interviewee agrees. Every one of them has a transcript that can easily be consulted by visiting the Baker Library”, the historian explains.

About the interviews

With the objective that they can be used in multiple scenarios, the interviews are long, so that they can cover the various themes that have to do with emerging economies. “This is a relatively new concept; back then, they were referred as developing countries. These are economies that have no high level income, but they do have projection. The project does not concentrate on the entrepreneurs within the United States or Europe, where there is a larger tradition and knowledge; it seeks to make visible the experience of businessmen that have lived in other contexts with their own particularities. As a researcher, there is an additional value in rescuing stories from these regions and preserving the struggles and challenges faced by entrepreneurs, for example, during the economical crisis or periods of political instability.It is interesting to know how they managed through those circumstances”, Lluch explains.

According to the investigator, most of the interviewed businessmen have led their organizations for over three or four decades, which allows them to tell the history of their countries over the long-run, through their failures or successes. “It stays as a live testimony for future generations, rescuing the oral tradition value as a methodological strategy. Even though an investigation based just on oral tradition might be flawed, it also has an unmatched richness. I have learnt as much, or even more, from listening to entrepreneurs than from reading books, because it results as experiential”, she states.

“It is a challenge to make these interviews because many themes must be covered. The interviews start with a recreation of the profile of the entrepreneur: the beginnings, social origin, and trajectory, and then themes more related to the enterprise strategy are approached, along with internationalization, life cycles and, in the end, the role between businessman and society. Then, topics of the problem of sustainability, poverty, state role and corruption”, indicates the professor.

There are a lot of differences between entrepreneurs from different countries, even though there are common characteristics in the region.

“Each country has certain characteristics related to crises and political instability that have deeply impacted business. For example, comparing the reality between Argentinean and Colombian allows us to know that the former faced larger economical inestability due to recurrent crisis, acute devaluations hyperinflations and military governments while in Colombia, the challenges have been different: geography, political violence, or the guerilla conflict.

It is impossible not to ask to a Colombian businessman today about the post-conflict, which to an Argentine an business seems irrelevant” she indicates.

“There are common patterns like the role of the family, because many enterprises that we have investigated are still familiar ones, some are owners of economical groups that have diversified and also, off course, there is the difference of each country. That is the game: to establish common patterns and particularities. The same goes with each interviewee. Every person is unique, and there’s only one chance to gasp what he or she wants to communicate. By knowing the history, we can’t predict it, but we can identify certain tendencies and patterns that help understand much better the present”, Lluch points out.

 

 



 

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New resource shows Colombian public opinion

Colombians in the Plaza de Bolívar with flags
New resource shows Colombian public opinion
05/10/2017
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Data including Colombian’s party affiliation, confidence in political institutions, satisfaction with public services and public education, and the perception of freedom of speech are part of a huge database that anyone can now be consult.

Thanks to the Americas Barometer, which is led by Universidad de los Andes under the Democracy Observatory, any Colombian can now freely and efficiently access the country’s public opinion surveys.

The Americas Barometer is the main public opinion study for the Americas. Since 2004, the Democracy Observatory, part of the Department of Political Science at the university, has annually published reports, to begin with in book format and on their website. However, in attempt to provide greater reach, the reports are now presented more dynamically, with simpler language and the possibility of cross-referencing information.

An effort was made to thematically separate information in order to facilitate searches. As such, it is possible to access information on Colombian’s opinions in five areas: Peace, Post-conflict and reconciliation, Attitudes and opinions of Colombian women, Democracy and institutions, Inequality, and Discrimination.

The purpose of this information is also so that the citizens can, in some way, own it. Miguel García Sánchez, associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Los Andes and co-director of the Democracy Observatory, says that, “Although the data have been periodically published, we realized that this micro-data was not easily understood or used by the average person. For this reason, we devised this way of making one-off, quick, and simple searches.”

As well as separating the report into thematic areas, the new resource offers the possibility to cross-reference information.

Each one of the report’s thematic areas include a series of related variables, which can be selected from a drop-down menu. The system generates a simple graph with the result using which it is possible to cross-reference information with information such as sex, age, urban or rural area, level of education, and region.

For example, if you consult the country’s main problem, according to the perception of those surveyed, the system generates a pie chart with information relating to the conflict, followed by the economy, and then security. When this is cross-referenced with age, a graph will appear that is much more descriptive and shows the perception of the people surveyed based on if they are senior citizens, adults, or young people.

After searching, the user can download the result or share it on social networks.

If the person wants to see how the variable selected has evolved since 2004, they can click on the Trends tab and then select the specific year to make the comparison.

Professor García Sánchez adds that, “As well as providing information that can be used as an input for academic research in the university, the idea is that it is also available to decision-makers, the public sector, student media, and the general public.”

About the study

The Americas Barometer survey is conducted annually and involves 1,500 people from 47 municipalities throughout the whole country. The questionnaires have more than 200 questions and are asked face-to-face in homes.

In even years there is a national sample and in odd years there are special samples about a particular topic of national interest such as Afro-Colombia and post-conflict rural Colombia. All the data from these samples is freely available.

García Sánchez points out that America Barometer is relevant as it offers reliable and regular information on what has been called the ‘political culture of democracy’ and how opinions, attitudes, and some behaviors are compared to citizens from other countries in the region.

The Democracy Observatory is the center for academic research, public opinion and political and social behavior analysis: part of the Department of Political Science at the Universidad de los Andes. It is directed by professors and researchers Juan Carlos Rodríguez Raga and Miguel García Sánchez from the university.
 

Click here for the Americas Barometer Colombia 2016 results.

Access to the full report here.

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Semester with a record number of foreign students

Semester with a record number of foreign students

232 international students began their academic semester in the Universidad de los Andes, Colombia. 78 had enrolled for master´s degrees and 154 for undergraduate programs.

20/09/2017
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232 international students began their academic semester in the Universidad de los Andes, Colombia. 78 had enrolled for master´s degrees and 154 for undergraduate programs.

The majority of international students are from France (53), followed by Germany (23), Denmark (17), Portugal (16), the United Kingdom (12), Italy (10), and there are also students from Holland, Australia, the United States, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, Canada, Norway and China. There are also 43 Latin American students.
 

There are 66 international students in the Faculty of Business Administration, 45 in the Faculty of Social Sciences, 37 in the Faculty of Engineering, 22 in the Faculty of Design, 15 in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, 14 in the Faculty of Economics, 10 in the Faculty of Law, 7 in the Faculty of Sciences, 3 in the Faculty of Education, 2 in the Interdisciplinary Centre for Studies on Development, 2 in the School of Government, and 9 visiting students.
 

Yadira Mogollón, head of Academic Mobility, which is part of the Office of Internationalization in the Vice-Rectory for Academic Affairs, states that the university offers five programs through which undergraduate students can take part in academic exchanges.
 

She commented that, “As well as students expanding their knowledge during their degrees, they also have the opportunity to find out about other cultures and ways of life, learn a foreign language, and more generally develop on a professional and personal level.”

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Neurons that allow us to understand others

Giacomo Rizzolatti
Giacomo Rizzolatti
31/08/2017
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Have you ever asked yourself, why do we mirror others, especially when we see someone else yawning? The answer was discovered in 1996 and it revolutionized the world of neuroscience, of researchers, and perhaps helped us to understand why we understand others. In that year, neurologist Giacomo Rizzolatti and his team discovered mirror neurons. He made the discovery when he was studying monkey´s brains and found a group of neurons that became activated not only when the animal was making a movement itself but also when it was watching another animal do so.

As a result of this discovery, subsequent research established that this system of neurons allows us to make other people´s actions, sensations, and emotions our own. It is for this reason that you can “feel” a performer´s pain or emotion and that someone´s smile is contagious. These neurons give rise to people´s connections in society such as empathy and mirroring.

On Saturday 29th July Giacomo Rizzolatti gave a conference in the Universidad de los Andes

Explain to us how you made the discovery?
Giacomo Rizzolatti: In 1996 we were studying the behavior of motor neurons in monkeys, so we implanted some electrodes into them to find out their activity. However, we ended up discovering a group of neurons that activated when the animal performed an action as well as when another person or animal performed it. 

Do these neurons function the same in humans?
GR: We started carrying out experiments with humans and we already knew that there were motor and visual neurons, but the discovery found some neurons that managed to understand another person without that person meaning for them to do so: this is what we call empathy.

Mirror neurons have created a certain amount of trust in other people, but this trust has been lost. What has happened to these neurons?
GR: There are two different mechanisms: in the case of empathy it is the capacity that the person has to picture the situation that another is going through, to feel the pain, make a face of disgust, and laugh, but this mechanism is different from the social element. Just think about the Second World War, which started because it was said that the Jews were bad people. Using this cognitive mechanism, it was possible to change the biological mechanism of empathy. This is one of the biggest dangers that we face: modifying the empathy that we have so that we damage others. Society has the ability to change empathy and turn it into something bad.

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Language assessment: a key topic in education

These tests are always undertaken in schools, universities, and at postgraduate level.

These tests are always undertaken in schools, universities, and at postgraduate level.

31/08/2017
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How did language tests become to be so important in determining peoples´ futures? This question will be discussed in Universidad de los Andes during the LTRC: Language Testing Research Colloquium — LTRC 2017 in which researchers from universities in several cities around the world and experts from leading examination centers (such as ETS´ TOEFL and the British Council´s IELTS) analyze the field of assessment in foreign language teaching. The LTRC will take place from 17th to 21st July.

Isabel Tejada Sánchez from the department of Languages and Culture at Los Andes highlights that this event will echo the need to think about the impact that assessment has on different levels of education. The professor explained that the word assessment is often feared due to the implications and consequences that development in this area can have on our lives. “Even so, as educators and students, this dynamic is part of our day-to-day lives and it is impossible to ignore. However, we very rarely ask ourselves why and for what reason it exists”.

On the same subject, Gerriet Arthur Janssen, associate professor in the Department of Languages and Culture at Los Andes explained that the international congress was useful to analyze in depth the exams that are used to validate the level that someone has in a certain language. “Also, we will study the use of new technologies and innovation in these types of assessments in order to improve the reliability of the results of the tests to make them closer to the person´s real level”.

It is for this reason that, under the framework of the international language conference, -together with CaMLA and Goëthe Institut- workshops on assessment of the different languages taught at Los Andes (such as German, French, English, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish) will be held.
 

Additionally, the creation of a network of language assessment researchers in Latin America is to be planned that will be supported by the ILTA.

Over the LRTC´s 39 year history, this is the first time that this conference will be held in Latin America and will go beyond the Anglo-Saxon tradition of exams such as IELTS and TOEFL, “as we will be joined by experts in the development of exams for: Portuguese (CELPE-BRAS that is provided by IBRACO to pursue higher education in Brazil), German (the sprachdiplom exam), French (the DEFL and DALF), Spanish as a foreign language, and for Japanese there will be a meeting on the assessment paradigm”.

This will be an excellent opportunity to find out first-hand the evolution and current situation of assessment exams for different languages.

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