Irish Ties: Expanding Entrepreneurial Leadership on the Emerald Isle

Babson President at Podium

DUBLIN — A Babson-hosted gathering aimed at expanding relationships and entrepreneurial endeavors drew a hearty crowd of corporate and political attendees last week as College President Stephen Spinelli Jr. MBA’92, PhD announced a new Babson accelerator program in Ireland.

“The world is changing so rapidly that you’ve got to be entrepreneurial—it’s become a required competency,” Spinelli told a crowd that included U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Claire D. Cronin, Bank of America Europe’s Chief Operating Officer Ursula Mapley, and Pfizer Site Leader John Sourke. “As the necessity to learn entrepreneurial problem solving has progressed, so has our relationship with Ireland. Now’s the time.”

US Ambassador Claire Cronin
U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Claire D. Cronin speaks during a Dublin event announcing a new Babson accelerator program in Ireland.

The program, Babson’s Accelerator for Growth, Innovation and Entrepreneurial Leadership (B-AGILE), brings inclusive learning to mid-level managers in companies, government agencies, and nonprofits. B-AGILE, which will also be available in Europe, teaches managers and high-performing employees the tools to drive innovation and create entrepreneurial solutions, increasing the organization’s value in an ever-changing world.

Cronin, a Brockton, Massachusetts, native appointed by President Biden, lauded the program for emphasizing continued learning and diversity.

“Babson College is united by a shared vision to create positive changes in the world and the goal of creating social and economic value everywhere. So, I’m pleased that such an incredible educational institution came to Ireland to build new relationships and continue this important work,” Cronin said. “I look forward to watching Babson’s engagement in Ireland continue to grow as they foster these important people-to-people ties.”

A Warm Irish Welcome

The B-AGILE accelerator program has already proven to be successful for agencies such as the Massachusetts State Lottery and the Springfield (Massachusetts) Police Department. The program’s expansion is born out of a long and textured relationship between Babson and Ireland, including Spinelli’s first visit to Dublin in 1992.

While working on his doctorate degree at the Imperial College in London, Spinelli presented his first academic paper in Dublin. He went on to build both work-related and friendly partnerships throughout the country.

“I have a long history with Ireland that’s progressed over the years, and it really is about building a community and an entrepreneurship ecosystem through these colleges,” Spinelli said. He also recruited Ireland to join the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, a global consortium of academic researchers who review entrepreneurship indicators worldwide, shortly after Babson co-founded it in 1999 with the London Business School.

“Now more than ever, workers need to be prepared for a future filled with uncertainty. That requires learning to be a lifetime endeavor,” Spinelli said during the evening reception.

Kim Sawyer, an adjunct professor at Babson, pointed to the longterm benefits that companies can reap when they offer lifelong learning programs such as B-AGILE.

“To meet these new challenges and prosper, companies must invest in developing their personnel skills, and drawing out their potential. This development should include promoting opportunities, which inspire innovation and thinking outside the box, which in turn increases employee productivity and job satisfaction,” Sawyer said. “According to an article in the Ivey Business Journal, companies that invest in learning opportunities for their employees deliver stock market returns five times greater than those that do not.”

Spinelli in Ireland
Babson President Stephen Spinelli Jr. greets U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Claire D. Cronin at a Dublin event announcing the expansion of the B-AGILE accelerator program to Ireland.

B-AGILE in Ireland will equip business leaders with the tools necessary to manage diverse teams and encourage innovation in the workplace. The program is to be spread out over seven, 90-minute virtual sessions, which will include case studies and discussions, as well as project work and team-building opportunities.

The accelerator’s focus on mid-level managers and high-potential employees is another way to ensure women and employees with diverse backgrounds can flourish, Cronin said.

“We all know that increasing representation in education, government, and business is not just the right thing to do to advance equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. It is the right thing to do for the health of our economies as well,” Cronin said. “The data is clear that diverse participation and representative leadership more consistently yields benefits for our economies, and for our communities.”

The Luck of the Irish

While the Dublin reception focused on new programs and fresh friendships, the event was occasionally nostalgic.

During his short walk to the gathering, Spinelli suddenly remembered taking the same path through St. Stephen’s Green 30 years ago.

“I looked around, and it all came back to me,” he said. “At first, I wasn’t sure if my memory was accurate or if I’d exaggerated it, but as I was walking here today, it was exactly as I remembered.”

Woman and man hold proclamation
U.S. Ambassador Claire D. Cronin holds a proclamation awarded by Babson President Stephen Spinelli Jr.

The stroll down memory lane continued when Cronin reunited with former Massachusetts State House colleague Eugene O’Flaherty, who was representing the bipartisan lobbying firm Ballard Partners. “I came to this position as a former, proud member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives,” she told the Dublin group during an impromptu shoutout to her friend.

Cronin was the first woman to become Massachusetts House Majority Leader, one of the many reasons Spinelli awarded Cronin a proclamation. The former lawyer exemplifies the importance of diversity and women in leadership, and she has long touted the importance of continued education.

The warm memories continued even as Cronin highlighted the importance of forging new ones.

“Every new person we meet and talk to helps build a two-way understanding that we so fervently believe in. Initiatives such as B-AGILE increase this mutual understanding and help better prepare our workforces for the uncertain future,” Cronin said. “I believe that it is through this common energy, understanding, and determination that our countries will enhance our historic relationship.”

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