The founders of the Integral MBA in Creative Enterprise, launching at Impact HUB Oakland this October, share a vision of a future in which people use business to catalyze positive change and growth in their communities. They call it “business with a heart.”

Integral MBA, an extension of Meridian University based in Petaluma, plans to enroll 20 people in its brand new, blended-learning MBA program in Oakland.

“Oakland has that heartbeat, (a sense) that change is already happening here, with the food movement; people making change from a technological standpoint; we have Black Girls Code downstairs,” Nika Quirk, core faculty, said as she pointed to the main HUB space below. “It’s setting an example, it’s modeling something, when we bring ourselves together and ask ourselves, ‘What kind of city do we want to live in?’”

Quirk, acting as Meridian University’s feet on the ground in Oakland and in the HUB, recounted the story of how she ended up where she is today: as an undergraduate she crafted an interdisciplinary major in ethnic dance at San Francisco State University.

She probably would not have guessed that, decades later, she would be serving as a business consultant coach, emotional intelligence instructor at the UC Berkeley Extension’s International Diplomas Program, or faculty for an innovative third-wave MBA program, looking to transform the way people think about and do business.

She connected with Meridian University after a friend invited her to attend its 10th International Conference on Transformative Learning: A Future for Earth in 2012, where she encouraged attendees to engage in artful inquiry by handing out small bags with three crayons, a wad of folded-up paper and clay. She believes in the power of “soft skills” to transform people’s lives, because it changes their interactions with others and both the quality and impact of their relationships.

The MBA in Creative Enterprise will be rooted in both integral theory, which utilizes multi-level frameworks for thinking about complex reality, and transformative learning, with classes ranging from the fundamentals ‒ Operations Management and Human Resources Development ‒ to program-specific offerings ‒ Emergent Thinking in the Creative Economy and Collaborative and Cultural Leadership, for example.

Integral MBA founders like to quote Polly LaBarre, co-founded the Management Innovation eXchange, as a way to explain the thinking, “The future of business is mavericks, heretics and activists.”

Transformative learning, Quirk said, is about recognizing the relationship between the individual and the collective and realizing that transformation begins with the individual.

“The Popuphood movement was a moving into generosity and the sharing economy. That’s how things get regenerated, when there’s a place of possibility,” Quirk said. “That’s what we’re holding in this program.”

To help elucidate what it’s all about, Meridian University is hosting a lunchtime Spirit of Enterprise Conversation Series at the HUB exploring how business can shift from exploiting to regenerating the commons. This Friday, July 18, at noon, Ricardo Nunez of the Sustainable Economies Law Center will lead a conversation about forming worker cooperatives.



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