From Washington, DC, to Pakistan, Robert Sicina, an international business professor at the Kogod School of Business, has worked to create partnerships between students and entrepreneurs in post-conflict regions in the name of peace.
Sicina teaches self-created courses like Peace Through Entrepreneurship Practicum and, most recently, was elected Vice Chairman of the Business for Peace (B4P) Working Group. B4P assembles academics dedicated to promoting peace through their research, teaching, and interaction with the business community. The group is part of the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRiME), which is under the UN Global Compact.
To fully appreciate Sicina’s most recent accomplishment, it’s critical to know where he started. It all began with a volunteer opportunity with the State Department over a decade ago, which has since manifested into a unique course offered at Kogod that has global impact.
When former Kogod Dean Dick Durand approached Sicina about being the volunteer faculty advisor for a State Department program that connected entrepreneurs in post-conflict regions with MBA students, Sicina saw an opportunity for professional growth and his Peace Through Entrepreneurship Practicum class was born.
When the program was discontinued, Sicina had luckily laid a foundation to continue the course on his own. He had established contacts in the Middle East and was able to leverage them to create a source of projects for his students. For the last decade, Sicina has been able to put together four to five projects a semester.
The main focus of Sicina’s course is economic opportunity and how it is vital to the peace and prosperity of regions like Tunisia, Gabon, Palestine, and Pakistan.
“If you have economic opportunity, if you can show people that tomorrow is going to be better than today, and that their kids lives can be better than their lives, then they’re going to put down their guns and go to work,” he said.
This semester, Sicina has five projects in the works and is in the process of developing strategic relationships with a Zambian accelerator called BongoHive and the United States Institute of Peace in DC. Sicina now has the privilege of only teaching courses he has created, which comes with its own set of challenges.
“It’s hard to cobble together reasonably good projects,” Sicina said. “I learned something this semester, that the more front-end work I do with the entrepreneurs before the semester starts, the better the course goes.”
It was through his course that Sicina met Christina Bache, who was connected to The Hollings Center for International Dialogue. And through his connection to Bache, Sicina got to attend a Hollings Center conference in Dubai. It was here that Sicina attended his first B4P meeting and became a member of its steering committee.
As B4P’s vice chairman, Sicina has big plans for the future. The first hurdle: membership. Currently, there are about 60 members, 20 of which are active. He hopes to expand the group’s membership to 400 or 500 by the end of the year. Sicina also wants to see B4P become a 501(c)(3) and begin hosting its own conferences. In two years Sicina will become chairman of the group, and he hopes to accomplish the goals he’s laid out during his term to set the following chairman up for success.
Looking ahead, Sicina plans to capture his professional achievements and experiences in his upcoming book, The Business of Peace. While he spent five challenging years writing his first book, Sicina looks forward to telling the stories of the entrepreneurs he’s worked with over the years.
“It was a [tough] experience, one of those things like working out, but it feels good when it’s over,” he said. “It feels good to have written a book. I think the next time around I’ll write a better [one].”
The art of establishing peace through business is tricky, but Sicina has found a balance.