Open World Scholar Olivier Boruchowitch on CEU’s Executive MBA Program, Strategy and the Culture Sector

Olivier Boruchowitch, based in Brussels, Belgium began CEU’s Executive MBA program in 2020. He works in the Marketing and Communications Department at the BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts and is an Associate Professor at the La Cambre college of visual arts. He is also the co-founder of Stand Up for Europe, a European movement focused on issues of democracy and citizenship and co-wrote several books published in French, German, English, Chinese and Hebrew. After studying philosophy and communications at the Catholic University of Louvain and Sciences Po, he more recently completed business programs at Stanford University, the Solvay Business School and the Vlerick Business School.

We spoke to Boruchowitch on the occasion of his 2020 Open World Scholarship, which supports exceptional mid-career professionals from any geographic location who demonstrate deep commitment to the ideals and values of Open Society and will uniquely contribute to the collective learning experience of other Executive MBA participants. This is an edited interview conducted on December 10, 2020.

What does the Open World Scholarship mean for you?

The scholarship means a lot because it both gives me the opportunity to do an MBA at an affordable cost and stewards the values of Open Society. When I co-founded the organization Stand Up for Europe, which has an identity promoting values that are quite aligned with those of an Open Society, we focused on how differences in background and sensibility are an opportunity to learn. To me the scholarship is a signal of my own commitment as well as the institution’s to these values and that is why I am proud of this honor.

What was your route to CEU's Executive MBA program?

I was looking for an MBA because I wanted to have a more global picture of business and be able to focus on strategy. When I was comparing different programs it was important for me to consider a modular program that would allow me to keep working in my career and to have a course of study that was consistent and substantial. I wanted to get a solid foundation in strategy and also build a multidisciplinary approach and that's why I chose the CEU EMBA program.

It also offered a cohort of participants coming from so many different countries, especially from Eastern Europe, which is excellent for me because I work in multidisciplinary and cultural institutions in Belgium.  I enjoy being in a program where I can exchange my views with participants coming from all of these countries. It felt like a good place for me.

What is your CEU Executive MBA cohort like?

It's been a real pleasure and also a rare opportunity to intersect with such an intergenerational and global group representing private and public sectors as well as for-profit and non-profit organizations. The exchanges with the other participants are really valuable.       

How do you hope to apply what you're learning?

First, I would like to use the practical background this program brings into my current role in order to find new strategies, because it's important for cultural institutions to have a business model aligned with our times. I think there is a chance to build bridges between the public and private sectors, and between the non-profit and for-profit sectors. While cultural institutions are generally non-profit entities, they still need resources to operate and that has become increasingly complicated for the governments who are trying to provide subsidies to match the needs of cultural institutions. Therefore, it’s very important to redefine the business models of cultural institutions, including the logic that is used in the for-profit sectors.

What else would you like to share?

The Executive MBA program helps me see things dimensionally. I'm now more aware of certain economic and technological challenges that businesses are facing, especially in the time of COVID-19. I am also an Associate Professor at La Cambre, the wonderful Belgian national college of visual arts where I teach storytelling. My approach is based on co-creation, and this approach is based my own executive education from business schools, even while the topics I teach are not in business. From time to time, I also publish columns in Belgian newspapers - analyses and free opinions on societal debates or political issues. When I created Stand Up for Europe with Richard Laub, we had the chance to create an international association that attracted the younger generation, which would evolve into an association for and run by young people.

Now, I am considering a new platform called Stand Up for Earth. The Executive MBA program will certainly be important to equip me with the relevant tools. Stand Up for Earth will be a movement with business ramifications, a platform using the resources of modeling and lifestyle agencies and the communication codes of the fashion and luxury industry to promote educational campaigns focused on ecological urgency, equal opportunity and sustainable  growth, and working in collaboration with artists, schools, non-profit organizations, academic experts and universities. I think it is crucial for such a movement to have a mixed business model and revenue streams, funded by public funds and private investments in order to demonstrate that sustainability is able to combine ecology, art, fashion, lifestyle, societal perspectives and a viable economic model.

To learn more about the CEU Executive MBA program, join the next Open Day events on January 18 in Betacowork, Brussels, January 21 in Zurich, Switzerland and on January 25 at CEU’s campus in Vienna, Austria (all available online), which will offer illuminating research debate as well as opportunities to hear from students and alumni and to meet potential future classmates.