Winner: Outstanding Contribution to the Case Method

Caren Scheepers won the Outstanding Contribution to the Case Method Award at The Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2020. #CaseAwards
 
The recipient
Caren Scheepers

Caren Scheepers

Caren is the winner of the Outstanding Contribution to the Case Method Award 2020.

Caren is an Associate Professor at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) at the University of Pretoria. She joined in 2007 as a part time lecturer and become full time in 2014. She lectures in organisational development, organisational behaviour, women entrepreneurship and contextual leadership.

Case commitment

Caren is a prolific case writer, and her cases mainly focus on business and leadership in Africa. She took third place in the 2015 CEEMAN & Emerald Case Writing Competition with her case, Preserving the Delicate Balance to Manage a Thriving Business in South Africa – the Adventure of OneLogix (Goh, Saville, & Scheepers, 2015).

carenCaren takes great pride in mentoring and coaching new faculty members on case writing and teaching, and has run case teaching and writing workshops for GIBS faculty and other universities. She has also contributed to workshops for GIBS students, teaching them to write cases as part of their MBA research.

All Caren’s cases have been co-authored with other faculty to offer them exposure. Some colleagues have continued to write their own case studies and have involved other faculty, leading to the exponential growth of the competence and skill of writing and teaching cases.

Caren commented: “While I have facilitated several workshops on writing cases for faculty and associates from our university and others, I have found that co-authoring is the best way to mentor first-time case writers.

“From the design of the questions, the interviews, the write up, brainstorming assignment questions and relevant literature, all the phases are a co-creation between colleagues. It is also much more fun to collaborate around a case study project, than to work on it on your own!”

Caren also looks for ways to innovate her case teaching. She has experimented with the use of online video platforms Zoom and Skype, and has beamed protagonists into case sessions from as far afield as Antarctica. In the future she would like to explore developing cases that are optimised for reading on a mobile device.

 
Case impact

Marius Oosthuizen

Three colleagues who have worked with Caren explain the impact she’s had on them.

Marius Oosthuizen, a member of faculty at GIBS, said: “Caren is a prolific case writer. Her enthusiasm for writing, and her practical and collaborative approach is empowering. I learned from Caren to approach case writing as a client consultation, engaging the key issues of the business and reflecting on them within the context of theory.”

Tshidi Mathibe

Tshidi Mathibe, a Post-Doctoral Fellow at GIBS, commented: “When I started at GIBS, I had no idea how to go about writing a case. I couldn’t differentiate between a challenge and a dilemma, let alone writing a teaching note. Working with Caren as a mentee not only helped me understand the process of writing a case, but also how to teach with a case and how to mark or examine a case and teaching note.”

Natalie van der Veen Natalie van der Veen, a marketing strategist and consultant, said: “Caren had a profound impact on me, enhancing my experience at GIBS by injecting in me a sense of confidence and excitement, specifically in my organic love of writing. My partnerships with Caren were an obvious highlight.”

Caren on the case method

Nicola and DanieOn winning this award, Caren said: “I am humbled and grateful to The Case Centre as a world-leading distributor of and expert in case studies for recognising my contribution to this worthwhile cause. It is an honour and privilege to receive this award on behalf of our school, GIBS at the University of Pretoria. It has been a team effort to build a community around excellence in case writing and teaching. I would like to thank our Dean, Nicola Kleyn, for her encouragement and advocacy for the case method, and our Deputy Dean, Danie Petzer, for nominating me for this award and for research support.

“It has been an amazingly fulfilling journey for me to collaborate on co-authoring more than 30 case studies and to mentor new case writers in the process. I find case co-writing a wonderful way to assist new faculty in discovering their writer’s voice, and for them to then teach their own cases to build their confidence.

“I would like to thank our GIBS clients for giving us access to their remarkable stories and for being available to engage with students face-to-face or digitally, including Unilever South Africa, Uber Africa, Anglo American South Africa, Nedbank, FNB, Comair, T-Systems South Africa, MMI Group, Discovery, Candi&Co, Carmien Tea.”

Responsible leadership

Caren commented: “I am deeply passionate about the case method as a remarkable tool to enhance learning around sustainability and responsible leadership.

“Our school, GIBS, is a signatory of the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), and contributor to the UN’s global Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs). We therefore purposefully write and teach cases to facilitate transformative learning about being socially responsible leaders and companies, in addition to being economically viable.

“As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Caren teaching

Developing critical thinking

Caren continued: “My worldview relates to the interpretive paradigm that knowledge is socially constructed. My education philosophy is therefore one of pragmatism, as I prefer a discussion-based teaching methodology, which is learner-centred and Socratic. As Socrates said, education is about the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.

“When we teach principles or theoretical frameworks, especially in our MBA or MPhil classes, students regularly request examples, and it is useful to have a case ready.

“The dilemma is usually interesting to students, and I ask them to put themselves in the protagonist’s shoes and discuss with others what they would do under the circumstances. It creates opportunity in the classroom for interaction and to assist in developing students’ critical thinking. Students also learn from one another, as the discussion around what classmates would do, assists them to relate their own experience in similar situations.”

The need for African cases

She explained: “I am passionate about telling the stories of businesses and leadership in Africa. We have amazing stories to share, and cases offer the opportunity to do exactly that.

“I also believe it to be important to write up company history and, for that reason, I have been writing cases about different phases in organisation’s life cycles. For instance, I wrote about the female CEO’s leadership of a turnaround at T-Systems South Africa and then the story about the company in its next phase of growth, where her successor, initiated shared value initiatives.”

Looking out for case opportunities

Lake MalawiCaren concluded: “When I am traveling or on holiday, I use the opportunity to research interesting case studies. For example, I wrote about the geopolitics context of Lake Malawi, when we were there on holiday.

“In addition, when I accompany students on Global MBA electives, I look out for interesting cases with our company visits, and in this way, I wrote the case on Bidfoods in Estonia and the one on Deutsche Telekom subsidiary, T-Systems, when we visited Bonn in 2016.”

 
Hear from the judges

Ruth Bender

The Case Centre’s executive committee selects the recipient of this award from a list of nominees made by the case community.

A well-deserved winner

Ruth Bender, Chair of the executive committee, commented: “The committee was impressed with Caren’s dedication to furthering the case method. In all her case activities she looks for opportunities to work with and mentor colleagues, with the specific aim of disseminating the use and development of cases.

“We were also struck by her commitment to bringing important African business and leadership issues to the classroom through her many cases.

“The list of nominees was extremely strong, but we believe that Caren is the deserving winner of this award.”

 

View all the 2020 winners