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A bigger impact

J.B. Litrico is the new head of the Centre for Social Impact.
J.B. Litrico: striving for a more sustainable and just society.

When Jean-Baptiste Litrico worked as an engineer for a French automotive parts manufacturer, he quickly learned something about sustainability: It can mean something different to each person. A technical definition of sustainability might be easy enough to understand, particularly for an engineer. But Litrico realized it’s pointless to manage the technology side of sustainability without managing the human side as well. With so many different perspectives and priorities, it made addressing the issue a challenge.

In the years following, Litrico went back to school and got his PhD in management. He joined Smith in 2009 as an associate professor of strategy and organization, allowing him to build on his research, which looks at how organizations and industries respond to changing societal demands.

Last fall, Litrico took that passion a step further by becoming director of the Centre for Social Impact. The centre at Smith fosters outreach, research and advocacy on issues of social impact. He has spent these past few months learning about the social impact work going on across the university and planning the future of the centre.

“There are many great initiatives already underway at the centre, including our annual summit and bootcamp,” he says. “What I’d like to do is reinforce the research and advocacy activities of the centre and provide more visibility to the research that is happening at Smith and Queen’s.”

A broad base

Litrico has been impressed by the enthusiasm and passion of the students taking the centre’s certificate programs. One way Litrico hopes to further engage them in the coming months is by creating a student-run social impact fund. He also seeks to strengthen ties with Kingston-area community stakeholders and further integrate social and environmental education into the core Smith curriculum.

“I want to ensure our students have the latest perspectives on the management of social issues and the environment within business,” says Litrico, who at Smith also holds the title Distinguished Faculty Fellow of Strategy.

While his interest may lean slightly towards environmental causes, Litrico understands the importance of maintaining a broad base. “Social impact is broad, and the problems are multidisciplinary,” he says. “What we’re most interested in is practices that contribute to a more sustainable and just society. At the same time, we’re in conversation with our researchers to identify a small number of priority areas.”

Litrico took over as director in fall of 2019 following Tina Dacin’s 10-year tenure as director. Dacin remains a professor & Stephen J.R. Smith Chair of Strategy & Organizational Behaviour.