INTEgrated REporting for SMEs Transparency, the INTEREST project supported by the ERASMUS+ programme of the European Union.

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Intellectual Output 3 - INTEREST Curriculum

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Albeit the IR-Guide for SMEs is applicable per se by an SME, general experience shows that important part of the SMEs – without governmental directives - is not ready to invest its, sometimes insufficient, human resources in the supplementary reporting activity on its non-financial and sustainable operations. Partners unanimously decided on the development of teaching contents and a b-learning course on IR for SME senior managers and for students of Business schools and faculties in entrepreneurship studies.

The course development has been based on the results of IO1 and IO2. The main innovation in IO3 has been the sophisticated mixed methodology of a three-component approach covering e-learning, face-to-face (F2F) sessions and work-based learning (WBL). The departing principle of the training development was to try to avoid overburdening the SME managers with superfluous theory and heavy classroom trainings.  

The direct impact of IO3 was the radical transformation of the trainees’ mind-set concerning corporate reporting.
The longer-term impact was produced embedding the course into the curriculum systems of the partners helping more massive dissemination and exploitation of the results of IO3. The six-country approach has made further transferability, to other training institutions in these countries and in countries beyond the partnership easily feasible.

For each module of the IO3, the merit-related content, the instructor's techniques used in the interactions with the target groups, and potential knowledge, skills and capabilities acquired were determined. The structure of the IR curriculum consisted of five modules:

  • Module 1: Integrated thinking and reporting in SMEs,
  • Module 2: Six capital concept,
  • Module 3: Understanding value creation process.
  • Module 4: IR implementation process in SMEs,
  • Module 5: Practical aspects of developing an integrated report. 

The primary users of e-learning materials were students, whereas SME owners, managers, and accountants were perceived as the primary beneficiaries of F2F sessions and WBL scenarios.

  1. Module 1 (2-hour e-learning) introduced the ideas of Integrated Thinking and Reporting and emphasises their growing importance to SMEs.
    The Integrated Thinking concept encourages an organisation to consider the relationships between operating and functional units and between Capitals that an organisation uses or affects. Within this module, the target group was acquainted with the definition of Integrated Thinking and its benefits for SMEs.
    The course clarified Integrated Reporting (IR) and its regulatory status. The students had an opportunity to know IR benefits and the increasing role of non-financial information. The module also listed the stakeholders interested in the integrated report content.
  2. Module 2 (6-hour e-learning) was dedicated to identifying and measuring Six Capitals.
    This module provided the definitions and examples of each Capital and recommends indicators of inputs (stocks of value), activities and output (flows of values) and outcomes (final effects on enterprise and stakeholders). In this module, the target group was able to discover the interrelations between the Capitals and recognise how one Capital affects other Capitals, creating potential trade-offs.
  3. Module 3 (6-hour e-learning + 6-hour F2F session) combined theoretical and practical aspects.
    The first three parts of the module were dedicated to e-learning, and the last part to the F2F session.
    - The first part of e-learning started with the topic of Value Creation. The next section dealt with the Guiding Principles of IR for SMEs. Adhering to these principles should cause the integrated report to be more connected, future-oriented, balanced, reliable and relevant to stakeholders. The last part referred to the suggested Content Elements of an integrated report for SMEs.

    - The F2F session covered some practical case studies and exercises that helped the target group analyse SMEs' data, which were needed to compile an integrated report. Moreover, during the workshops, the target group exercised how to identify the Capitals and measure them by selecting financial and non-financial measures. They also tried to understand the critical aspects of the value creation process and were acquainted with IR guiding principles to make a perfect integrated report. The teaching techniques at this stage covered F2F discussions and opinions exchange, case studies presentation, good practices demonstration, coaching (instructor observed students carrying out tasks and offered hints and feedback), modelling (instructor presented a task as students observed and built a conceptual model of the processes that were required to accomplish the task).

  4. Module 4 (48-hour WBL) was dedicated to the IR implementation process in SMEs. Assuming that SME owners, managers and accountants were the primary beneficiaries of WBL scenarios, they had to be convinced and strongly motivated to introduce the IR project successfully. Therefore, the first step in WBL was to indicate the IR benefits by referring to real-life examples representing the best practices and favourable outcomes. The second step was to advise on knowledge resources by recommending:
    1. IR Framework for SMEs that helped acquaint with the fundamental concepts;
    2. IR Guide for SMEs for effective IR implementation;
    3. WBL Templates that allowed for capturing the outputs of the different steps
    4. IR Online Tool that supports compiling an integrated report easily and effectively.

      The third step reflected the enterprise's in-house processes related to the organisation of integrated reporting. These processes covered five significant phases:
      1. exploration of the organisational environment;
      2. creation of an action plan;
      3. identification of potential barriers to the IR process;
      4. development of the draft version of an integrated report;
      5. agreement on the final version of the integrated report and its purpose.
        The complexity of the IR implementation process and how it unfolds depended on the enterprise size, its resources and capabilities, and access to relevant data. The teaching techniques applied during WBL covered scaffolding (instructor provided support to help student carry out the task) and afterwards fading (instructor slowly removed instructional supports until student performed tasks independently).
  5. Module 5 (2-hour e-learning and 6-hour F2F session) focused on practical, technical and organisational aspects of developing the integrated report.
    The first part of the module addressed the following issues:
    1. cost-benefit analysis of IR implementation in SMEs,
    2. structure and features of SME integrated reports,
    3. and the specific case of web-based integrated reports.
  6. The second part had the form of the F2F session. During this workshop, test reports were assessed, and multilateral feedback was provided to the project teams on the quality of the pilot reports. The teaching techniques applied during the last F2F session covered reflection (instructor enabled the participants to compare their performance against peer performance); articulation (instructor verbalised participants' thinking processes and also got them to verbalise their knowledge and thinking processes).

e-Learning Materials

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Module 1 - Integrated Thinking and Reporting_LBU

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Module 2 - 6 Capitals - Human capital_WUEB

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Module 2 - 6 Capitals - SR capital_WUEB

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Module 2 - 6 Capitals - Financial capital_WUEB

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Module 2 - 6 Capitals - Intellectual capital_WUEB

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Module 2 - 6 Capitals - Natural capital_WUEB

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Module 2 - 6 Capitals - Manufactured capital_WUEB

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Module 3 - Part 1_Value Creation_BBS

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Module 3 - Part 2.1_Strategic focus_HSRW

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Module 3 - Part 2.2_Connectivity_HSRW

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Module 3 - Part 2.3_Stakeholder relationship_HSRW

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Module 3 - Part 2.4_Materiality_HSRW

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Module 3 - Part 2.5_Other guiding principles_HSRW

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Module 3 - Part 3.1_Governance_UBB

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Module 3 - Part 3.2_Business Model_UBB

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Module 3 - Part 3.3_Risks and Opportunties_UBB

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Module 3 - Part 3.4_Strategy and Resources_UBB

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Module 3 - Part 3.5_Outlook_UBB

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Module 3 - Part 3.6_Organisational overview_UBB

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Module 3 - Part 3.7_Basis of preparation_UBB

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Module 4 - Part 4.1_PA Introduction UNIUD

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Module 4 - Part 4.2_PA Costs and benefits UNIUD

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Module 4 - Part 4.3_PA Structure and features UNIUD

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Module 4 - Part 4.4_PA Web-based integrated reports UNIUD

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WBL templates

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INTEREST IO3 WBL - 6Capital-Scoreboard 2.0a

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INTEREST IO3 WBL - Measurement of strategic objectives 2.0a

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INTEREST IO3 WBL - Stakeholder relationship 2.0a

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INTEREST IO3 WBL - Risk matrix 2.0a

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Coordinator:

Dr. Péter Soltész and László Varga
BBS - Budapest Business School
29-31 Markó Street,
H-1055 Budapest, Hungary
INTEREST project
EU flag Erasmus+
This project has been funded by the ERASMUS + programme of the European Union. The European Commission's support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.