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New Ivey faculty: Sergio Lazzarini

Sep 22, 2022

Sergio Lazzarini

Sergio Lazzarini.

Ivey is pleased to be welcoming numerous new faculty members to campus this school year! To help you get to know our new colleagues, we asked each of them a list of questions about their academic – and personal – interests.

Get to know: Sergio Lazzarini

Sergio Lazzarini is a new professor of Sustainability and Strategy who is teaching in the HBA program. He began his career as an agricultural engineer who specialized in agricultural economics and agribusiness and was interested in the management of complex agricultural supply chains and networks. After completing his PhD in Strategic Management, he became more eclectic in terms of the sectors and applications of his research and progressively started focusing on public-private interactions and corporate strategies that focus on social impact. Read on to learn how his interests are equally eclectic and about who inspired him to become a professor.   

Q&A with Sergio Lazzarini

What is the most important thing business executives can learn from your research/area of expertise?

In the past years, I have interacted a lot with firms, non-profits, investors, public organizations, and policy-makers on how to collectively promote social impact. At Insper, an education and research institute in Brazil, I co-founded Insper Metricis, a centre dedicated to the study of impact management and measurement. Connecting with my ongoing research on this topic, I have interacted a lot with public and private managers to design contractual arrangements and monitoring systems that track and evaluate social dimensions of performance. I have also interacted with multilateral organizations to improve the governance of state-owned firms and public-private collaborations. In the case of private organizations that seek to generate scalable social impact, a recurring theme and conclusion from my work is that they crucially need to engage with policy-makers and develop cross-sector interactions. This point is explained in detail in my most recent book, The Right Privatization: Why Private Firms in Public Initiatives Need Capable Governments (Cambridge University Press, 2022).

Where did you grow up and what was it like there?

I am from an Italian family that migrated to Brazil. I grew up in a mid-income neighborhood called Belenzinho in São Paulo, Brazil and interacted with individuals from diverse ethnicities and with distinct socioeconomic conditions. My mother was a teacher working in public schools, which, in Brazil, target low-income communities. In the early years of my primary education, I also studied in a public school and saw the progressive deterioration in public education services for the less-advantaged families. After I graduated from university, I could afford to live in a higher-income location and to even study abroad. Yet, the problems of poverty, inequality, and disproportional political representation of vulnerable population segments are evident in Brazil and their persistence remains unsettling. Furthermore, in emerging markets like Brazil, governments actively influence industries and sometimes the public-private interactions they pursue are far from ideal. All those issues were hugely important in how I progressively focused my research on how to improve public and private organizations to achieve better societal outcomes.

Who have been your strongest influences in life?

My mother was particularly important as she was a dedicated teacher. Seeing her teaching inspired me to pursue this career as a professor. I also had wonderful mentors in my undergraduate and masters programs that showed me it is possible to follow an academic career. 

What led you to your career?

After graduating from university, I wanted to become a consultant. I worked as a consultant in my early professional years, but progressively became enamoured with academic research and especially the comparative analysis of organizational forms, which is still the core of my research. For instance, my current work on how public, private, and public-private hybrid forms affect socially-oriented outcomes is directly inspired by the authors that I read during my masters program in the early 1990s (such as Ronald Coase, Oliver Williamson, and Douglass North). This led me to pursue a PhD at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, which had very active and cutting-edge research in this field. I had the privilege of interacting with brilliant academics such as Todd Zenger, Jackson Nickerson, and Gary Miller, and even had the opportunity to take two courses taught by American economist and Nobel Prize Laureate Douglass North.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

My father is a specialist in meat production and encouraged me to barbecue ever since I was a teenager – a habit that I have preserved over time. I also enjoy hanging out and travelling with my wife and son. In addition, I love to walk and listen to music peacefully when the day ends; it is an important way for me to rest and have new insights.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

Not many people know that I used to draw well when I was a teenager. I loved to write comic books and even created some characters. When my son was a toddler, he asked me to draw stuff all the time. Now he is studying arts at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. When he applied to schools abroad, he even mentioned that he was inspired by my drawings. I was very touched, but also a bit scared of how we can unconsciously influence the careers of our children! 

What is the most played song on your playlist as of now?

My taste is very eclectic. I generally love rock and indie music (bands like Wilco and Arcade Fire), but my playlist substantially shifts from time to time. I am now appreciating elaborate albums from the 1960s and the sound of bands like the Beach Boys (especially the Pet Sounds album) and others. The quality of those compositions and recordings is unparalleled. Given my background in agribusiness, from time to time, I also enjoy Brazilian folk country music. I love Brazilian singer-songwriter Almir Sater, who has wonderful instrumental compositions such as Doma and Fronteira. These have frequently been on my playlist lately. 

What book would you recommend to others on the personal side?

Two books had a profound impact on me recently. One is Elena Ferrante's The Lost Daughter, which recently became a movie. The other is Quarto de Despejo by Carolina Maria de Jesus, which is a collection of notes on her difficult life in a Brazilian slum. Those books are incredibly touching and complex in how they portray the human condition.

And on the business side?

On the business side, given my research interest in socially-oriented strategies, I have been reading a lot about moral philosophy and how it can possibly inform the way organizations approach society. Therefore, I have been particularly interested in foundational writings. A seminal book that has had a huge influence in my current research is John Rawls' A Theory of Justice. 

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