By Deirdre White, CEO, PYXERA Global
Up until fairly recently, I always described the work of my organization, PYXERA Global, as “international development.”
This was simply the name of the field I have worked in for over a quarter of a century and I never gave the implications much thought. However, nomenclature counts.
That is, whether speaking with a group of entrepreneurs in Mozambique or a corporate executive in North America, we have to connect with our various audiences in the language that makes sense to them. The words we choose can have a significant effect on the relationship.
What’s wrong, then, with “development” as a field of practice?
I believe that the term itself is, at best, outdated and, at worst, has contributed to a lack of effectiveness of bilateral and multilateral donor institutions. “Development” is something you do to someone or something. In a relationship this can imply the subservience or the superiority of one of the parties. In a world that is thankfully shifting toward an ideal of shared value, I propose we lose the concept of “development” and instead shift to “purposeful global engagement.”
What is Purposeful Global Engagement?
“Purposeful global engagement” as we use the term at PYXERA Global, speaks to meeting individuals and organizations where they are and driving toward a mutually beneficial partnership. This approach to creating shared value eschews the sometimes-unconscious sense of “we are here to help you—to develop you.” Purposeful global engagement emphasizes the notion that “we seek to engage with you to meet both your, and our, objectives.” These objectives can be both business and socially oriented, and they often are.
For corporations purposeful global engagement can take a variety of forms. At times, a company may choose to engage in work that looks more like traditional philanthropy—donating funds, goods or services.
Take the case of Tengizchevroil (TCO) and its pro bono program, Yntymak, in Atyrau, Kazakhstan. Recognizing the need to enhance the social capital of the local communities, TCO elected to initiate a pro bono program several years ago to service non-profit organizations. Now, in its third year, the Yntymak program is expanding and encompassing new kinds of organizations, including local universities and environmental groups.
John Deere Foundation: Pursuing Powerful Partnerships for Long-term Impact
The John Deere Foundation’s Joint Initiative for Village Advancement (JIVA), exemplifies another type of purposeful global engagement. JIVA grew out of a week-long volunteer experience conducted by John Deere’s senior leaders in rural Rajasthan, India, in 2011. Working alongside smallholder farmers from three villages, John Deere leaders learned firsthand about the agricultural and other challenges facing these farmers, their families, and communities.
Inspired by this experience, the leadership team knew more could be done to assist the villages. Partnering with PYXERA Global, another team of John Deere employees returned to the villages to conduct a detailed participatory community needs assessment. Then they created JIVA to address three core community opportunities – agricultural productivity, education and infrastructure.
To bring JIVA to life, PYXERA Global and the John Deere Foundation worked through a multi-sector and participatory partnership with the villagers and local organizations, including Jatan Santhan (an Indian NGO) and Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture and Technology (the regional agricultural university). These partners are instrumental in allowing the project to tackle complex, cross-sector challenges in a strategic way. Each partner collaborates on improvements ranging from introducing local famers to basic agricultural techniques, enhancing schools and educational opportunities, to more effectively distributing clean water and sanitation.
In the over two years since the John Deere team first visited Rajasthan, the villages have undergone some amazing changes. For instance, following one season of demonstration farm training, JIVA saw a 34 percent early adoption rate of various organic pesticide and fertilizer practices. Almost three-quarters of the students who dropped out of public school system have now re-enrolled. A check dam that previously served the villages has now been completely reconstructed, and the village wells will be recharged with water this year.
In the 25 years that I have worked in this field, I have never seen more impressive early results – a true testament to the power of partnerships, as well as to the importance of the type of multi-year financial and human resource commitment by John Deere and the John Deere Foundation.
Global Pro Bono – An Entryway into Purposeful Global Engagement
As emerging markets grow at an accelerated rate, so are companies' global pro bono programs. IBM, GlaxoSmithKline, and The Dow Chemical Company (Dow), for example, have global pro bono programs that differ widely in structure and design, yet show strikingly similar results in regards to employee development. Picking up on this trend, many companies are now measuring the impact this experience has on their employees. And they're generating incredible results as our panelists described in our recent Twitter chat on #WhyProbono.
According to an IBM survey, 90 percent of managers reported that employees possessed a better sense of IBM’s role in society and 97 percent reported employees returned with enriched cultural awareness. In its 2012 GSK PULSE Volunteer Partnership Annual Impact Report, GlaxoSmithKline reported that 100 percent of past volunteers agree they are more open to different views and 92 percent are able to drive change within their organization. Nearly all of Dow participants said that the experience generated deep insights and they now have a new perspective of Dow as a corporate citizen.
What Makes Purposeful Global Engagement Work?
Each of these programs represent a true shared value model, where they contribute to positive social change and at the same time deliver strategy-aligned results to the corporation: employee leadership and team-building skills, reputation enhancement and understanding of emerging market challenges as they relate to the corporation and its industry.
Join us on April 7 – 8, 2014, in-person in Washington, D.C. or online at pyxeraglobal.org at Catalyzing Growth in Emerging Markets, to meet and hear from Dow, GSK, IBM, John Deere, Merck and other leading corporations who are driving business and community partnerships successfully in emerging markets.