IBM today announced an expansion of its program, a corporate version of the Peace Corps, now in its second year, which sends teams of 8-10 of its top employees from around the world, with skills in technology, consulting, research, marketing and finance to key emerging markets for one month. The employees work with local organizations and businesses on projects that intersect business, technology and society. In addition to the new areas being targeted, IBM is expanding the number of employees participating in the program in various regions from 600 to 1,500 employees by 2010.
Later this month, IBM will begin deploying teams to new countries including Nigeria, Egypt, and Asia as well as returning to previous sites in other regions. By the end of 2009, IBM will have sent 52 global teams to countries including Philippines, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Brazil, Tanzania, Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Romania and Turkey.
"The Corporate Service Corps produces a triple benefit. Participants benefit via a once-in-a-life-time, problem-solving exercise in the developing world, communities gain by obtaining hundreds of thousands of dollars in pro bono expert consulting services, and IBM benefits by growing its next generation of leaders with the skills required to lead in a globally-integrated world," said Stanley S. Litow, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, IBM.
Some of the new projects planned in Nigeria include to:
- help a social welfare program determine the best information system for monitoring and recording child and maternal health;
- create an information technology framework and policies to manage a computer network so that 18 different government departments can collaborate more effectively;
- conduct a feasibility study and road map for an IT park; and
- assist in the planning of an information system for a large scale business and leisure resort.
"The IBM teams are having a profound impact on the region by bringing highly valued skills on local projects and helping to transfer those skills to emerging centers of business across Africa. The result has been to significantly advance projects that will have a sustaining impact in the community and the foundation for a 21st century global enterprise," said Deidre White, president of the Citizens Development Corporation, the Washington-based consultant who has partnered with IBM in this initiative across Africa.
The IBM Corporate Service Corps has concentrated efforts in select cities and areas in order to make the biggest impact. The teams have worked to build systems and transfer skills as well as foster business-to-business and business-to-government relationships so that they are sustainable. Some of the results include:
- Establishment of business incubators with leading universities in Kumasi and Takoradi, Ghana;
- Worked with the Africa Wildlife Foundation in Arusha, Tanzania on projects such as modernization of financial management processes, strategic planning and funding proposals for wildlife management areas and education for small business owners in the communities bordering protected areas;
- Developed a management information system plan for Business Against Crime, a South African NGO, that coordinates the activities of South African police, border guards and private security services;
- Refined the business model, communication's strategy, website content, service to members and international contact process for the Chengdu Chamber of Commerce; and
- Executed training workshops in Chengdu with various small and medium enterprises and government departments on talent development, strategic outsourcing imperatives and strategies to succeed in the financial crisis.
For two employee perspectives, please see the audio slideshow on Ghana or Chengdu, China.
One of the primary design points driving program success is the global make-up of the IBM teams. IBM participants come from different countries and bring different cultural backgrounds, perspectives and expertise in solving problems. The Corporate Service Corps offers them a unique opportunity to work and live together for the month overseas. They deliver greater value to the communities they serve and build internal networks they can carry back to IBM. Teams also engage in three months of preparatory work to develop as a team and learn about cultural adaptability, corporate social responsibility, language, project goals and the socioeconomic and political realities of their destination countries. After their in-country service, employees share their experience in their home communities and with the company and help assist the next teams that follow them into those countries.
At Harvard Business School, Assistant Professor Christopher Marquis studied the impact of the IBM Corporate Service Corps (see evaluation). He surveyed 31 of the local "project hosts" to assess their satisfaction with the program. The vast majority cited improvements in their internal business processes and their ability to forge new and stronger partnerships with other private sector, non-governmental (NGO) and governmental agencies in-country as a result of their work with the IBM Corporate Service Corps. In addition, the IBM participants significantly increased their cultural intelligence and resilience as a leader as a result of the program.
IBM partners with the NGO's including the Citizens Development Corporation (CDC) based in Washington, D.C.; Canada-based Digital Opportunity Trust; and Australian Business Volunteers to help identify the right projects and local organizations where IBM employees can have the most impact.
The Corporate Service Corps is part of IBM's Global Citizen's Portfolio, a suite of investment programs to help IBM employees enhance their skills and expertise in order to become global leaders, professionals and empowered citizens of the 21st century workforce. For more information about IBM, please visit: www.ibm.com.