The Vital Role of Business in Global Development
The challenges for businesses looking to invest in emerging economies are the same challenges for communities themselves: good governance and transparency, a strong, business-enabling environment, market accessibility and, of course, peace and stability.
As a global development organization, Global Communities is committed to creating these conditions. And one of the most important ways to do so is through public-private partnerships.
This runs much deeper than traditional concepts of corporate social responsibility. Not long ago, this was too often considered a charitable addendum to the business side of companies, distinct from their primary priorities and inner workings.
But today, many forward-looking companies have integrated CSR into corporate strategy and business operations. At the recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation 2017 Corporate Citizenship Conference, I shared some of my experiences during a panel discussion on the future of global development.
I focused on how important it is to create and sustain an enabling environment for the private sector, which now plays such a critical role in international development. I not only discussed the why but the how – and most importantly, the outcomes that materialize and grow from such partnerships.
John Deer volunteers in India.
Partnering on community development
One of the companies Global Communities has partnered with in important, sustainable ways is the John Deere Foundation. Our partnership started in India in 2011 with a community-driven project to improve access to basic services and infrastructure, all with the overarching goal of improving livelihoods for the poorest of the poor.
The results included more affordable housing, better access to hygiene and sanitation, vocational training and social programs, all near John Deere offices.
In addition, we developed a volunteer program in India for John Deere employees. The volunteer program helps employees meet their agricultural clients in ways that are different from what their official jobs entail– and helps them understand their clients’ needs and livelihoods.
Building on this approach, we partnered with the Foundation in Brazil to strengthen community development by training and organizing civic leaders, investing in community institutions and strengthening youth development through corporate volunteerism.
We have since partnered with their Foundation in Floreciente, a neighborhood in Moline, Illinois, near John Deere headquarters. The program helps stimulate economic development opportunities for small businesses and households by connecting them with the greater regional economy.
Together with the Foundation, Global Communities is engaging residents to improve quality of life using the same participatory approaches that have improved quality of life and community cohesion and youth development in Brazil.
Smart business and a sustainable foundation
These partnerships improve the local business environment and strengthen relationships between John Deere and the communities near their offices.
At their heart, these programs are community-driven and focused on grassroots needs, building from the ground up. These partnerships go a long way in leveraging both human capital and knowledge to help foster change and improvement in the development world.
Removing any and all barriers to mutually beneficial partnerships, especially in under-served corners of the globe, is smart business and good for development.