#PBW14: IBM Corporate Service Corps Drives Impact Through Partnership

The New Global Citizen celebrates Pro Bono Week with a story of the power of global pro bono.

The value of the IBM Corporate Service Corps (CSC) program is the triple benefit of high value leadership development, valuable community service and the ability to open new markets in key geographies. While providing a unique, immersive, and challenging growth opportunity for diverse high-performing employees, the communities the CSC teams serve receive substantial problem solving and capacity building directly addressing key societal needs. At the same time, the CSC delivers distinct business value to IBM via an enhanced understanding of market conditions and the formation of deeper relationships in developing markets and, most important, has significantly improved the skills of some of IBM’s top talent, preparing them for future leadership opportunities.

Since 2008, nearly 3,000 IBMers have worked on nearly 1,000 CSC projects across 35 different countries resulting in specific benefits to more than 33 million people. In the process, IBM has built and strengthened relationships in nearly 40 countries in emerging and frontier markets. All this has been made possible through a kaleidoscope of partnerships. With shared goals, across private, public, and civil society, we combine many unique experiences and approaches to deliver a wide range of solutions that none of us could provide alone.

The primary partnerships for the CSC are with the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who assist us in providing strategic implementation of the program. PYXERA Global, Digital Opportunities Trust, Australian Business Volunteers, and VSO International have worked with the CSC to deliver a multiple of projects that have literally transformed communities, including:

  • Developing web-based knowledge management systems to improve eye care in India;
  • Providing legislative policy analysis to drive socio-economic growth in Kenya;
  • Implementing a system for disaster preparedness integral to disaster relief and recover in the Philippines; and
  • Developing policies and programs to health care for women and children in Nigeria.

    IBM Corporate Service Corps participant in Nigeria.

Each of these projects and relationships are unique and requires vision, communication, flexibility, and mutual trust to succeed.

As the CSC has grown over the last six years, it has fostered another set of diverse relationships and partnerships that have enhanced the impact of the program. Early in the program, IBM and PYXERA Global teamed with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to sharpen our focus on potential beneficiaries and to encourage more companies to engage in international pro bono problem solving via our corporate service corps. To-date over 100 IBMers have worked on USAID projects. IBM also invited a number of its clients including FedEx, John Deere, and JPMorgan Chase to collaborate and join IBM CSC Teams. Among our goals has been to foster a broader awareness of the value of integrating corporate citizenship with overall business strategy to produce the triple benefit. We would like to influence every company in the FORTUNE 500 to commit 100 employees each year to service in developing markets–greatly expanding the benefits to the developing world and the leadership-building capacity via a culture of service.

The CSC’s recent corporate and non-profit partnership results include:

  • A collaboration with the Ghanaian Health Service and the Yale School of Medicine to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission first in Ghana, and then throughout sub-Saharan Africa;
  • Teaming with BD and NGO CerviCusco to expand cervical cancer screening and treatment in Peru;
  • A joint project with The Nature Conservancy to develop strategies for conservation and commerce to co-exist in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest;
  • Working with the Global FoodBanking Network to improve access to nutrition in Colombia, Ecuador, and Mexico; and
  • Combining efforts with The Dow Chemical Company and International Medical Corps to build a multi-sectorial approach to community resilience to negative shocks in Ethiopia.

IBM Corporate Service Corps participants on site in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest.

While certainly worthwhile, and having achieved significant benefit, none of these projects has been easy. By demonstrating leadership and approachability, IBM has become an attractive partner to a number of organizations. Through a spirit of collaboration and continuous improvement, IBM has listened to the needs of each of these organizations to find a common goal which has guided difficult negotiations, differing processes, and a multitude of corporate cultures and logistical challenges. Being open to new ideas, differing needs, and having a passion for creativity and reinvention has made all these relationships successful. While the process is challenging, the results have been measurable and significant. The strongest results come from diverse minds working together to weave a better contribution for a multitude of causes across the globe, ultimately benefiting all.

Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Panama ’00-02) Gina L. Tesla is a Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs Director at IBM, where she leads the IBM Corporate Service Corps.

Gina Tesla

Gina Tesla is the Director, Corporate Citizenship Initiatives, of IBM and part of the IBM Corporate Citizenship leadership team which is responsible for all of IBM’s community development initiatives. In her current position, she specializes in the policies and trends of IBM’s worldwide corporate citizenship. She works to apply IBM’s technological expertise and global reach to the challenges and opportunities created by globalization and emerging markets, a role that includes leading the Corporate and Executive Service Corps. She also supports corporate citizenship in the global community among corporations, NGOs, governments and multinational organizations. Prior to joining IBM, Tesla provided economic development support to Panamanians as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. She also had a successful career in advertising that included the launch of Microsoft Windows 2000 and IBM's first global brand campaign.

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  1. Pingback: Commit! Forum Encourages Authentic Partnership

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