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H E S S E L B E I N & C O M P A N Y
p to 40 Pfizer Global Health Fellows per year spend three to six months on vol-
unteer assignments with nonprofit organizations to improve health care services
in the developing world. One team is training research scientists in Uganda to
use complex instruments to test the effectiveness of AIDS vaccines.
Accenture Development Partnerships has undertaken more than 200 projects in 55 coun-
tries where its professionals, at 50 percent salary reduction, work in partnership for up to
six months with Oxfam, UNICEF, Freedom from Hunger, and other nonprofits to bring
business solutions to humanitarian problems.
IBM has sent more than 1000 employees on 100 teams to 24 countries on one-month
assignments through its Corporate Service Corps. In Ghana, IBM teams collaborated with
entrepreneurs, small business owners, and the government agencies tasked with support-
ing them to expand beyond local markets and become part of the supply chain of large
A new era of international volunteerism and service is taking shape. The three companies
just mentioned and a growing number of others have found an innovative way to de-
velop their next generation of leadership, make a strong hands-on commitment to social
responsibility, and expand business knowledge and opportunities in emerging markets.
They are implementing global service programs that enable their employees to provide
technical and managerial expertise to small businesses, nonprofits, government agencies,
and universities in specialized pro bono assignments throughout the world.
by Phi l i p Mi rvi s , Kevi n Thomps on,
and John Gohri ng
S P R I NG 2 0 1 2 2 1
A new era of international
volunteerism and service is
taking shape.
ers Global Health Fellows program has the company
loan its employees to nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs) to address local health care, to date primar-
ily in Asia and Africa. GlaxoSmithKline launched its
program in 2009 and about half of its volunteers serve
in emerging markets while the other half share their
health care expertise closer to home. The local option
enables employees to serve society while still fulfilling
their family or child-rearing responsibilities.
Employee Engagement Employee Engagement
Who signs up for global service? Hundreds (and at IBM,
thousands) of employees are competing for assignments
from companies sponsoring these programs. Younger
employees who want to serve society through business?
Surely, but also midcareer managers and junior execu-
tives looking for something more from their job, long-
service employees wanting to give something back, and
up-and-comers who want to hone their multicultural
and global leadership skills.
Applicants come from many disciplines and from all
over the world. Dow Cornings first 10-person citi-
zen service team, for instance, included technologists
from the United States, a business development expert
from Mexico, a financial specialist from Belgium, a
sales manager from Korea, and a structural engineer
from India. In 2010, the team assembled in Bangalore,
India, to work with a local NGO and technical insti-
tute to develop more energy-efficient cook stoves for
street vendors and with the local chapter of Ashoka to
Who else is in this game? International nonprofits
such as CARE and Save the Children that work arm-
in-arm with corporate volunteers to fulfill their own
missions; development partners and USAID that pro-
vide infrastructure, logistical support, and training;
and thousands of people in local organizations facing
development challenges who gain new capabilities and
learn from the volunteers. And, of course, there are the
corporate volunteerswho say they learn as much or
more from assisting their newfound partners around
the world.
Design of Global Service Programs Design of Global Service Programs
Major corporations have sponsored employee volun-
teerism for many years. Typically, they support their
employees by providing time off to volunteer, spon-
soring all-staff community service days, and, more
recently, operating skills-based programs that match
employees with specialized expertise to charitable
organizations in need of them. Cross-border service
programs started roughly 10 years ago when Pfizer,
Accenture, and PricewaterhouseCoopers launched their
programs. Since then Ernst & Young, Cisco, HSBC,
Starbucks, Dow Corning, Intel, Mars, and others have
launched programs of varied design, geographic scope,
and employee participation.
IBMs CSC program, for example, is modeled on the
U.S. Peace Corps and engages teams of volunteers in
three months of preliminary work, one month in coun-
try, and two months in post-service where they harvest
insights for themselves and their business. Ernst &
Youngs fellows program is much smaller and focuses
exclusively on improving small business in Latin Amer-
ica. But its volunteers spend three months in direct
serviceenough time to personally deliver tangible
results. Accenture Development Partnership operates
as a nonprofit housed within a profit-making business.
The parent company forgoes its margin and provides
pro bono overhead; the client pays a small fee; and the
employee takes a salary reduction.
Pharmaceuticals have built their global service on the
model of the Nobel Peace Prizewinning Doctors
Without Borders (Mdecins Sans Frontires). Pfiz-
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The selection process can be
eco-tourism sector in Belize; worked with United
Nations Development Programme on the Lokoho
Rural Electrification Project in Madagascar; and
contributed to the Recovery, Employment, and
Stability (RESPECT) effort in conflict-ridden East
Timor by setting up a system to ensure accountabil-
ity by all the stakeholders involved.
Benefits of Global Service Benefits of Global Service
Global service programs are proving to be a win-win-
win: companies, their employees, and local clients all
benefit from the partnerships developed, new skills
learned, and the services provided.
Value for companies. Companies that institute global
service programs benefit from staff with greater knowl-
edge of countries important to business expansion, and
they often see an increase in staff retention and per-
formance. Companies also benefit from an enhanced
reputation in the countries where programs are im-
plementedwhich improves their ability to win new
businessand from being seen worldwide as a global
corporate citizen.
Pfizer and GSK, for instance, report that their li-
cense to operate in several African countries has im-
proved by relationships developed with governments,
universities, and throughout the health care sector.
IBMs work in Calabar, capital of the Cross River
State in Nigeria, was at the request of and in partner-
ship with Senator Liyel Imoke. One project funded
by the World Bank provided support to pregnant
women and to children under five. Senator Imoke was
so impressed by the work that he personally requested
IBM to continue the project management on a com-
promote renewable energy products for rural housing.
Confronting myriad technical challenges, the team e-
mailed and tweeted ideas with scientists and engineers
in their home organizationsenlisting hundreds of
fellow Dow Corning employees to aid their mission
in Bangalore.
How are participants chosen? Companies have different
ways of soliciting and selecting employees for interna-
tional volunteer assignments: some ask for nomina-
tions from managers; others have an open application
process. In turn, some use a multifunctional committee
to select among the pool of applications; others have
selections made by the HR or CSR function that man-
ages the program with guidance from top management.
A survey of 20 companies involved in these programs
finds that candidate selections are based on four cri-
teria: a strong track record within the company, high
potential for leadership advancement; personal motiva-
tion, flexibility, resilience, and a demonstrated service
ethic; plus project-relevant technical, managerial, or
cross-cultural skills.
The selection process can be daunting. For example,
when IBM launched its CSC in 2008, it expected 500
applications and received 5,500. Now it gets more than
10,000 annually from 60-plus countries, with the larg-
est percentages, as a function of the local IBM popula-
tion, coming from Latin America and India. At this
point, it is easier to get admitted into an elite business
school than into IBMs program (on the order of 15
applicants per assignment at IBM)!
What do the volunteers do? Bonnie Glick, working with
a local NGO in Brazil through IBMs CSC, helped
develop a funding strategy for a community-based or-
ganization, Aprendiz, which works to keep disadvan-
taged youth off the streets in the slums of So Paulo.
This isnt just a So Paulo issue, this isnt just a favela
issue, this is a global issue, says Glick. The issues
[Brazilians] are struggling with related to children and
poverty are the toughest, most heart-wrenching global
problems that we have today.
Participants in PWCs Ulysses program have, in
turn, produced a professional evaluation of the
growth and income-generation potential of the
S P R I NG 2 0 1 2 2 3
increased revenues, and improved networks and external
relationships. In 2011, Becton, Dickinson and Com-
pany (BD) sent 13 company employees, in partnership
with Heart to Heart International, a medical aid hu-
manitarian organization, to earthquake-devastated Haiti.
The BD volunteers and partners worked with National
Lab of Haiti to develop standard operating procedures
for medical laboratories, devised a lab in a box for clin-
ics in rural areas to increase access to quality care, and
created patient education materials on proper hygiene,
nutrition, and combatting sexually transmitted diseases
to help reduce the spread of disease.
Intels Education Service Corps sends teams for two-
week assignments to power up students with com-
puting technology and know-how. Hear a student
reflection from Uganda:
As an African, I am grateful for programs like this
that can help bridge the gap not only between
the developing continents but also within our
own neighborhoods, communities, cities, and the
continent at large. The greatest part of such pro-
grams is the sustainability aspect that is attached
to ittraining the older ones or equipping the
more knowledgeable ones to take charge of their
own environment and be responsible. For the in-
dividual volunteers, you do a great job by leaving
your comfort zone to bring hope and increase the
mercial basis. This led to a $1.2 million services deal
signed in March 2010IBMs first services deal in
West Africa.
Beyond immediate rewards, companies also cite the
social capital that flows from their global service. Cor-
porate websites featuring blog postings and videos pro-
duced by volunteers tackling significant economic,
social, and environmental problems around the world
instill a sense of pride in the workforce overall and also
attract the interest of job candidates, students, and
the media. Meanwhile, program alumni often stay in
touch with one another and with their former clients
via e-mail and Skype chats. In so doing, they maintain
connections with next-generation leaders in faraway
lands who become not only potential future business
partners but also lifelong friends.
Value for employees. Employees who participate in
global service programs benefit from new knowledge
about operating in emerging markets, from gains in
their ability to lead in ambiguous and demanding cir-
cumstances, and from the experience of working with
a diverse team of colleagues and local partners. In key
respects, global service provides a boot camp in which
employees are schooled on how to get things done with
limited resources, how to work in complex, multistake-
holder environments, and, of course, how to operate in
another culture. They also learn a lot about themselves.
A recent survey of 20 companies sponsoring global
service programs found that personal development was
the #1 benefit cited.
Research studies find that global service projects can
enhance employees self-awareness, interpersonal skills,
and project management abilities. An evaluation by
Chris Marquis of the Harvard Business School found
significant increases in the cultural intelligence and
leadership resilience of IBMers who participated in
global service assignments. A study of PWCs Ulysses
program found, as well, that company participants
gained greater cultural literacy, deeper understanding
of responsible leadership, and enhanced community-
building skills.
Value for local communities. Local organizations benefit
from improved processes, enhanced staff performance,
Enhancing self-awareness,
interpersonal skills, and
project management
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faith of others. This is the greatest service anyone
can give to humanity and self.
Getting Started with Global Service Getting Started with Global Service
Organizations thinking about starting a global service
effort are well advised to do their homework. Some
lessons learned from early movers:
Align service projects to business priorities. Align-
ing country selection, local clients, and scope of
work to a companys core business makes the
best use of employees skills and interests, enables
participants to learn about areas critical for new
business growth, and assists companies in identify-
ing new partners and clients in emerging markets.
Most companies tailor their programs to business
interestsPfzer employees work with healthcare
NGOs, Mars employees work with cocoa produc-
ers, and Ernst & Young employees work with
Tink team diversity. Volunteer teams that are
diverse in geography, functional areas, genera-
tions, and depth of work experience are stronger
than homogenous ones. Even as participants
develop new skills working on challenges fac-
ing their clients, they also learn about the work
styles and cultures of their team members.
Tey learn, too, about practices in industries
or functions diferent from their own, and the
junior- and senior-level employees are able to
share experiences in management and in the
use of new technologies. At IBM, most CSC
participants report that the opportunity to work
on a diverse team was one of the most benefcial
parts of their assignments.
Prepare and support volunteers. Because most
global service programs involve a relatively short
period in the feld, pre-assignment training is
essential to building a cohesive team, preparing
participants for the cultural and technical aspects
of the assignment, and allowing them to work
with their clients to develop and refne project
activities. At IBM, 50 hours of pre-work materi-
als are delivered virtually, in team-based settings,
over 12 weeks to lessen the impact on day job
responsibilities. Tese materials are managed by a
learning software delivery platform. Because the
team members are from many diferent countries
and probably have never met, pre-work focuses
heavily on team building. It also assists the par-
ticipants in honing their cultural intelligence and
their consulting and communication skills with
respect to working in international teams and liv-
ing in their host country.
Work with NGO implementing partners. NGO
partners (CDC Development Solutions, Digital
Opportunity Trust, Endeavor, Australian Busi-
ness Volunteers, and the rest) ofer companies
implementing global programs a range of impor-
tant services. Te partners have in-depth knowl-
edge of key countries that span a frms business
operations; understand the challenges and op-
portunities for the private, public, and NGO sec-
tors; and know the hot-button issues with which
a company may or may not want to engage.
Tey are also able to identify local partners and
projects that provide maximum impact for em-
ployees and local communities and that comple-
ment a companys culture, mission, and goals
for a global service program. NGO implement-
ing partners serve as a cultural bridge between
corporations and local institutions, fostering an
atmosphere of trust that is critical to working
relationships in emerging markets, yet difcult to
establish without a longstanding local presence
and knowledge of development challenges.
Customize. Finally, there is no one-size-fts-all
global service program. Deloitte, for instance, has
partnered with CDC Development Solutions to
send newly hired consultants on global service
assignments in Belize. FedEx is teaming up with
IBM in a joint project in Africa. And many global
banks have partnered with the Grameen Founda-
tions Bankers Without Borders initiative to send
volunteers to work in microfnance and technol-
ogy projects around the world.
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In response to demand in the international arena
and pressures to scale up domestically, new models
for cooperation and engagement are starting to
take hold. We certainly have seen an increase in
partnership, and more and more the Peace Corps
is recognizing the importance of strategic partner-
ships, the importance of engaging with groups out-
side of Peace Corps, says Jennifer Chavez Rubio,
director of the Peace Corpss Office of Private Sec-
tor Initiatives. For instance, the Peace Corps now
collaborates with the U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID) to enable volunteers to par-
ticipate with USAID in development efforts, help-
ing implement small self-help activities in select
While each sector is driven by its own unique in-
terests, all share a common vision of service spurred
by a spirit of global engagement. Business, govern-
ment, civil society, and universities support volun-
teerism because it develops stronger global citizens
while providing needed expertise to groups in emerg-
ing markets. For businesses, a new cadre of leaders is
returning from experiences abroad with a perspec-
tive that is critical to success in the international
marketplace. For governments, a new generation of
citizen-diplomats improves the national image and
promotes cross-border bonds. Nonprofits recognize
that achieving their mission on a global level often
requires volunteer expertise drawn from each of these
groups. And finally, universities see that promoting
exchange is essential to their educational mission in a
world where opportunities and challenges transcend
national borders.
Regardless of the type of engagement, what is clear is
that the notion of community is becoming broader.
So is our sense of where we can serve. In the new
era of global engagementas IBMer Bonnie Glick
put itour efforts make the world smaller for all
of us.
Global Service: A Multisector Job Global Service: A Multisector Job
It is important to remember that the nonprofit sector
has long played a critical role in facilitating the move-
ment of volunteers into international assignments.
According to a 2005 estimate by the Brookings Insti-
tution, U.S. nonprofits send more than 40,000 volun-
teers to serve abroad every year.
One of those volunteers is Khary Dickerson, who
served in post-conflict Southern Sudan with the MBA
Enterprise Corps for 15 months to create economic
opportunities through business training and consult-
ing. After earning an MBA from Indiana University,
Dickerson found that his passion for international
development and Africa spurred him to travel over-
seas to build his career and to give back on an inter-
national scale. On the ground, his work to support
struggling businesses quickly bore fruit. In some
small way, reflects Dickerson, we were contributing
to the sustainability of the region because the more
business comes into the region, the more stability
comes into the region. We were helping to give the
people a voice.
A similar awareness of the importance of interna-
tional exposure is visible in American universities,
where an increasing number of students are choos-
ing to study and work abroad to develop the tools
necessary to compete in the global economy. The
Institute of International Education reports that
the number of students studying abroad has more
than doubled in the past ten years, with the larg-
est growth occurring in emerging markets such as
China, India, and Brazil.
Finally, there is considerable support in Washington,
D.C., to scale up international volunteerism. To ad-
dress the issues of poverty, poor education, and dis-
enfranchisement that underpin extremism and global
instability, President Obama is promoting a renewed
emphasis on international volunteerism, global citizen-
ship, and service.
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Philip Mirvis is a researcher with the Global Net-
work on Corporate Citizenship. He has authored
11 books, including Beyond Good Company,
and leads teams of executives on global service
learning journeys to Asia, Africa, and Latin
Kevin Thompson is a senior manager at IBM and
the creator and architect of the IBM Corporate
Service Corps (CSC). He credits Peace Corps ser-
vice in Ghana (1996-98) and a stint in Kenya
with the National Outdoor Leadership School as
the core contributing experiences to the CSC.
John Gohring has been a program manager for
global volunteering and local content development
for CDC Development Solutions. He is now vice
president of strategic development for Tamerlane
Global Services, an emerging markets consulting
and project management firm specializing in in-
creased supply chain capacity.