Corporate Service Corps

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IBM develops its employees’ humanitarian heartstrings

LES ECHOS – 02.12.08
Caroline Montaigne

Since last summer, a hundred of IBM employees are travelling through Vietnam, Tanzania or Ghana, to participate to the economic development of these countries. This is a philanthropic project that enables these globetrotters to develop their skills.
Ariane Huet-Broise is still wearing this African bracelet on her wrist. This is a souvenir of the six weeks this person in charge of partner relations in IBM France just spent in Kumasi, the second economic city of Ghana.
Like 99 other employees of the IT giant, she incorporated the program “Corporate Service Corps”, launched last summer. Its aim is to participate to the economic development of some developing countries, in collaboration with local government and associations. To identify commercial opportunities, to bring solutions in the IT area, or in finance or in organization, to develop new technologies or training… The six chosen countries were Tanzania, Filipinas, Vietnam, Torquay, Romania and Ghana.
For practical purposes, employees are split in teams from eight to ten people, with completely different citizenships and skills (IT architect, researchers, jurists …), who have worked together for six month. The first quarter is used for preparing the travel: the team gets documents on the sanitarian, cultural and economic background of the country and make meetings regularly in order to create bases on which they can work. The month after that is spent in the country. Then, once everyone went back to one’s country, the team keeps on collaborating to examine, among other things, local opportunities for IBM. Indeed, the company is already settled in Romania and Vietnam, but it just has partnerships with the four other countries.
This project attracted 5 000 IBM employees in the world. But only 100 candidates were chosen. It was a selection all the more hard that, beyond the philanthropic aspect, the goal of the program is to allow high potential employees to develop their competences and their leadership. “An international experience, in a difficult environment in terms of resources is a great opportunity for employee’s careers evolution” explains Céline Marie-Audras, in charge of patronage and sustainable development in IBM.
Ariane Huet-Broise adds “When IT is non-existent you have to find another way to move on because classic solutions do not work. Moreover, you have to convince and give confidence. I learnt a lot on myself”.

To identify opportunities
Her mission was to help the Association of Ghana Industries that federates a lot of SMEs. Concretely, she had to install a base of data that would list its members, to make the account system more efficient and give to industrials information on local market, raw material available and quality of products, more especially in the wood and seeds industry. Her team was made of a Spanish, a Brazilian, two Americans, two Indians, an Egyptian, and a Danish, that had to work on the commercial development of artisans, on the setting up of a corporation of car fixers and an organization to train them, or still on the management of stocks of alimentary oil. On January, a new team will go continue these missions. But this mission was also a great chance for IBM to identify business opportunities. IBM Nigeria is currently recruiting for a project that

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