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The Corporate Service Corps (CSC), often called a “business version of the Peace Corps,” is a philanthropic program that deploys IBMers to help solve complex problems in developing countries. For host countries, it is a chance to benefit from IBM’s expertise in working on economic, social and environmental sustainability challenges. For IBMers, it is a leadership development opportunity like no other.
Since the program launched in July 2008, the Corporate Service Corps has deployed more than 700 IBMers from 47 countries on 70 teams to Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Ghana, Malaysia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, South Africa, Tanzania, Turkey and Vietnam. The CSC experience spans six months: three months of preparatory work completed as a team, virtually, one month overseas and two months post-service. All projects work at the intersection of business, technology and society. “Clients” include entrepreneurs, small and medium enterprises, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions and governmental agencies.
Here’s how a typical CSC engagement works. Early this year, six IBM executives set off for Vietnam with the intention of helping city planners, entrepreneurs, and NGOs develop a road map for a smarter city in Ho Chi Minh City. The IBM team came from varying geographical and professional backgrounds.
Upon arrival in Ho Chi Minh City, the team began a three-week, three-step process of gathering data, framing the problems and crafting recommendations. Under the direction of local leadership at the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee, the IBMers split into teams and focused on four critical areas of concern for the city: food safety; water management; transportation; and developing a high-tech ecosystem.
Ho Chi Minh City throbs with life at all times of the day.
Caption: IBMers Roy Nicholson, GBS Partner, Life Sciences for IBM, United States, and Clara Challoner Walker, GBS Partner, Financial Services for IBM, UK, observed at the Ho Chi Minh City bus depot.
During the first week, each team member spent time building relationships with key stakeholders, and traveling throughout the city and outlying areas to better understand the issues. “In my case, the city was interested in ensuring food quality and safety, and developing a plan for how to respond in the case of a food emergency,” says Michele Grieshaber. “So in that first week, I visited a vegetable farm, a vegetable processor, a seafood processor and exporter, a wholesale market at night, a clam farm, and a shrimp farm. We met the people that are part of the supply chain, we asked questions, and we tried to understand the process and the problems.”
Over the course of the next two weeks, team members spent time researching best practices in other countries, consulting IBM experts in each of their respective focus areas, and presenting recommendations for pilot programs with city experts and officials. They presented the city with specific guidance for how to collect, integrate and analyze information about the various urban systems, and how to view them as one, fully interdependent system of systems.
“I think more than anything we were an impetus, a chance for different city departments to come together and view the problems in a new way,” says Grieshaber. “And for me, I came to understand that the problems in Ho Chi Minh City, or Vietnam, are not isolated or unique to this area. These are important parts of global systems. So if Vietnam has a problem, we all have a problem.”
CSC Vietnam Executive Participants
A telecommunications executive accountable for the largest telcommunications client in Canada.
A vice president and established researcher who led IBM’s India-based research organization.
A strategy and transformation leader specializing in customer relationship management from the United States.
An accomplished academic and marketing executive from the United States.
An application innovation specialist and Life Sciences industry leader from the United States.
Clara Challoner Walker
A technology strategy and financial services leader from the United Kingdom.
deployed in 70 teams to 14 countries including Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Ghana, Malaysia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, South Africa, Tanzania, Turkey and Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam