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Development in Communities

The communities in which IBMers live and work span the globe, and are the building blocks of a Smarter Planet. The following programs represent a few of the ways in which we work together with local and national organizations to improve the quality of life in communities around the world.

Smarter Cities Challenge

Perhaps no program exemplifies IBM’s integrated approach to corporate citizenship better than the Smarter Cities Challenge. Announced in November 2010, this $50 million competitive grant program is providing teams of IBM experts to 100 cities around the world over a three-year period. And last year—the first full year of the program—115 IBMers were deployed to 24 cities to advise city leaders on strategies to help improve efficiency, spur economic growth, engage citizens and more.

Though this is a purely philanthropic endeavor, it draws on expertise and knowledge gained in IBM’s business. For the last three years, IBM has been building a substantial business in helping cities in both developed and developing countries to collect and analyze critical data, gaining a clearer understanding of how these complex systems of systems really work, and how they can work better.

Smarter Cities Challenge 2011

Watch some perspectives from city leaders on IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge in 2011.

Smarter Cities Challenge grants are valued at approximately $400,000 on average. Teams are composed of top IBM talent, who bring their unique expertise to the program. The engagements are conducted in a collaborative, constructive and transparent manner, with IBM team members working alongside leaders from the public, private and voluntary sectors. IBM experts immerse themselves in issues critical to each city, such as the administration of healthcare, education, public safety, social services, transportation, communications, sustainability, budget management and energy and utilities.

“I am greatly satisfied,” said Lic. Jorge Aristóteles Sandoval Díaz, Mayor of Guadalajara, Mexico, which used the Smarter Cities Challenge grant to develop strategies for delivering better and more efficient services to businesses and citizens. “It is a professional team, senior executives with extensive experience, who attended and understood immediately what we, as a governing body, want to translate into benefits for the people. And through their ability and experience—not just technologically speaking but through their knowledge—they helped to lead us to find a light along the way, clarity on what we want to do and how we’re going to achieve it.”

Over the course of each Smarter Cities Challenge project, a carefully selected team of IBM executives and senior subject matter experts from across the business helps the municipality analyze and prioritize its needs, review strengths and weaknesses, and learn from the successful strategies used by other cities. The team also studies the role that intelligent technology might play in uniting and advancing different aspects of city life. The team ultimately delivers to the city a roadmap that identifies ideas and opportunities designed to help make regions healthier, safer, smarter, more prosperous and attractive to current and prospective residents and businesses. Last year several cities used ideas and opportunities in the roadmap and began implementing changes accordingly:

$50 million of IBM grants to 100 cities around the world.

  • The city of Edmonton, Alberta, has created and published an action plan for amending its website with details on how it will apply recommendations around improving traffic safety. The action plan, which is expected to be updated regularly, describes how the city is piloting a model of analytics and data leadership in the Office of Traffic Safety, partnering with external organizations on research and monitoring, and aligning its performance measures to improve transportation efficiency and safety for citizens.
  • The goal of Chengdu, China, is to develop a plan to integrate the needs of both the urban and rural communities to achieve Garden City status through a phased in approach over the next 50 years. It wants to develop a competitive, welcoming business environment while sustaining the natural environment and quality of life for its citizens. By focusing on three areas of interest: food safety, education and telecommunications, the IBM executive team provided a roadmap to facilitate the use of the cloud for these areas, as well as advise how to build versatile cloud delivery services that can be used by any industry.
  • The primary request of the Municipality of Antofagasta, Chile, focused on developing Smarter Water solutions, given the city’s arid environment. The IBM executive team developed a set of recommendations on the broader quality of life and energy areas related to the city’s water issues. A roadmap was also provided to the city that focused on preparing for a Smarter Antofagasta by integrating data sources to enable collaboration and increase innovation capacity; leveraging integrated data and new instrumentation to fill information gaps, spot new patterns, and further increase innovation and collaboration capacity; and optimizing a Smarter City through mass application of community insights and predictive analytics to enable intelligent decision support.
  • City leaders, the private sector and urban agriculture organizations in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, are committed to working together to establish an Urban Agriculture and Aquaponics Council to tackle a plan to promote and share knowledge to establish Milwaukee as a leader in this new industry.
  • In St. Louis, Missouri, city officials have undertaken significant leadership and day-to-day operational changes to improve public safety, collaborate among and between the courts, police department, mayor’s office and corrections; and simplify the tracking of top-priority offenders.

See how Milwaukee is building a smarter city.

The Smarter Cities Challenge is also tightly integrated with other community-oriented programs at IBM. For example, Smarter Cities Challenge takes advantage of City Forward, IBM’s free, Web-based platform, to view and interact with city data while engaging in a public dialogue. City Forward’s straightforward exploration tools allow users to identify patterns, trends and correlations in data that may reveal new insights and point to new areas of interest for further investigation. These explorations can then be shared and discussed within the City Forward Community and beyond—wherever people gather to exchange ideas about cities.

Also, in 2010 IBM deployed a new component of Corporate Service Corps for executives. The Executive Service Corps (ESC) deploys teams of five or six members for three-week engagements. These assignments are mostly focused on municipalities, because city projects have the scope and maturity to truly benefit from executive-level skills. When we launched the Smarter Cities Challenge in late 2010, we used the ESC to deliver some of the 100 city grants made through the program, especially to growth markets. These smarter cities services are delivered through the ESC in growth markets, but all share the same goals of high-quality services and exciting outcomes.

How Cities are Selected

Municipalities are selected competitively based on the strength of the application submitted to IBM, and the potential for a challenge grant to make a positive impact in the community. Successful applications clearly articulate strategic, cross-system issues that are closely connected to the top priorities of city and community leadership, and which have significant impact on the lives of city residents. Also considered are the city’s track record of innovative problem solving, commitment to the use of technology and open data, and demonstrated willingness to provide public engagement along with access to and time with city leaders.

The most successful proposals offer clear, compelling evidence that a particular city is poised to best utilize the resources offered in the Smarter Cities Challenge, that the grant has the potential to substantially enhance a city’s capacity to act on key issues, and that the city is ready to match IBM’s investment with its own commitment of time and talent. Municipalities of all sizes are eligible, but cities with populations between 100,000 and 700,000 are usually best positioned to gain the most from the experience.

Cities interested in researching, and potentially applying for, a grant should visit the Smarter Cities Challenge site.

The Smarter Cities Challenge is sponsored by the international philanthropic foundation at IBM, which has been a leader in corporate social responsibility and corporate citizenship for nearly 100 years. IBM implements a range of initiatives to address specific vital issues such as the environment, community economic development, education, health, literacy, language and culture. IBM employs its most valuable resources—technology and talent—to bring these programs to fruition.

City Forward

City Forward is a free, Web-based platform that enables city officials, researchers, academics and interested citizens worldwide to view and interact with city and other data while engaging in an ongoing public dialogue.

$400,000 worth of IBM expertise on average to cities that receive a Smarter Cities Challenge grant.

Corporate Service Corps

As companies of all sizes become increasingly global, corporate leaders are presented with new opportunities. IBM’s Corporate Service Corps (CSC) produces rich dividends for communities in which IBM does business, as well as for IBM employees and IBM itself. It’s a triple benefit. Communities have their problems addressed—free of charge. IBMers receive leadership development and have life-changing experiences. And IBM cultivates a new generation of global leaders. This blending of social responsibility and business expertise is an example of what it means to be an essential company in the 21st century.

By the end of 2012, IBM will have sent nearly 2,000 IBMers to 30 different countries since CSC’s inception. Some recent host countries include Cambodia, Thailand, Kazakhstan, the United Arab Emirates, Senegal, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Mexico. IBMers are concentrated into teams of eight to fifteen members and spend approximately six months on a CSC engagement—three months in preparation, one month at the locale, and two months in post-service work. On location, these teams work with government agencies, educational institutions and not-for-profit organizations in areas where business, technology and society intersect.

In 2010, IBM deployed a new executive component of the Corporate Service Corps called the Executive Service Corps (ESC). For growth markets, the services for the Smarter Cities Challenge (see above) are delivered through the ESC. Both programs share the same goals: high-quality services and actionable outcomes.

In 2011, IBM significantly scaled the CSC program by helping a select group of its business clients, including John Deere and FedEx, build their own service learning programs. This inclusion of clients gives employees of different companies an opportunity to benefit from the experience:

  • In October, John Deere sent four employees on an engagement to Chennai, India, where IBM also deployed a team. A United-States-based non-governmental organization, CDC Development Solutions (CDS), provided assistance organizing the project work and logistics. “We were extremely impressed with IBM’s pre-work materials and expertise preparing our participants for the program, as well as CDS’s coordination of the project and their support during the program,” said Chelsey Allaman, of Business Direct Services at John Deere. “The project identified for John Deere was very well aligned to our company’s objectives for the program to assist with rural development, free trade and helping to feed the world.” This program is one way John Deere intends to take a more active role supporting global citizenship efforts and increasing brand awareness, as well as helping employees understand local practices and economic models.
  • In May, FedEx sent four employees with 10 IBMers on an engagement in northeastern Brazil. The FedEx employees participated in the CSC pre-work and stayed in the same accommodations as the IBMers, but worked on their own project independently. “We wanted to do a pilot alongside IBM’s program so we could see what modifications we’d want to do,” said Tess Smith, manager of corporate human resources at FedEx, who was one of the four participants. She hopes that once FedEx launches what it calls its Global Leadership Corps, the program will send out 10 teams per year.

The CSC program was also furthered in 2011 through IBM’s alliance with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to encourage corporate volunteerism, with a goal of improving global relations. One result of that alliance is a Center of Excellence for International Corporate Volunteerism, funded by USAID, which provides resources and an information forum for companies that are interested in pursuing strategies based on IBM’s model.

“IBM is practicing citizen diplomacy and advancing United States national interests, but the money isn’t coming from the taxpayer. That’s wholly admirable,” said John Campbell, a former United States ambassador to Nigeria who is now a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Going forward, IBM is highlighting parts of the globe where need is greatest and plans to increase its engagements in these areas. For example, IBM has pledged to double its CSC activities in Africa with plans to send 600 people there over the next three years. Below are some highlights from a few of the CSC and ESC teams in 2011:


In Nyeri, located in Kenya’s Central Highlands, a CSC team worked with the Postal Corporation of Kenya to provide strategic directions for competitive postal financial services. It also collaborated with the Directorate of
e-Government Cabinet Office of the President on developing legal and regulatory frameworks for e-government, and worked with the Kenya Information and Communications Technology Board on cultivating industry talent for high-end information technology, communications and enterprise solutions.


In Manila, two CSC teams worked with the National Institute of Geological Sciences, the Manila Observatory, the Environmental Science for Social Change, the Philippines Red Cross and the Department of Agrarian Reform to enhance early warning systems and coordinate an effective disaster response using information technology.

South Africa

In Limpopo, a province of South Africa’s East London river port, a CSC team worked with the Limpopo Provincial Education Ministry to develop an IT strategy for professional development of primary education teachers. This included a monitoring evaluation and reporting system for the 25 donated KidSmart computers.


In Turkey’s Hatay province near the eastern edge of the Mediterranean bordering Syria, a CSC team provided strategic recommendations for the improvement of e-government services of the Antakya Municipality. Like similar-sized cities in emerging markets currently experiencing rapid population growth, Antakya faces challenges with efficiently providing services to its citizens and creating enough jobs to grow the economy proportionately. CSC’s engagement focused on developing recommendations for promotion of tourism through use of technology and strategies for
e-government to decrease costs and increase revenues associated with utilities and services provided by the municipality.

SME Toolkit

IBM and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) have worked together to create a small and medium enterprise toolkit, or SME Toolkit, which provides entrepreneurs and small businesses with free information critical to burgeoning businesses in areas such as finance, accounting, international business, marketing and human resources.

The Toolkit is available in 34 countries and 18 languages. It is available in emerging markets such as the Philippines and Bangladesh. In the United States, it focuses on businesses owned within under-served communities such as women, African-American, Hispanic, Native American and Asian, along with veterans and people with disabilities. The Toolkit delivers interactive tools, online collaboration and educational content for small businesses. It provides information that could help small businesses learn and implement sustainable business management practices. These tools are often only available to Fortune 1000 companies.

“The business planning tool of the SME Toolkit is especially helpful,” said La-Tasha Best-Gaddy of the North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development. “We get a lot of people who want to know what all the aspects of a business plan are. It’s also significant that the assets of the toolkit are available 24/7. This means small business owners can get the information they need even when our offices are not available.”

Partnerships established by the IFC in each of the countries hosting the site are responsible for localizing, customizing and translating content so that it speaks to the local markets. These partners, such as EDC Pan-African University in Nigeria, can also help nurture local businesses and improve their chances of survival.

IBM has dedicated more than $5 million to improve the usability and performance of the SME Toolkit, providing enhanced functionality and creating a resource hub, learning location and meeting place for small and medium-sized businesses. The Toolkit uses an open-source platform and features Web 2.0 technology. The intent of IBM’s support of the SME Toolkit is to accelerate economic development and job growth in geographies and communities not yet engaged in the market economy, as well as to help spur development of women- and minority-owned businesses in the United States. The Toolkit is a leading example of IBM’s commitment to collaborating with significant outside organizations and contributing IBM’s technical expertise and solutions to help address pressing social issues.

$5 million+ dedicated to improve the SME Toolkit.

Supplier Connection

Small businesses are crucial to the vitality of the United States economy, as they accounted for two-thirds of net-new jobs created in the United States between 1993 and 2008, according to the Small Business Administration. However, it can be challenging for small businesses to sign up new, large accounts, especially global companies. And without this source of sustained and sufficient demand, small businesses have little incentive to expand their operations or hire new employees.

With the goal of fueling economic growth and job creation in the United States, IBM and a consortium of large corporations are collaborating to make it easier for small businesses to potentially become suppliers to large companies. The consortium, called Supplier Connection, collectively purchases more than $300 billion in goods and services annually through its global supply chains. The participating companies include IBM, AMD, Amylin Pharmaceuticals, AT&T, Bank of America, Caterpillar, Citigroup, Dell, John Deere, JP Morgan Chase, Facebook, Kellogg, Office Depot, Pfizer, UPS and Wells Fargo.

The Center for an Urban Future, a not-for-profit research group, recently conducted a study to explore and document the potential benefits and impact of supply chain collaboration by large and small companies. It performed in-depth interviews with supply chain professionals at both large and small firms and examined a range of economic data. In the resulting report, Breaking into the Corporate Supply Chain (pdf), the research group found that, “ … becoming a corporate supplier provides small firms with a measure of financial stability and valuable new revenues that often enable them to hire new employees, undertake a marketing campaign, add new equipment or pay down debt … Indeed, as we show in this report, breaking into the supply chain of a large corporation can be transformative for small businesses.”

In response, Supplier Connection offers a free Web-based portal that tries to make it easier for small businesses to become potential suppliers to large companies and for large companies to identify small companies with which they would do business. The site was created by IBM through a grant of more than $10 million from the IBM International Foundation.

Supplier Connection provides small companies with a standardized and streamlined way to register basic information, share business practices and potentially connect with both large and small businesses to enhance their opportunity for growth. In turn, large companies are able to quickly find registered suppliers and communicate and forge stronger relationships with new and existing suppliers. As of June 2012, there were more than 2,300 small businesses registered in Supplier Connection, visible to a combined procurement community of more than 300 buyers from the participating member corporations. Moving forward, Supplier Connection is expected to continue to support economic growth by encouraging businesses, both large and small, to participate in this exciting and important initiative.

Small Business Owners on Supplier Connection:

Havens & Company

Havens & Company, Inc. ranks among the nation’s top employee benefits insurance brokers/consultants for Fortune 1000 employers. In March 2011, Havens and Company registered with Supplier Connection in an effort to increase business opportunities. Within four months Havens & Company secured a meeting with Citigroup to discuss their expertise in non-medical benefits. The organization credits Supplier Connection with easing its access into procurement offices of large corporations, a task that the organization has attempted to achieve for more than five years.

“Supplier Connection provided us with a connection point at Citi that we wouldn’t have been able to gain without the portal,” said Lynne Noel, vice president of Underwriting and Technical Services at Havens & Company. “If we win business through Supplier Connection, we will need to add employees to our company to manage the work.”

Bottini Fuel

Bottini Fuel has been providing heating oil, propane, heating and air conditioning services from its home base in New York’s Hudson Valley since 1951. Seeking to further expand commercial sales, Bottini’s commercial sales manager heard about a new program that made it easier for small businesses to become suppliers to large businesses, called Supplier Connection. After reviewing numerous bids, IBM selected Bottini and engaged them to become a supplier for the IBM site in Poughkeepsie, NY.

“Becoming a supplier to a global business like IBM is something most small businesses envision as a daunting task,” said Rick Bottini, owner of Bottini Fuel. “Using Supplier Connection we were able to establish a relationship with IBM and respond to their request for competitive bids in a timely manner. Having access to a powerful tool like Supplier Connection levels the playing field for a small business while helping save us valuable time and resources.”

$300 billion purchased each year by IBM and other members of Supplier Connection.

$10 million+ IBM grant that supported the creation of the Supplier Connection’s Web-based portal.