Corporate Service Corps

A Triple Benefit
Communities have their problems solved.
IBMers receive leadership training and development.
IBM develops new markets and global leaders.

The Executive Service Corps, and extension of IBM’s Corporate Service Corps, is a philanthropic program that lends IBM employees to solve complex problems in cities of high growth emerging markets. For host cities, it is a chance to benefit from IBM’s expertise in working on economic, social and environmental sustainability challenges. For the participating IBM employees, it is a leadership development opportunity like no other.

Multiple teams of executives deployed to Ho Chi Minh Vietnam, Katowice Poland, Rio Brazil and Chengdu, China in 2010. The program is expanding significantly in 2011 with teams in Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, Chile, Romania, India, China, South Africa, the Philippines and more. (make all of those links to the countries where the team descriptions are located). The following is a case study of the first Executive Service Corps team which traveled to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

In 2010, six IBM executives set off for Vietnam to help the Mayor, top officials, 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. The Executive Service Corps deploys senior executives on more advanced engagements. The teams work with city officials at the highest level on critical economic development projects focused on helping cities to become world-class "Smarter Cities."

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.

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.”


2009 Corporate Social Responsibility Report

“The issues that the CSC team worked on are very important, even life and death issues for our city. The three weeks weren’t long, but the CSC executives came up with very good observations and analysis, working with departments of the City including transportation, food safety, water management, e-government, and human resources for high-tech innovation. The team’s very detailed and valuable recommendations fit into the City’s development plan for the next 10 years, while the final report presents an interesting vision as well as concrete next steps for each system and their integration. We are looking forward to further support and cooperation with IBM and the Smarter Cities initiative.”

— DR. Phan Minh Tan
Director, Department of Science and Technology
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam