Joe Phelan: Rolling up Sleeves for Development

By Joe Phelan, International Business Leaders Forum

Rolling up Sleeves for Development

In the world’s top corporate boardrooms, its lecture theatres and in the planning sessions of think tanks and development agencies such as my own, much is made of uncovering new business solutions for development challenges.

Inclusive innovation is the current buzz. This is important work. Today, in rural Maharastra, India, I was reminded of another important part of the effort for sustainability and inclusion – companies applying well proven developmental approaches to their social investment.

Through their foundation, Janakidevi Bajaj Gram Vikas Sanstha, India’s leading two wheeler manufacturer Bajaj Autos* are creating measurable improvements in the quality of life of more than 60,000 people in rural Maharastra and Rajasthan. They take a holistic approach to the development of each community they work in, strengthening agriculture and water management, promoting better health, improving literacy and school attendance rates, providing training for skills.

A perfect illustration is this family (left), who have turned the cow and technical assistance they received into 12 cows, providing sustainable income, fertlizer and fuel to more than meet their needs.

This isn’t about magic formulae or panaceas.

It is about working hard at the relationships, the needs assessment, implementation and measurement. About taking a scrupulous approach to partnering and empowering communities, rather than adopting donor status, and making government schemes work in practice, rather than working in isolation.

Developing new knowledge is essential for finding solutions to poverty and exclusion at scale. And there is also much to gain by companies striving for quality and practicality in their community outreach.

*Full disclosure: Bajaj Autos were IBLF corporate partners for 10 years, and are members of the Business Community Foundation, of which Joe Phelan is a board member.

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