Learning in Sustainable Development Partnerships

By Amanda Bowman, Business Development and Partnerships Director, Emerging World

Learning in Sustainable Development Partnerships

There’s no doubt that the development journey that led to the announcement of the Sustainable Development Goals last month in New York was more inclusive and as a result a good number of companies are seeing the opportunities for engagement – in business development terms as much as to meet public relations, CSR or Shared Value objectives.

These Global Goals will take us to 2030 and to ensure that the next generation of business leaders buy into their relevance and continue to use the SDGs as a reference for strategy development, more work needs to be done to build the leadership capability of upcoming leaders and to develop their understanding of the Goals and how they relate to business objectives.

Corporate International Service Learning is one increasingly popular approach to achieving this – and other business objectives. CISL enables companies to:

  1. Develop their existing and new leaders for the ever changing realities of the global business environment
  2. Engage in ‘shared value’ and inclusive business initiatives that contribute to business success and align with the SDGs
  3. Build cross-sector partnerships that leverage the skills and resources of all players from business, government and civil society

The results of this approach can be seen in new research from Emerging World that was implemented in partnership with BD, Credit Suisse, EY, GSK and Microsoft. These companies have all established Corporate International Service Learning programs and the CISL Impact Benchmark Study shows the value of these programs in terms of leadership development, employee engagement and career mobility. And it also establishes a benchmark from which participating companies can understand what’s working and how to continuously improve their programs.

Will Wolf, Global Head of Talent Acquisition and Development for Credit Suisse commented that “The findings show that CISL experiences leave a transformative and lasting impact – not only on employees, but on the organizations and people they serve”. The Credit Suisse Global Citizens Program provides the opportunity for Credit Suisse people to spend time and share their skills and and knowledge with partner organisations working in education and microfinance.

Fabienne Briggeler of Credit Suisse working with NGO FINCA on a microfinance assignment in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Companies shape their programs to meet their own specific goals. Some programs target particular groups of employees and others are open to all. Microsoft’s MySkills4Afrika has already sent over 200 employees from around the world to work with partners across Africa since 2014. Lutz Ziob, the Dean of Microsoft4Afrka Academy said that ‘by giving our people the opportunity to volunteer in the continent through MySkills4Afrika, we are promoting global leadership and skills development amongst Microsoft employees all over the world. This has created better understanding of African markets throughout the company whilst transferring vital skills and perspectives to enable Africans to grow, innovate and compete globally”.

If companies want leaders able to pursue the opportunities that the Global Goals will offer and to understand what that means in terms of changing the way the business operates, then CISL programs can provide that insight. The research looked at the long term impact of programs on participants:

  • 90% recognised that their experience led to positive developments in leadership skills and competencies
  • 79% made positive changes to the way they work
  • 51% made a positive business impact on their organisation as a result of their insight and learning

The impact on global leadership competencies was profound:

Analysis of the results also highlighted ways that program managers can ensure that their programs meet the needs of partners as effectively as they meet the needs of the company. The study showed that by ensuring a good match of employee skills with assignment and by designing assignments that meet a clearly defined need, the impact on the partner organisation and the employee will be deeper.

Companies’ international development partnership activity generates pride in the company and helps creates engaged employees – when they know about it. Integrating corporate international service learning into existing partnership activity is one way to achieve this. The research showed that following their experience, 87% of employees reported increased pride in their organization. By engaging them in corporate international service learning, companies can build a loyal group of company ambassadors that are more aligned to their core values, objectives and priorities as well as increasing their motivation to contribute more than is required for their roles – a key indicator of employee engagement.

The study provides a rich vein of data incorporating responses from over 300 employees in various CISL programs and I can only touch on highlights in this blog.

To dive deeper into the results of the research and to explore how you can leverage your SDG partnerships with international service learning you can join one of three webinars on 29th October, 12th November or 19th November.

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