This year, PYXERA Global turns 25! To celebrate this incredible milestone, we sat down with our CEO, Deirdre White, to talk about what she hopes PYXERA Global will accomplish in the next year and beyond.
Q: Congratulations on the 25th Anniversary of PYXERA Global. You’ve participated in the 15th and 20th anniversary celebrations. What does this anniversary mean for PYXERA Global and how is it different?
DW: While we are certainly looking at this year as a celebration of what we’ve accomplished over 25 years , we are much more focused on using the occasion as a time for reflection, a time for reconnecting with those we’ve worked with over the years, and a time to think about how the next 25 years must necessarily be different than the past 25—what’s changed in the world, in our field of practice, and within our own organization. We want to use this anniversary year and the many activities planned as a way to build a community of people and organizations who envision a better world, and who are keen to collaborate to get there.
Q: What are some of the special initiatives you have underway to highlight the 25th Anniversary?
DW: Four key initiatives will help us celebrate our anniversary year, and they are all interconnected.
First, we are planning a series of events in cities across the U.S. and in a number of other countries where we work. We will also hold a series of virtual events, to ensure we are including everyone who may not be able to join us in person. At both in-person and virtual events, we will share and learn, with a particular focus on both the Sustainable Development Goals and what we are calling “Purposeful Global Engagement.” We will also host a three day conference and anniversary celebration in November 2015.
Second, we are launching Borderless: A Global Engagement Community. Borderless will help us reconnect with the tens of thousands of individuals and organizations with whom we have collaborated in some way over the years. This community includes: past and present staff and Board members; former expert Volunteer Advisors; global pro bono team participants, host partners and corporate clients; local clients and partners of our enterprise and community development programs alumni of MBAs Without Borders and the MBA Enterprise Corps; alumni of Center for Citizen Diplomacy programs; and Citizen Diplomacy Network members. We are looking forward to reconnecting with everyone who can contribute to a common goal of enriching lives and livelihoods around the globe.
Third, we are investing in a broad impact study. We are looking back over 25 years to understand the impact PYXERA Global has had as an organization. While most of our programs over the years included an impact evaluation, those evaluations were completed during and immediately post program. In rare instances, we looked at impact a year or two after a program had closed. Our 25th anniversary offers an opportunity to share what we learn this year about the long-term impact of work we engaged in a decade—and even two decades—ago. We have made a commitment to be frank and honest in our evaluation, and to share disseminate that information widely. We will produce a series of 10 podcasts as a way to share communicate both the successes and the failures of this quarter-century of work.
Finally, we will seek to define the Principles of Purposeful Global Engagement. While we put forth this idea of Purposeful Global Engagement more than a year ago, we have not created a framework around it that would help other organizations and individuals that are passionate about better partnerships and greater impact. We want to inform this process not just with our own voices and thoughts, but with the experiences of people around the world: our anniversary events, the Borderless community, and an online portal will provide many a variety of ways for us to hear what you have to say.
Q: How do you hope that those initiatives will contribute to the international development, citizen diplomacy, and global corporate communities?
DW: My hope is that the impact study and resulting podcasts will be of enormous value to all three groups. In my experience of over 25 years working in this field, I find that we as practitioners almost never look back more than a couple of years to understand the value of a particular action, intervention or partnership. This is, in some ways, understandable; but it is also very unfortunate, as social change happens over the long term—often over many decades– and we measure in the very short term. Asking the hard questions, and being willing to share the answers—whether we are proud of them or not—is something that I believe will be of value to others in thinking about how they approach the world’s greatest challenges going forward.
Q: What is purposeful global engagement and why is it the theme of your 25th anniversary?
DW: Up until fairly recently, I always described the work of PYXERA Global, as “international development.” This was simply the name of the field I have worked in for over a quarter of a century and I never gave the implications much thought. But words matter. That is, we must connect with our various audiences in the language that makes sense to them. The words we choose can have a significant effect on the relationships we build.
So, what is wrong with ‘development’ as a field of practice? I believe that the term itself at best, is outdated and, at worst, has contributed to a lack of effectiveness of bilateral and multilateral donor institutions. “Development” is something you do to someone or something. In a relationship, this can imply the subservience or the superiority of one of the parties. In a world that is thankfully shifting toward an ideal of shared value, “developing” others does not have a place.
Purposeful Global Engagement, as we use the term at PYXERA Global, speaks to meeting individuals and organizations where they are and driving toward a mutually beneficial partnership. This approach to creating shared value eschews the sometimes unconscious sense of, “We are here to help you—to develop you.” Purposeful global engagement emphasizes an alternate notion, “We hope to engage with you, to meet both your, and our, objectives.” These objectives can be either business or socially oriented, and they often are both.
You can help us celebrate and look to the next 25 years of mutual, meaningful impact by joining the Borderless community, and giving your input on the Principles of Purposeful Global Engagement! I hope that you will join us on the journey to the new frontier of global engagement.