PYXERA Global Team Shares 25 Years

Over the past quarter century PYXERA Global has worked tirelessly to change the model of development to one that emphasizes inclusivity and sustainability, that enriches lives and livelihoods worldwide, through unexpected partnerships. In honor of this milestone we invited friends, family, and longtime partners to join us for dinner, dancing, drinks, and awards to toast to our 25th anniversary at the historic Union Station in Washington, DC. We were thrilled to share this milestone with all of those who have supported us.

During our celebration some of the PYXERA Global’s leadership team shared why the 25th Anniversary was memorable to them and the impact they have seen.

Soud Habbas, Vice President of Operation and Compliance, reflected on how the culture and mindset within PYXERA Global relates back to a passion for positive change and bold partnerships he has had since childhood. 

“When I was growing up between Jerusalem and Amman, I wanted to change the world; to make sure that people were given the opportunity to succeed; to make sure that they would be treated with dignity. And at that time it seemed obvious, the only place to do it was at the UN. Now as you can see, I didn’t end up at the UN; but what about those ideals?

Last year in her keynote address at the ICV Conference, Deirdre spoke of the power of corporations to affect social change. In a more eloquent way than I can ever express, she stressed the point that, if we really want to change the world and achieve positive outcomes, we have to collaborate.

One of the things that attracted me to the organization was that it isn’t shy about the need to work with corporations to achieve positive change. Through collaborative relationships, and by learning from one another and understanding each other’s points of view, non-profits and corporations, considered strange bedfellows in the past, are changing the world, giving people opportunities to succeed, and trying to make sure they are treated with dignity.

So to the 10-year old me, I would say that in line with ideal of collaboration, working at the UN is definitely not the only place to achieve those high ideals.” 

Kuralai Kunz, Director of Enterprise and Community Development, spoke about the drive for innovation she sees within PYXERA Global. 

“PYXERA Global strives to transform private and public sector strategies in emerging markets by focusing on a value proposition that has socioeconomic impact in local markets. We do this by developing innovative approaches and cultivating a deep understanding of how business and social goals overlap.

Our enterprise development approach in emerging markets, such as Ghana and Mozambique, focuses on aligning profit creation with socioeconomic opportunities by improving local business performance through education and information sharing. Our agricultural value chain programming applies a community-focused approach to eliminating waste through post-harvest loss strategies, harnessing the power of technology and sharing best practices on how to use less to produce more.

Our drive for innovation helps us improve upon traditional development approaches, and focuses our attention on designing programs that balance creativity, core business goals, and social impact.”

Moussa Diouf, Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Finance and Administration, talked about how PYXERA Global gave him a new perspective on change that could come from not only an NGO but also from corporations, foundations, and governments, which he has seen through PYXERA Global partnerships.

“In spring of 1998, few days after graduation, I was having a conversation with my uncle about which career path to take. He then asked me a simple but yet complex question: When you retire, what would you want to say you have accomplished, besides making a living?

He said, ‘There are countless Not for profit Organizations in the DC Area that do great work for the betterment of the world. Look for a job at any of them, as long as you care about their mission and what they stand for. This will allow you to earn a living but at the same time help you participate in making the world a better place’.

In 2007, I joined what is now PYXERA Global. However, you do not have to work for a nonprofit to make a difference. Over the past 2 days, we have talked about how corporations, foundations, and governmental organizations, to name a few, are making a huge difference. For us to achieve the SDGs, we need to be more involved and make sure the organizations we work for have the world’s best interest in mind. I urge each one of you to have these conversations whenever and wherever possible, as it takes more than just a few to make it happen.”

Then, Kimberli Jeter, Chief Learning and Partnerships Officer, recognized that PYXERA Global has had tremendous support from sometimes the most unlikely of partners who believed in a better world too; it is their passion, drive, and innovation that helped to make our 25 years so successful. 

“As we celebrate the pioneers of purposeful global engagement, I would also like to thank the many individuals, organizations, and communities that shaped our approach to building relationships across sectors. First to our staff, thank you for your passion, dedication and commitment. All of you and our international staff that are here tonight, in person and in spirit, are the heart of PYXERA Global.

One of our early partnerships was with a mining company, headed by a former Peace Corps Volunteer. The mine director delighted and challenged us with his vision; and his willingness to engage with us in a meaningful partnership opened doors for us with other private sector partners. Our oil and gas sector volunteers and partners taught us the value of learning the business of your partner. The more we learned, the more value we added to our clients, to the local businesses, and to the communities with whom we worked.

We have learned a lot in the context of our relationships. You have helped us see more possibilities than we could imagine alone. Working and learning together we will, create shared value to contribute to the Global Goals, and deliver meaningful impact to organizations and communities around the world.”

Ann Oden, Country Director in Nigeria, shared the local impact of PYXERA Global projects, and the hope she has seen blossom, within Nigeria. 

“Since starting work in Nigeria more than a decade ago, I’ve noticed our partnerships, particularly with IBM, The Rockefeller Foundation, USAID, and the World Bank have created and kept hope alive. The hope PYXERA Global has created in Nigeria is more than just a good feeling; it’s creating real change through diverse programs and projects that intersect with IT, human capital development, tourism development, SME development, local content development in oil and gas, youth development, job creation, and agriculture and food security.

Despite security challenges, the threat of diseases like Ebola, and poor state of infrastructure, Nigeria remains a booming market. Undoubtedly the largest economy in Africa, with a market that is more open to new investment and development programs than any other country on the African continent. I can’t help but think PYXERA Global had a little something to do with that.”

Laura Asiala, Vice President of Client Relations and Public Affairs, shared her journey in purposeful global engagement that began from the corporate side.

“In the summer of 2009, I sat with the then CEO of Dow Corning Corporation, where I was the director of corporate communications and citizenship, to discuss with her and a group of executives how best to gain insight into the markets at the ‘Base of the Pyramid’. I’d often wondered if we could send a group into a market like that—not to sell anything per se—but just to perform some service and in that way gain an understanding of the realities of life in those regions and build the kind of leadership skills that would be required to be successful in that world.

Fortunately for me, the IBM Corporation, under the leadership of Stan Litow had already thought of this approach, and formed the IBM Corporate Service Corps, executing the strategy with the help of PYXERA Global. Even more fortunately, that novel and innovative approach was captured by Harvard Business School professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, and when I went looking for the ‘how to’ guide, it was there.  We launched the Dow Corning Citizen Service Corps the next year, which now more than three dozen companies implement a program of this kind. From a personal standpoint, reading that case study changed my own life trajectory in a profound way.”

Barbara Gbologah-Quaye, Country Director in Ghana, spoke about how PYXERA Global has helped to create a new vision of progress within Ghana. 

“Sometimes when you listen to the news in Africa, perhaps Ghana in particular, you might only hear about the challenges. At PYXERA Global, we have learned to see beyond the current issues, to the opportunities that create shared value through purposeful partnerships with communities, SMEs, trade associations, NGOs, and government institutions.

After 8 years on the ground in Ghana, we have come to appreciate that it is not always about being the first to pioneer a new solution. It may just be about listening with an outsider’s ear or bringing a new pair of eyes to the experience. With our unique and diverse skills in facilitating partnership and project foresight we are often the catalyst that is needed to create effective change. This confirms the African proverb ‘if you want to go fast, go alone but you will get weary, if you want to go farther go together’. ”

Kabi Sherman, Country Director in India, talked about the foundation of skills, leadership, and understanding PYXERA Global programs build for organizations that lead to positive change. 

“We at PYXERA Global have been conducting an in-depth impact study of all engagements in India: 9 different corporate clients have sent 53 teams, totaling 531 individual participants, who worked with 125 organizations, on 155 distinct scopes of work. We have been finding, defining, and facilitating corporate pro bono engagements in India since 2009, with IBM being the pioneer corporate client.

What I heard over and over were two main themes: First, that from the engagement, many organizations learned to think differently, to ask themselves better questions and approach implementing their answers in new and more effective ways. And, secondly, that these engagements have built a foundation from which each organization was able grow and achieve beyond their original goals, bringing more benefits to the communities they serve.”

Alicia Bonner Ness, Senior Marketing and Communications Manager, reflected on the impact study she undertook this past year where she gained insight into projects and the lasting impact they have had across the globe.

“This year, I had the opportunity to witness the amazing work PYXERA Global has engaged in over the past 25 years. I traveled to 10 countries across five continents, and interviewed more than 75 people who represented over 50 PYXERA Global projects within that timeframe. In Romania, I met with some of the first entrepreneurs of the former communist bloc, people who are still pioneering enterprise and creating new markets in Eastern Europe. I traveled to the highlands of Guatemala and witnessed the economic transformation brought about by the creation of a tiny local foundation, the Fundacion Sierra Madre, which has since helped countless villagers start businesses, improve farming practices, and educate their children in ways they never could before.

Across Africa, we have participated in groundbreaking work, from Angola to Ghana, Ethiopia to Kenya. Seeing the breadth, depth, and scale of these efforts first hand was an inspiring reminder that purposeful global engagement is hard work. But that work pays off.”

Gavin Cepelak, Senior Director of Global Pro Bono, shared how his Peace Corps experience led him to PYXERA Global and why he stayed.

“I served as a Small Business Development Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco. It was the best decision and experience of my life. I lived in a small village called Tijjmijou, meaning ‘house of good weather,’ that had a population of 300. I lived with families, built businesses, had pride in what we did, ate communal meals, shared everything, and everybody knew each other.

I am at PYXERA Global because of my life changing experience as a Peace Corps volunteer and also because I wanted to continue to make an impact and I believe in skills based volunteerism. After service I wanted a career that had purpose, an opportunity to build something, that would continue to impact communities like Tijjmijou. I often ask if not at PYXERA Global, then where else?

Fast forward 7 years, 16 corporations, and thousands of corporate employees that have made an impact in education, food security, water and sanitation, health, and more; as Senior Director of Global Pro Bono at PYXERA Global I have the opportunity to work with such talented and dedicated staff, but also with some pretty amazing corporations that have the resources as well as ambition to make a real impact on the world’s social issues.” 

Harry Pastuszek, Vice President of Enterprise and Community Development, spoke about how his corporate experience gave him appreciation for PYXERA Global’s innovative partnerships.

“As far as what sets us apart as pioneers, I can share some experiences from my past professional lives. I embarked on my career at the International Finance Corporation – and words like partnership, coordination and tri-sectoral were in relative abundance in the hallways, but a trip or two into the field made it clear that these nice words were but often only words.

When I moved on to Bechtel -I can’t be prouder to have Bechtel on my CV – but I have to be straight with you: It’s part of the corporate DNA at Bechtel to treat customer, government, and partner relationships with a very straightforward ‘It’s the Bechtel way or this highway isn’t getting built’ approach to engagement.

PYXERA Global is a place that embraces the challenge of marrying the business needs of a Bechtel to the development impact commitments of an IFC – and we seek to do it with eyes wide open. We learn from each program we implement; we work to understand what drives the members of each sector. We seek out and more often than not, find ways to meet all of our partners’ individual goals, commitments, and aspirations. Through this commitment to working with and amongst others we can do so much more than our size would suggest.”

Jurie van Niekerk, Country Director in South Africa, reflected on the wise words of Nelson Mandela and how PYXERA Global is living out the true meaning of partnership. 

“As Nelson Mandela said on the question of a meaningful life: ‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.’

Corporate volunteer opportunities facilitated by PYXERA Global make a difference in the lives of others – small children in an inner city nursery school, rural farmers union leadership training, HIV/AIDS program strengthening, city safety and security and more effective utilization of community social assets, saving and reducing water loss, creating jobs and support to young aspiring entrepreneurs demonstrates the impact of PYXERA Global’s work in South Africa.

Mandela further said, ‘A single tree cannot make a forest but sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.’ He had discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds there are many more hills to climb. PYXERA Global has many global partnerships, there is always another partner to find and each one makes us stronger. They enable us to take ownership, they teach us responsibility, they open our eyes to the knowledge and needs of others.“


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