The Future of Corporate Engagement in the Developing World

Business Insider recently named Uganda, Ghana, and Tanzania among the world’s fastest growing economies. Within the next ten years, many of today’s developing countries are expected to join the ranks of the world’s industrialized nations; at the same time, these countries continue to face a host of critical social concerns including poor education, inadequate access to health care, food insecurity, and lack of clean water. At the recent International Corporate Volunteerism Conference, PepsiCo, GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, John Deere, SAP, and other corporations sat alongside representatives of the U.S. State Department, USAID and thought leaders to discuss the future of corporate engagement in the developing world and the role that corporate volunteers can play in helping address some of these problems. Here is what we heard:

1. The definition of leadership is changing quickly—too quickly. Globalization and new technologies are rapidly reducing the efficacy of top-down models of leadership. In recent years, the command-and-control approach to management has become less and less viable. Sue Tsokris, PepsiCo’s vice president, Global Citizenship & Sustainability, echoed this sentiment. “In the past, leadership was often based on criteria as simple as length of tenure, most senior title, or most vocal opinions,” she pointed out. “But as organizations manage new global dynamics, models of leadership are also changing. Successful leaders need skills such as the ability to influence diverse teams, the flexibility to succeed with limited resources, and the adaptability to deal with fast changing work environments.” By placing employees in challenging environments, PepsiCo’s PepsiCorps helps them to develop these types of leadership skills, while addressing complex global problems, such as water scarcity and affordable nutrition.

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