Friday, January 16, 2009

Corporate Service Corps: an advanced CSR model from IBM

At a panel discussion held at the MIT Enterprise Forum of New York City, Stanley Litow, IBM's Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Corporate Responsibility, talked about the Corporate Service Corps program. The presentation made quite an impression on the panel's audience, particularly because it was accompanied by a personal account of a former Corps IBM-er. You can find details and related resources on the program here.

The idea of the program is to send teams of IBM's top leaders to developing countries to work with local organizations on specific projects aiming to spur economic development through information technology. The concept brings to mind the US federal Peace Corps program. IBM funds the program and reaps multiple benefits in terms of growing economic talent and building business development opportunities. Employees benefit by aquiring new skills and expanding their network. The partners in the host countries enjoy free real-time skill transfer and stronger communities. In implementing this program and identifying relevant field projects, IBM has teamed up with several specialized non-profits.

I think IBM's Corporate Service Corps is a state-of-the-art CSR program. It is embedded in the company' core operations, is multi-dimensional in its impact, simultaneously benefits several groups of stakeholders (employees, communities, governments) and leverages existing resources provided by non-profits. What do you think? Do you think this program has the potential to be taken on by other companies in the IT and other industries?