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Partnership musings at 33,000 ft

Photo credit @saigonsays

Photo credit @saigonsays

Over the last couple of months I’ve spent time at various “partnership” themed events. Bangkok, Singapore, Hanoi, even the leafy outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, many thousands of miles away from the hustle bustle of Saigon. Different venues, but similar take-away recommendations about how, if we are truly to tackle social and environment issues and bring about change in the future, for the future, we must join forces with others.

In some cases, forming alliances which might seem oxymoronic: for example, big business in partnership with local communities; municipal governments working with large NGOs.

Previous case studies on this blog site (where CARE is partnering with companies in the region, including GSK and Diageo) are backed up by hundreds more out there, many of which are breaking new ground and offer hope for replicating models which others can adopt, adapt and improve. Read more…

Women’s Empowerment in the Hospitality and Tourism sector

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Drawing in the tourists – a Sri Lankan sunset over the Indian Ocean

I have visited Sri Lanka in a work capacity every year for the past five – posting about it just recently on this site – however, this April, I’ll spend my 40th birthday there, as a tourist, on the country’s southern coast.

Post war Sri Lanka (since 2009) has much to offer the increasing number of tourists, flocking to experience white sand beaches, up-country tea plantations, and the joy of some spicy coconut sambol for breakfast.

The hospitality and tourism sector is one upon which Sri Lanka is heavily relying, not only in terms of driving up economic gains for the country, but also in making a positive ripple effect on related social factors – in particular, supporting the employment needs of what equates to several million young Sri Lankans on the look out to secure a job.

Within this context, as well as having the potential to positively tackle youth unemployment in the country, the hospitality and tourism sector is in a position to also address why it is that so many women in the sector are not being supported in their careers – and in some cases, why in the very first instance it is a challenge for women to even enter the workforce. Read more…

Myanmar: bringing about change in a frontier market

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Shwedagon – one of Myanmar’s famous Pagodas

For some of the world’s “frontier” markets, such as in Myanmar (formerly Burma) the risks of accelerated growth are that many of the country’s poorest get left behind. Working alongside government and the private sector, the efforts of CARE International in Myanmar are starting to demonstrate that establishing from the outset more inclusive models of engagement with business, in an emerging economy such as Myanmar’s, can yield positive outcomes both for society and for doing good business.

Last week, I traveled to Myanmar to see for myself how CARE has been collaborating with one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, GSK (GlaxoSmithKline), on an initiative which involves GSK investing back 20% of their consumer healthcare profits – across seven markets in Asia Pacific – into improving community healthcare services for some of the region’s most vulnerable citizens.

Whilst there, several of us visited CARE-GSK programmes in Lashio, Northern Myanmar, where we found some inspiring gains have already been made since the joint initiative was established two years ago between our organisations… Read more…

Tacloban: Exposing “middle-income” country realities

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CARE’s shelter team with local communities in rural Tacloban

I am on my way home from a visit to Tacloban, in the Philippines, one of the country’s most damaged districts following the carnage caused after Typhoon Yolanda swept through some of the nation’s poorest communities last November.

The Philippines has been classified by the World Bank as a “lower-middle income” economy. Middle-income economies are those with an annual GNI (gross national income) per capita of more than $1,045 but less than $12,74.

Other countries in Asia Pacific who share this classification with the Philippines include Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. “Upper-middle income” economies nearby can be found in China, Malaysia and Thailand, whilst the likes of Cambodia and Myanmar are “low income” status.

Meaning that, on the surface of things, the Philippines’ economic gains in recent years, and its growing numbers of new middle-class citizens, represent an optimistic narrative. Its capital city, Manila, stands as a beacon of commercial potential to the private sector, host to a recent World Economic Forum summit, home to some of the world’s most famous, and infamous, global retail brands. Busy, built up, urban Asia. Opportunistic, dynamic but, in fact, wholly deceiving.

Turn this promotional pamphlet over and what lies beneath is, at best, a flimsy and precarious reality… Read more…

Sri Lanka: preparing for a future without international aid

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“Up-country” on a Sri Lankan tea estate

During what was recently my fifth visit to Sri Lanka in as many years, my taxi driver picked me up at the airport in a Honda Prius, with the air conditioning set to “glacial” and the FM stereo blaring out 1990’s classics.

On closer inspection over the course of the next eight days spent in Colombo, and also “up-country” on tea estates, it was clear that not every aspect of the nation was motoring on hybrid fuel and gyrating to the sounds of Take That. However, change is occurring here, for a country still only five years free from a long standing and debilitating civil war. The question remains, how positive might that change be for every Sri Lanka citizen, and how can inclusive growth for all be created in the future?

With Honda Prius taxis also comes an array of international fast-food joints, peppering the main streets of the capital, and beyond, and ensuring Sri Lanka’s “middle income” status and advancement towards that end goal to which so many Asian cities are now succumbing: modernisation. Read more…

True power lies within

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The dizzying heights of Singapore’s most powerful

And so to Singapore last week, for CARE’s third successive experience of partnering the annual “Sharing Value Asia” Forum – this year attracting a 30% uplift in delegates since the 2013 event, and focusing on what is becoming a fast emerging consensus around how the “Power of Many” may yet be our best ticket to solving some of the region’s pressing social and environmental dilemmas.

I have written before about “cross-sector” collaboration and partnerships. About forging alliances with shared objectives where the private, public and NGO sectors can work together, realising mutually beneficial outcomes.

This flavour of narrative was once more in play in Singapore, and I welcome that. Read more…

What can CARE do for business?

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The ‘interwoven’ nature of CARE’s approach to development

Last week I was in Islamabad, supporting the efforts of the CARE International team there, who have led a very successful set of engagements with the private sector to address social issues in Pakistan. In a country beset by a number of political and social tensions, CARE have decided to flip the traditional paradigm of not seeing what companies “can do for us” but, instead, what “CARE can do for business”. A bold move, and one which is so far paying dividends. 

Whilst you can still find ardent members of the international climbing fraternity hacking their way precariously through road blocks and using unofficial routes, to climb some of the country’s spectacular mountain ranges, it is common enough knowledge now that Pakistan’s tourism industry is far from booming. Read more…

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