The Global Corporate Do-Gooder

I have been called a bleeding heart liberal before, and I will likely be called one again. But I want to make it very clear that I hope to have a meaningful dialogue through this blog which is not polarized. And I realize that I have much room to open my mind to different perspectives. This is why the article in Foreign Policy Magazine entitled “Get an MBA, Save the World,” written by Charles Kenny was intriguing for me.

I was an International Relations and Russian major in college. I have not used this degree in my work since graduating, despite the fact that International Development and Human Rights work remains one of my primary passions and interests. My dream job was – in fact  continues to be – to work in the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch. But I can honestly say that it never entered my mind to work for a multinational corporation in order to further development efforts and reduce poverty around the world.

But perhaps I have been terribly short-sighted. Or perhaps, corporate ethics and social responsibility have become key components which better enable corporations to compete in an increasingly globalized society. I don’t know.

I do know that the theory that multinational organizations can create a path to prosperity in the developing world is a fairly new concept to me and a complex issue. I, like all idealistic progressives, have boycotted Walmart and Nike for their working conditions and union-busting over the years. But when I started doing more statewide work outside of urban centers and travelling to small towns throughout Texas and Colorado, I began to better understand the myriad perspectives on the harms and benefits of these corporations.

While I am a strong supporter of local mom-and-pop shops and still share my grandmother’s concern that Walmart and other box stores threaten the existence of small family-owned stores, I began to hear a different side of the story in my travels. Many of the people who lived in the small towns where I was working talked to me extensively about the importance of the jobs that were created for their community and the value of the investment that the company made in their town.

I only share this story because I believe that this is an interesting topic for debate. The truth is that a socially and environmentally responsible company can completely jump-start a local economy. And so many talented young people want to make a difference to end hunger and poverty around the globe. This article suggests that there might be a way to combine these assets to make a difference in developing countries.

What do you think? If you are someone who has dreamed of doing international development work, does this story make you think about a different potential career path? Have you struggled with the concept of taking a job that is available versus holding out for your true passion? How have you reconciled those competing interests? If you are someone with a dream of working international development, would you have a challenge in choosing this work instead? Or do you believe that corporations are doing some of the most effective poverty-reduction work around the globe right now? Do you see a way to combine the two efforts more effectively?

Please add your own topics for discussion and questions. And thank you for reading!

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Filed under Career Planning, International, Youth Leadership

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