President and CEO, Thomas Miller, on the success and future of International Executive Service Corps
IESC to diversify with more corporate partnerships in developing countries
IESC constantly adapting to changing world, but will always remain true to its core belief in Prosperity and Stability through Private Enterprise
International Executive Service Corps (IESC) is a nonprofit organization based in Washington that dispatches expert consultants and volunteers to developing countries around the world.
IESC was established nearly 50 years ago at the initiative of the entrepreneurs and philanthropists David Rockefeller and Sol Linowitz, who envisaged the need for American businessmen to provide technical and managerial advice to entrepreneurs in developing countries. President Johnson launched the International Executive Service Corps in the Rose Garden of the White House in June 1964. Since then, IESC has implemented more than 25,000 short-term projects and 200 long-term programs in 130 countries across Africa, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Prosperity & Stability through Private Enterprise development
Throughout its history, IESC has stayed true to its original guiding principle of “the creation of Prosperity & Stability through Private Enterprise development”.
“That has been our mission for the last 49 years, and we are as true to that mission as the day we started. While the way we have gone about carrying out that mission has changed as the times have changed over the years, we are still very much focused on that original mission,” Ambassador Miller, President and CEO of IESC, told Focus Washington.
IESC has had numerous successes since its establishment in 1964.
“In the early years we were very, very much in places like South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, countries that at the time were around the same standard of living as many of the countries of Africa today. And I am not going to claim that our work alone has…resulted in these really miracle economies, but I think we have plenty of testimonials to bear this fact.”
Combining professional consultants with a network of highly qualified volunteers
IESC draws on a databank of 11,000 consultants and expert volunteers, focusing on tourism, IT, business practices, trade and development, and capacity building. As views toward development have changed, and projects have become longer term, so IESC has adapted. IESC started out as purely a volunteer organization, but over the last two decades it has employed the services of both volunteers and consultants, making IESC more responsive to clients needs.
IESC competes for contracts to work with organizations like USAID, Department of Agriculture, and the World Bank. “We want to diversify these business lines”, Ambassador Miller said. “We know we have this tremendous reservoir of talent… We Americans are great at volunteering. We volunteer more than any other country in the world and it’s a spirit of giving back, a spirit of forming associations and trying to help out”.
While IESC is principally about helping to generate economic growth, it is moving into other areas. “We won a contract from the State Department a couple of years ago to train [South Sudanese] diplomats. A brand new country, their diplomats were just starting out and so we’ve had a two-year project to train South Sudanese diplomats and it has gone so well that we were just renewed for a third year”.
Ambassador Miller admitted that IESC doesn’t always get it right, often because of the difficult circumstances in which they operate, but they are quick to fox problems. “We aren’t perfect. But what we try to do is be honest about it. We fix our mistakes”.
Growing and Diversifying IESC client base
IESC has grown tremendously over the last three years. “Three years ago we were under five million dollars, this year we are going to be at 41 million dollars a year. So we have the ability to do some interesting things, to take some changes and move in to new areas”. One area for growth is by forming partnerships with Fortune 500 companies in the developing world. Another area is forming partnerships with governments. “We sell expertise. We have people who have decades of expertise.”
As an example, Ambassador Miller referred to IESC’s work in a sub-Saharan African country for a shoe manufacturer that was finding it impossible to penetrate the US market. “So they came to us, and asked us for some help. And we had in our volunteer database…a number of executives who had experience of setting up shoe factories in the Northeast of the United States. They went to these factories, and they worked with the people in these factories, and raised the quality so after three years this country went from zero exports of footwear to the U.S. to 16 million dollars”.
Where does IESC get its volunteers? “Sometimes they literally walk in the door. We had a case of a guy who came in the door number of years ago and he said, “I just sold my company and I’d like to volunteer”. We signed the guy up and we sent him out to Montenegro to do e-tourism and this was the guy who founded Expedia”.