Promoting economic growth and addressing conflict in the Niger Delta in a socially responsible manner will be the focus of a new Georgetown partnership, announced Feb. 6.
The partnership pairs the Georgetown Social Enterprise Initiative at the McDonough School of Business with the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative. The two will collaborate in research and field work, including potential internship opportunities for students, to promote their respective missions with a focus on corporate social responsibility.
The Niger Delta region is ripe for this focus on social responsibility; according to NDPI’s website, petroleum accounts for 75 percent of the region’s export revenues, yet 70 percent of the population still lives in poverty. NDPI, which was formed in 2010 after receiving a $50 million investment from Chevron, aims to develop partnerships with stakeholder communities to develop solutions to the problems facing the region.
GSEI Associate Director Natalia Rankine-Galloway said NDPI’s connections to Chevron is one of its main appeals as a partner, citing its emphasis on corporate social enterprise.
“What that grant is about, and what starting NDPI is about, is about making this kind of systematic change in the lives of their employees in the region, in the economic stability of the Niger Delta region, and really making an investment in the ecosystem that surrounds where they do business,” Rankine-Galloway said. “There are so many social ripple effects to the investment they’re putting in, and that’s really what interests GSEI. We’re not denying that business needs to make money, but there’s a way that you can make money that is in harmony with working on societal challenges.”
Rankine-Galloway noted that GSEI, which has been committed to strengthening relations between the public and private sectors, would contribute an academically grounded perspective to NDPI’s work.
“It’s very much in keeping with what we focus on at GSEI, which is public-private partnerships. That can really be used to the best effect,” Rankine-Galloway said. “So, you’re talking about Chevron and NDPI, but you’re also talking about the work that we do, how we can put together academia and corporations.”
According to NDPI Project Director Dennis Flemming, the overlap between the work of the two organizations and the academically based partnership diversifies the initiative’s pre-established connections with organizations already doing work in Nigeria.
“If you’re going to do development work, particularly if the private sector is going to fund the development work, it should do so with a diverse range of partners,” Flemming said. “In the case of Georgetown, given the focus of the Global Social Enterprise Initative, we felt that there was a lot of overlaps with what we’re doing with the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative.”
Throughout the upcoming year, the partnership will focus on increasing advocacy for issues that plague the Niger Delta region and examining innovative approaches to solving these problems. Together, GSEI and NDPI plan to publish articles, case studies and other reports.
Flemming said these studies reflect both the issues posed in the Niger Delta region and NDPI as a model for the larger questions of corporate social investment.
“It’s really about the learning elements, about looking at the model, and then there’s kind of an advocacy element as well. Taking that learning and sharing that with others in a way that in one way might lead to new partnerships for NDPI and for Georgetown,” Flemming said.
Rankine-Galloway echoed Flemming, emphasizing the mutual benefits of the partnership.
“We’re both bringing things to each other. It’s a very collaborative agreement, more so than one helping the other out,” Rankine-Galloway said.
Flemming added that he thinks the equal partnership will evolve over time.
“A lot of times, partners go into the partnerships with some initial expectations and just leave it at that, rather than exploring what they can do together. I think that’s kind of the exciting unknown of this partnership,” Flemming said. “Over time, what this partnership will look like will probably change [with] what we discover about each other..”
Prior to the official partnership announcement, NDPI board members attended the inaugural Niger Delta Development Forum in October, held at the MSB.
Rankine-Galloway said the meeting addressed some of the issues the partnership will examine as well as how to improve public-private sector relationships.
“The key to what we talked about, more than anything else, was the need for corporations to start speaking non-profit language,” Rankine-Galloway said. “We talked a lot about how to strengthen that collaboration.”
Douglas Lim (GRD ’16), an MBA candidate and member of the GSEI Student Leader team who assisted with preparations for the forum, explained his interest in the partnership, which is based in promoting good governance for corporations.
“I believe it is important for businesses to look at the double bottom line and aspire to make financial returns for themselves as well as positively impact the communities surrounding them,” Lim wrote in an email. “I am excited that I have already gotten to be a part of this new partnership.”
Rankine-Galloway emphasized that moving forward, the partnership will look to further increase student engagement, including hopes to hire a Georgetown student intern for NDPI this summer.
“We’re always looking for ways that students can get an up-close view at what the dean of the business school really wants, which is giving students exposure to the world beyond the walls of academia,” Rankine-Galloway said.