Category Archives: Sustainable Economic Development

Sustainable Economic Development and Green Business: The Case of Cultural Arts

Sustainable_developmentDoes adopting a green business philosophy serve as an impediment for sustainable economic development? Are the two concepts mutually exclusive or is there an overlap that promotes the implementation of green business sustainable economic development projects? According to the United Nations, common ground exists: “The green economy approach seeks, in principle, to unite under a single banner the entire suite of economic policies and modes of economic analyses of relevance to sustainable development”. Thus, opportunities exist to foster sustainable economic development with the goal of alleviating poverty while pursuing green business practices. As illustrated here, these opportunities exist when social, economic and environmental concerns converge.

Detractors claim that green business practices inhibit sustainable economic development by introducing “unnecessary” cost barriers into the equation. But this argument is not necessarily accurate. Sustainable economic development is focused on the creation of micro-enterprises. The premise is that inhabitants of depressed economic areas can’t afford to wait for the jobs to come to them, they need to create jobs. At its core, green sustainable economic development is nothing more than entrepreneurship with a social and environmental conscious. Minimizing negative environmental impacts and sourcing eco-friendly and/or natural materials need not cost entrepreneurs more than do alternative options. Managing the process to ensure minimal adverse environmental impact is the key to success and can serve as a layer of competitive advantage.

Cultural Arts as Economic DevelopmentTerra Prometida Fairloom

My colleagues and I have experience in fostering the development of female owned and operated cultural art cooperatives in developing countries. Our efforts with Fairloom in Fortaleza, Brazil are featured in an article entitled The Dimensions of Peace published by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the premier accrediting agency globally for business schools. The women of Terra Prometida produce Brazilian bobbin lace (renda de bilos) using natural fibers. They work together to preserve a cultural art, provide economic opportunity, alleviate poverty and to reinvest in the community. This summer, we’re attempting to do this locally with members of an immigrant community who will be working together to preserve a Central American cultural art (Mayan backstrap loom weaving) and to provide economic opportunity to members of their community. The goal of both endeavors is to produce green fair-trade goods that can be marketed locally, regionally, nationally and internationally through channels such as ebay’s

Mayan backstrap loom weavingCritical Success Factors

These green micro-enterprises only succeed if the requisite infrastructure exists to support their growth. We’ve identified basic critical success factors that are known to increase the odds of survival when fostering sustainable economic development. They are:

-Access to education/training in entrepreneurship and commerce

-Access to information and communication technologies (ICTs)

-Access to inexpensive capital (micro-lending without prohibitive or punitive fees)

-Access to business support services (including legal) and training

-Pro-business local, regional and national government regulations (open markets)

-Secure (safe) business environments, and

-Access to banks and financial institutions

Other important critical success factors include the drive, determination and dedication of the micro-entrepreneurs involved in the project as well as the commitment of the community partners who are providing the support infrastructure. These collaborators serve as change agents and have the potential to provide the spark that ignites others in the community to launch their own micro-enterprises.

How Can You Help?

You play an important role in the process. This model only works if you, the consumer, are willing to purchase the fair-trade goods and services produced by green enterprises and developed to provide sustainable economic development opportunities to otherwise economically disadvantaged communities. Thus, you are the most important change agent involved in the process: you serve as the source of revenue. Support cultural arts and artisans, entrepreneurs and micro-enterprises by purchasing their products. Contribute to a world of good.


Knowledge Process Outsourcing: Get Smart Now!

On 12 June, the transition from a service-based economy to a knowledge-based economy was the focus of this blog. This is the second in a series of articles regarding our competitiveness in the knowledge-based economy and the marketing opportunities associated with this competitiveness. Today’s topic is Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO). It is the one area of outsourcing in which the USA remains competitive (having ceded Information Technology Outsourcing (ITO) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) to India, China and other developing nations).

KPO consists of activities such as investment research services, marketing research, analytics and intelligence, engineering research and development, pharma/bio-tech research and development, legal research services, animation, content/publishing and education/e-learning. It is the fastest growing segment of outsourcing with a compound annual growth rate of 58 percent for the period 2005-2010. Steady growth in KPO services is projected to continue well into the next decade.

In a paper published on 1 March 2010, Gereffi and Fernandez-Stark identify the top ten KPO firms as of 2009 based on total revenues. Below is a listing of the headquarters of record for each firm identified in their article. Industry consolidation is making the determination of country-of-origin almost impossible.

Top 10 Knowledge Process Outsourcing Firms (2009):

  1. Gartner, Stamford, Connecticut, USA
  2. Genpact, Gurgaon, Haryana, India
  3. WNS, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
  4. Forrester Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  5. Evalueserve, New Delhi, India
  6. Integreon Managed Solutions, Los Angeles, California, USA
  7. CPA Global, St. Helier, Jersey, UK
  8. Pangea3, New York, New York, USA
  9. Fractal Analytics, Jersey City, New Jersey, USA
  10. Boston Analytics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

To remain competitive in KPO services and in the knowledge-based economy requires more education, not less. In marketing, the future for students with demonstrable skills in marketing research, marketing analytics and metrics, digital marketing, inbound marketing, content-based marketing and database marketing looks promising. Most of these jobs require strong mathematical and analytical skills as well as an understanding of basic HTML, JavaScript, CSS and XHTML/XML coding.

Regionally, the outlook for jobs in the knowledge-based economy is positive. Five of the top ten KPO firms have headquarters located in the north-eastern corridor and two are located the Boston area. Somewhat optimistically, a recent posting on HubSpot identifies Boston as the future “Hub” or center of all things marketing.

The economic well-being of our region is dependent upon the success of our KPO and service firms. The success of these firms is predicated, in part, on the availability of highly educated marketing talent. Your future and their future demand that you get smart now.


Open Source in Higher Education: Envisioning Change

“Although I do not, with some enthusiasts, believe that the human condition will ever advance to such a state of perfection as that there shall no longer be pain or vice in the world, yet I believe it susceptible of much improvement, and most of all in matters of government and religion; and that the diffusion of knowledge among the people is to be the instrument by which it is to be effected.”Thomas Jefferson to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours, 1816. ME 14:491


Recently, the cost of public and private higher education has received attention in the mass media. In May, the New York Times published a series of articles (Plan B, Weighing the Costs and Student Loans) highlighting much of what is wrong with the current model: Colleges and Universities have priced themselves out of the middle-class market. State investment in public higher education is dwindling to the point that the designation of the public university is becoming a misnomer. At best, the new paradigm for public universities is that they are state-assisted. At worst, the harsh reality for public universities is that they are merely state-located (i.e., operating much like private universities but under the state banner). Rather than address the debate regarding who should shoulder the burden of the cost of higher education (the state versus the individual), my purpose is to highlight innovative efforts to address the problem, and thus remain true to Jefferson’s Utopian vision of an educated populace.


A Hidden Cost of Attending College: Textbooks

As of 1 July 2010, the Federal Government as part of the Higher Education Reauthorization Act has decreed that faculty must publicize their textbooks for an upcoming semester at the time students register. Failure to comply will result in a loss of Title IV Federal Financial Aid for the University. The purpose of the act is to provide students with full and transparent information regarding the cost of their course selections (thus, eliminating or mitigating the hidden cost). Textbooks are expensive and can cost students between $500 and $1,000 per semester (depending upon the course of study).

Creative open source alternatives are emerging to address this issue. The OpenCourseWare Consortium, launched in 2005, grew out of the MIT OpenCourseWare project launched in 1999. More than 200 colleges and universities world-wide participate in the OpenCourseWare Consortium. Professors and students can obtain syllabi, lectures and course materials from the website. (As an aside, MIT OCW announced on 12 May 2010 that it was adopting the python-based open source publishing environment Plone for its open courseware content management).


Another good resource for instructors looking for open source materials to use in their courses is the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching, or MERLOT. MERLOT serves as a repository for all things open source that pertain to education. It interfaces with the OpenCourseWare Consortium so there is some overlap in materials available for adoption. Both resources provide an affordable, high quality, open source option to professors who are concerned about the burden of the price of textbooks on their students.

And finally, a new textbook publishing model has been established by an innovative company called Flat World Knowledge (disclosure: I have a non-compensated professional affiliation with Flat World Knowledge). Launched in 2007, Flat World is quickly turning the textbook publishing industry on its head. Already the recipient of numerous awards for its innovative approach, an article regarding its disruptive business model may be accessed here.


As more textbooks become available via Flat World, complete with supporting or ancillary materials (powerpoint lecture slides, audio lectures, testbanks), it is expected that the adoption of these textbooks will grow exponentially. A colleague (Dr. Godwin Ariguzo) and I used the Flat World Knowledge marketing principles book to build the marketing principles course for the next innovative endeavor highlighted: The University of the People.

Free Access to Higher Education Online: The University of the People

Founded by award-winning entrepreneur Mr. Shai Reshef, the University of the People commenced classes on 10 September 2009. With the backing of the United Nations’ Global Alliance for ICT and Development and in partnership with the Yale Law School Information Society Project (ISP), the University of the People utilizes the active learning methodology or “learning-by-teaching” model. Courses are developed by content experts (disclosure: I am a non-compensated course developer for the University of the People) and offered as online courses using the Moodle open-source learning platform.


Think about it: providing students in the developing world with free access to higher education. It’s very Jeffersonian and may be the much-needed catalyst for sustainable economic development on a global basis. Intolerance is an outcome of ignorance. Likewise, ignorance begets poverty. By providing open access to higher education, one can envision a more tolerant Utopian world where the gap between haves and have-nots is diminished.

Envisioning Change

So what does all of this have to do with the status of higher education in the US? Clearly the need for an innovative new model is apparent: one in which barriers to access are removed or at the very least, tolerable. Innovative instructional methodologies and content delivery systems are reducing the need for huge investments in fixed assets by universities. It’s not hard to envision a time when the traditional four-year on-campus university residential experience becomes a thing of the past. After all, colleges and universities are the penultimate content marketers. To survive in challenging economic times calls for a radical shift in the concept of the university, course delivery and the college experience. Innovations in technology are making it possible to deliver courses asynchronously. I’m hopeful that in the near future, you’ll be accessing my marketing and international business courses from your mobile phone. I’m even more hopeful that I’ll be delivering these courses to you from my beach house after spending the morning surfing with Izzy Paskowitz (my Father’s day fantasy).

The open source movement is making the fantasy of access to free education a reality. It’s too bad that it didn’t happen in Jefferson’s lifetime. Happy Father’s Day.