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Response to NextBillion’s “Local Capacity Building and Business Development at the Base of the Pyramid”

Posted By Guy Pfeffermann, Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Updated: Monday, January 28, 2013

Guy PfeffermannCEO Guy Pfeffermann responds to NextBillion's blog article "Local Capacity Building and Business Development at the Base of the Pyramid," an interview with Simon Winter, TechnoServe's Senior Vice President of Development:

I thoroughly agree with Simon Winter’s plea for capacity-building. As he points out, all countries where the majority have reached decent living standards have one thing in common: reasonably well-functioning local institutions, including, what he calls "a web of local organizations Local institutions were strengthened by tapping the "world shelf of experience and knowledge." Only international partnerships and cooperation can ensure a sustained infusion of knowledge. Those who think that nurturing such flows of knowledge on an on-going basis is "neo-colonial” should ask themselves what is the alternative? Nations as different as Japan, Korea, Botswana, Costa Rica and Slovenia all have developed elaborate networks of enduring linkages between local and foreign institutions which serve their development needs. Surely, the alternative is stagnation – North Korea is the most dramatic example – or endless dependence on handouts.

The raison d’être of the Global Business School Network (GBSN) is to link up local and foreign institutions – in this case business schools, which are an essential part of what Simon Winter calls a "sustainable ecosystem” for growing small firms. Our experience is that knowledge flows in many directions, and not only, as critics maintain, from "North” to "South”. Local business schools benefit from the experience of schools in other "Southern” countries as well as from Europe and the US; and European and American students and faculty are thirsty for knowledge of the on-the-ground realities in developing countries. The mutual quest for knowledge ensures sustainability.

If capacity-building is so important, why do aid organizations, public and private, do so little of it (while they talk a great deal about it) ? As Francis Fukuyama pointed out in State-Building – Governance and World Order in the 21st Century, aid organizations have a strong preference for funding programs, which show quantifiable results within a short time – one to three years. As Simon Winter shows so eloquently, capacity-building is an on-going, long-haul, endeavor. Outcomes are notoriously hard to measure. Given the choice between sending consultants to a country that will vaccinate 200,000 children – something that can be measured easily – and enhancing the capacity of a local school of public health over many years, most funders will choose the former. Fortunately, quite recently, more grants are incorporating capacity-building components. That is excellent news for developing countries and in particular the Base of the Pyramid.


Read the original article and other responses


Guy Pfeffermann is the CEO and founder of the Global Business School Network.

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