Young Leeds Alumnus Helps Implement CSR in India and Moldova

Leadership Challenges graduate Keith Johnson, BA Finance, 2009, has an important role with NEERMAN, an NGO in India which monitors and evaluates international aid projects with specific subject matter expertise in water, environmental and hygiene issues. NEERMAN applies its expertise to the implementation of CSR activities, while Keith initiates business development as he seeks opportunities to build the brand through partnerships with local universities, capacity-building workshops and participation in conferences.

“As India becomes more of a donor country itself, there will be less development money directed here; yet at the same time, corporations are increasingly implementing CSR activities,” says Keith.

Before India, Keith participated in the Peace Corps’ Community and Organizational Development program in Moldova for two years.  He initially advised a small NGO in a small town called Bacioi which focused on helping at-risk youth and their families.  “While this was my primary assignment, it was also a starting point.  From here I was able to meet important community members and discuss development opportunities for Bacioi. These ranged from smaller projects like creating a Wi-Fi park or facilitating entrepreneurship seminars, to directing a civic education program called Public Achievement in twelve localities across the country.”

Being only seven kilometers from the capital also allowed Keith to partner with a university there to develop and teach a Leadership Challenges class for undergraduates. “We had four different business leaders visit who discussed their experiences confronting things like corruption, inappropriate office relationships, risky business decisions and their effect on the company, and ethical conflicts of interests,” says Keith.

As a former student of CESR’s Leadership Challenges class at Leeds, Keith remarks that “one thing that always struck me about the visiting execs was how comprehensively they were able to view the totality of a dilemma. That approach has stuck with me ever since, and as we at NEERMAN discuss collaborating on CSR initiatives here in India, this comprehensive worldview has proved invaluable.”

As for Keith’s future, he says the “Peace Corps really taught me the value of community ties, so combining that with my business outlook, I would love to start a social enterprise someday.  It’s a trendy sector sure, but why wouldn’t you want your business to improve your community concurrently?”

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