Haiti Renewal Alliance Expo June 2015

Haiti Renewal Alliance Expo June 2015

By Rebecca Obounou

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Rebecca Obounou (CHES President), Firmin Backer (HRA Expo Director) and Myriam Paul (CHES Clerk)

Myriam and I had the opportunity to attend the Haiti Renewal Alliance (HRA) Expo recently in Washington, D.C at the World Bank. It was a two-day conference focused on investment opportunities in Haiti and the other Caribbean countries. The conference provided plenty of opportunity for networking with key people at the center of all levels of investment  in Haiti and other Caribbean nations. Among those in attendance were members of the World Bank, US and Haitian governments  such as the USAID and Haiti’s Ministry of Finance, private sector funders such as Manchester Trade Ltd. There were panels throughout the two days that promoted dialogue regarding various topics such as incubators and accelerators, key economic sectors of development, medical tourism, diaspora involvement in Haiti, US involvement in Haiti’s development as well as that of large nonprofit entities.

Some key ideas that came out of these two days include the following:

  • Haitian diaspora must get involved in Haiti’s development.
  • Key areas of economic developmental focus are: Energy, Assembly/Manufacturing, Exports, Technology, Tourism and Construction.
  • Sector specific funds are going to be a major vehicle to Haiti’s development.
  • Incubators and accelerators are key infrastructures necessary for entrepreneurs and start-ups to fuel Haiti’s economic growth.
  • Large, medium and small enterprises all have an important role to play in Haiti’s economy and cannot be overlooked.
  • There are many US federal and nonprofit funding and assistance programs that are available to Caribbean diaspora entrepreneurs.

One of the ideas that sparked a lot of healthy debate and dialogue was the idea of whether the main purpose of a company is to make money or whether companies exist for more than the purpose of generating profits. In that dialogue the terms Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Conscious Capitalism (CC) were used interchangeably by many despite the fact that they are very different ideas. CSR are the “good” activities in which corporations engage or fund to enhance public image. CSR is usually considered by most companies as a cost – something that takes away from the bottom line. CSR leaves room for the argument that these are tertiary expenses that businesses can choose or not choose to undertake.

Conscious Capitalism is whole a way of doing business. It involves firms whose reasons for existing are more than just money-making. Note, that this does not mean at the expense of profit and that it does not mean charity, a key difference from CSR. CC firms strive to CREATE VALUE FOR ALL of their STAKEHOLDERS. Stakeholders typically include: employees, customers, shareholders, local communities, the environment and any other groups that affects the company and that the company affects. CC is different then CSR in that it is not about enhancing public image but a purposeful strategy to ensure that as many people as possible win because of the existence of a business. CC is good business and this is backed by significant research done on companies that pursue these governance strategies. CC companies are among the wealthiest and most profitable companies and are best able to survive economic crises. Below is TEDx talk of the thought leader of CC, Professor Rajendra Sisodia.

Visit the Conscious Capitalism website to learn more. This debate merits further exploration at next year’s HRA Expo.

Myriam asked the head of the HRA expo, Firmin Backer an excellent questions. She asked him what his idea of success looks like. Firmin responded is that his idea of HRA Expo success is the number of people who stay engaged in the long-term conversation of investment in Haiti. I encourage you all, especially Haitian Diaspora to engage and to engage for the long haul. I hope to see you at a future HRA or other professional conference.

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