CPR for countries: Business after conflict
After regional conflicts, when one side has won, both have given up and gone home, or when there’s nobody left to fight, there is work to do. Post-conflict reconstruction does what it can to clean up the mess, and business has a key role in it. Many conflicts are started by demagogues stirring up anger over real or perceived economic inequalities, which often still persist after the fighting has ended. The task of business in reconstruction is to restore production and distribution systems to energize the economy, create jobs and growth, and positively influence local perceptions.
A leading centre for training in economic reconstruction is the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. Their MBA program Business on the Frontlines examines the impact of business on rebuilding post-conflict societies. Teams from the program have been involved in Rwanda, the Philippines, Egypt, Guatemala, Bosnia, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Uganda and Cambodia.
The course revolves around the challenges of entering an uncertain arena following conflict, defining problems given only scanty or ambiguous information, analysing business opportunities to produce decision metrics and developing business models, all while working in a different culture and with sensitivity towards local partners.
The college sends a team each year to a post-conflict zone. Much of the MBA is taken up with assigning the various team roles and preparing for the trip. Roles include Chief Administrative Officer, Chief of Logistics, Chief of Social Media and Chief of Technical Expertise. On (hopefully) returning from the trip, the team enter a phase of delivery and reflection in which they analyze what happened and give their recommendations.
The course seeks to foster a sensitivity to how business can do some of the rebuilding work previously done by NGOs and charities. It’s similar to the kind of work U.S. government volunteer agency the Peace Corps have been doing for decades, but with an emphasis on business and the role it takes in stabilising and rebuilding countries shattered by war.