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Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft: 60th anniversery

Development starts with the people

by Bernd Schleich
The Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft (CDG) has turned 60, and its founding principles are more up-to-date than ever. Globalisation depends on people who know the world. Practice-based training, as was introduced by the CDG, is a key resource; and the ability to act on the international stage is a prerequisite for achieving development for all. The CDG approach is being continuously improved and expanded in the activities of InWEnt - Capacity Building International, Germany. [ By Bernd Schleich ]

In the 1920s, Carl Duisberg, a chemist and chief executive of Bayer Corporation at the time, promoted work placements of young German engineers in the USA. These high-potential students thus gained invaluable experience and built international networks. This programme of joint traineeship with America was disrupted by the Great Depression. After the Second World War, however, it was restarted as part of the Marshall Plan. As a result, the Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft was founded in 1949 with the mission to promote international educational exchange and human-resource development.

“The future begins in our heads,” is the CDG’s lasting motto. Active in the field of international advanced training for experts and executives, the CDG’s potential for serving communities is great in terms of prospering economies, well-designed reforms, cosmopolitan and tolerant societies, constructive cooperation and friendly ties between nations.

Many business leaders appreciate the importance of cross-border advanced training. That was so in the era of a world split in two due to the Cold War, and it still holds true today as most goods’ and services’ value-added chains stretch around the world. No doubt, international competitiveness depends on managing cross-border relations well. International advanced training has therefore become more relevant today than it ever was before. Globalisation needs people who have experienced its force personally, and who command the skills to rise to daunting challenges.

The first 50 years of CDG’s history were marked by a constant expansion and differentiation. What had begun as a unilateral secondment of German students abroad under the heading “advancement and self-help for young adults” quickly expanded into bilateral exchange in the 1950s and 60s, as CDG increasingly organised stints of guests in Germany, opening the country to people who wished to learn. At the same time, the growing number of educational and scholarship programmes for interns, apprentices, students, experts and executives helped young Germans advance.

As CDG’s organisation expanded, offices were set up in all federal states of reunified Germany. International offices were established in New York, Tokyo, Brussels and São Paulo. Though the CDG initially focussed on exchange with industrialised countries, matters were realigned early on in favour of cooperation with developing countries and countries in transition.

Moreover, the understanding of classical management skills was over time expanded to include issues such as environmental sustainability, good governance and responsible resource use. Teaching “soft” intercultural skills became an element of training programmes, which, of course, also serves global success. Anyone who wishes to leave a mark in global affairs, after all, must know how to deal with values and work styles of foreign cultures. The ability to communicate across cultural divides is crucial.

CDG’s client base became more diverse over the years. The Federal Ministry of Economics and the Foreign Office were joined by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in the 1960s. International organisations like the United Nations, various foundations and the German Bundestag also implemented educational and exchange programmes through the CDG, assigning support for – and even execution of – projects to this agency.

The extensive CDG portfolio thus came to include Heinz Nixdorf Foundation’s business programme to promote experience of the Asia-Pacific region, the EU programmes LEONARDO DA VINCI and SOKRATES and the ASA programme. ASA organises work and study trips for students to developing countries and was initially run by volunteers. The CDG managed matters more professionally, opening the programme to include work and research trips of African, Asian, Latin American and Southeast European partners to Germany.

In 1999, at the age of 50, the non-profit CDG was running a vast array of programmes involving companies, professional bodies, associations, institutions and business executives. By the time, 250,000 people had completed the CDG programmes for experts and executives. These alumni are in top positions all over the world today, disseminating their knowledge and networking among their peers.

Active parent of InWEnt

In 2002, the CDG assigned its operations to InWEnt - Capacity Building International, Germany. InWEnt also took over the operations of DSE, Germany’s Foundation for International Development. Ever since, InWEnt has served as a highly efficient implementing agency of German development cooperation with an emphasis on personal skills and international networking.

Today, CDG and DSE are active shareholders of InWEnt, ensuring a dynamic legacy of their earlier activities. CDG is a nationwide society, cooperating closely with Carl Duisberg Business Communities all over Germany. A total of 350 members, including companies, professional bodies and business schools, are active in this network. Not only do they pass on information about training opportunities, they also host events on international business and development, award scholarships to management trainees or look after foreign guests that are trained by InWEnt.

InWEnt is not merely continuing operations, but building on them and improving them. Core issues are the promotion of sustainable economic growth in developing countries and the facilitation of business cooperation with foreign countries. The ASA programme, for example, has increased its scope and gained a higher profile by building a partner network in 12 European countries (Global Education Network for Young Europeans) and by promoting leadership skills for sustainability (ASApreneurs - Shaping a Sustainable World). Other important ASA initiatives include ENSA, a school exchange programme with developing countries, and cooperation with the German Development Service (DED) in preparing young volunteers for their work abroad.

Today, around 60 % of all InWEnt programmes are business-related. The topics covered range from advanced manager training in the CIS countries to raising awareness of corporate social responsibility in Mercosur, South America’s common market, and to business and trade promotion in Southern Africa.

The CDG’s specific approach was always to provide practice-based training with a focus on business, and to impart the capacity to act on the global stage. This approach is thriving under InWEnt management. Development starts with the people! Global development to the benefit of all depends on people with outstanding educations from all countries. CDG’s offspring InWEnt is promoting sustainable globalisation with a human face.

Capacity building is an indispensable cornerstone of modern-day international cooperation. The CDG, with its 60-year history as a pioneer and key actor, has made significant contributions – and, through InWEnt, will continue to do so in future.