I’m a public policy student working at one of the most successful and prestigious companies in the world for the summer – Nike. Is this strange? Nope. After spending several years working in international development with donors and NGOs, I’ve come to appreciate the increasingly important role that the private sector plays in improving the wellbeing of the world’s most marginalized and impoverished citizens. Nike is an industry leader in “corporate responsibility” (i.e. corporate citizenship, social impact etc.) and this summer I am learning first-hand how the company is leveraging its unparalleled business acumen and innovation to address social challenges in the developing world.
Like everything that Nike does, it is out in front of the field in corporate responsibility. Social impact is in the DNA of the company as it strives to unleash the human potential of every athlete. And don’t let the word “athlete” fool you– Nike believes that if you have a body, you’re an athlete. Initiatives like N7, which provides donations and grants to Native American and Aboriginal communities in the U.S. and Canada, and Let’s Move, which aims to increase the physical activity of kids in schools and communities in the U.S., are just the tip of the iceberg of Nike’s corporate responsibility efforts.
This summer I am working at the Nike Foundation, which is committed to eradicating global poverty by unleashing the Girl Effect – a series of investments and initiatives targeted at the 250 million adolescent girls around the world aged10-19 years old and living on less than $2 a day. Nike believes that when we invest in a girl, she can break the cycle of poverty for herself, her family, her community and the world. It’s hard to argue with this theory of change when the data backs it up. For example, studies indicate that when10% more girls go to secondary school, a country’s GDP increases by 3%. Similarly, when an educated girl earns income, she reinvests 90% of it in her family – compared to 35% by boys. Simply put, adolescent girls matter – a lot.
Although the data clearly shows the importance of investing in adolescent girls, only .6% of international aid money is directed at this critical group. To address this challenge, the Nike Foundation is partnering with governments, donor agencies, and NGOs to raise awareness of this issue. The Nike Foundation’s engagement with public entities such as national governments and donor agencies is key not only to awareness raising campaigns, but the entire Girl Effect.
This summer, I am supporting the Nike Foundation’s efforts to think strategically about future engagement with the public sector. I am looking at successful (and not so successful) public-private partnerships in the world of international development and trying to extract best practices for the Nike Foundation as they develop and implement sustainable solutions for adolescent girls. Only a month into my internship, I have learned a great deal by working with a team of very talented and dedicated professionals.
As an avid sports fan and weekend warrior, it is hard not to be amazed walking around Nike’s world headquarters, passing by pristine soccer fields and tennis courts, banners of LeBron James and Rafael Nadal, and of course the iconic swoosh. As a global citizen that is passionate about improving the wellbeing of impoverished citizens around the globe, it is equally difficult to avoid being taken in by Nike’s cutting edge corporate responsibility initiatives. I’m in. Just do it!