SANTA MONICA, California — Chemonics is an international development company that has worked with more than 150 countries to promote social and economic change since its founding in 1975. It is a company dedicated to helping people all over the world become healthier, more independent and more productive.
Chemonics tailors its aid to fit each developing country’s needs and obstacles. The company provides a variety of beneficial services; its aid and development programs are based around agriculture and food security, conflict and crisis, democracy and governance, economic growth and trade, education and youth, environment and natural resources, gender, health, strategic partnerships, sustainable energy and water and sanitation.
Regional technical teams are tasked with establishing programs based on each country’s critical needs, as well as measuring and documenting results. Chemonics’ goal is to affect significant change within a country and contribute to sustainable development, and accordingly, the company does not subscribe to a one-size-fits-all philosophy about aid and improvement.
The firm is for-profit and owned entirely by its employees, which gives it the freedom to pursue innovative new programs. In 2010, Chemonics received Initernational Organization for Standardization 9001 certification for its services, which codifies and ensures quality services and products for clients.
For Chemonics, innovation is a key aspect of achieving positive impact. The company defines innovation as a “process” for “finding a better way of doing things, a totally new method or a time-tested solution used in a new environment.” The first step is deciding which issues are most pressing. The second step is applying or adapting existing technologies to fit the situations. The third step is measuring the success of these innovations.
The last and most important step is applying the lessons learned across continents and technical disciplines.
For example, Chemonics has applied recent innovations in geographic information systems technology to share geographical data in a variety of situations. The company has used GIS as a tool in its Peru Alternative Development Program, an initiative designed to teach Peruvians how to profitably grow coffee instead of illegal coca plants. After witnessing the success of this program, Chemonics has also used GIS to strengthen the Famine Early Warning Systems Network a provider of early warning and analysis for food insecurity and related hazards in vulnerable regions.
Chemonics not only partners with major international agencies such as United States Agency for International Development and the World Bank, it also cooperates with local partners in the developing countries in which it operates. The company values and utilizes the niche specialization local organizations possess. Chemonics also offers local training, assistance and mentoring to help strengthen these organizations, because many of its projects are “designed to transition to local leadership midway.” This contributes to the sustainability of initiatives and the independence of local communities.
For example, Chemonics project staff has worked in the Philippines with local partner Business for Social Progress to strengthen its management sector to the point where it can implement donor-funded programs itself. Chemonics staff helped institute new operation plans and strategies, and also provided training in government agency regulations. The original leg of the project was a success, delivering health services to 3.2 million people. And now PBSP has taken on a follow-up project for USAID without further outside help from Chemonics.
Chemonics has carried out major initiatives and formed lasting partnerships around the globe. It continues to demonstrate how for-profit companies can, in fact, “do good.” Hopefully Chemonics’ massive contributions to humanitarian causes can influence other for-profits to do the same.
– Mari LeGagnoux