September 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 5 
Cover Story

A world of difference

Boeing's global Community and Education Relations activities aim to improve the quality of life in the areas where the company operates. These efforts are guided by a strategy more detailed than some might think.

By Junu Kim

A world of differenceA school in Turkey got a new library to house donated books and to give students a place to study. A Japanese day care center that offers emotional support for orphans is now ready to build a facility in Tokyo. A British network of clubs is helping keep teenagers engaged in school and has boosted the students' test scores.

What's the common denominator among these events? They're not only a boon to the communities served by these programs, but they're projects supported by Boeing, through its Community and Education Relations organization.

These programs exemplify the type of involvement that Boeing seeks to back in the worldwide sites where it operates. Indeed, with a distinct Community and Education Relations (C&ER) strategy that's more akin to making an investment than merely providing a gift, Boeing is more sophisticated than people might believe. This strategy helps Boeing fulfill its objective of becoming an integral part of the communities in which it operates.

"When we make a grant, we have a formal agreement with an organization about how they're going to use the funds," said Toni Bailey, vice president of Community and Education Relations. "We have an expectation that our support will create value and positive results in the community.

"Take a look at Vision 2016, which says one of Boeing's values is to be a good corporate citizen. That's our primary mission," she said. "There's an expectation in the larger community that companies operating there not only employ resources such as workers or materials but also contribute to improving that community. That's what the citizenship aspect is about: improving the quality of life."

Yet contributing to the community is not a mere cut-and-dry activity. Although Boeing has always been involved in supporting charitable programs outside the United States, Boeing inaugurated a formal global contributions program in May 2003 that aims to build relationships, work with communities and ensure that with Boeing's assistance there will be a tangible improvement in the community.

Among the core features of this strategy are


Just as people in various nations may have different cultural mindsets and values, Boeing's C&ER activities outside the United States may stress themes different from those emphasized in the U.S. In other words, this is a case where one size does not fit all.

AA student at Marhorhwani Malali School, Limpopo Province, South Africa, samples water piped from a new well and water tanksIn general, corporate philanthropic activities fall into one of four broad categories: education, health and human services, culture and the arts, and civic and environmental issues. In America, one key Boeing focus is to enhance teacher effectiveness to help improve the aptitude of U.S. students in math and science. Those fields are critical to support a future workforce in a world where technology advancements will be crucial-especially since American students as a whole don't fare as well in these subjects as children in other industrialized nations do.

C&ER activities in other nations focus on primary and secondary education and health and human services. Case in point: the Water for Schools Project in South Africa, which is rooted in health and human services support as much as educational assistance. Many schools in the Limpopo Province of that nation have to end classes early during the summer months because of extreme heat and the lack of water on school property. To assist schools that had little or no water, Boeing helped fund drilling boreholes for wells and supplying electric pumps, storage tanks and faucets. The effort not only allowed the schools to continue operating, but it also bolstered the overall health of the schools' neighborhoods by providing a stable source of potable water.

"If you're going to talk about yourself as a global entity, you have to lessen your tendency to be U.S.-centric," Bailey said. "You have to be able to appreciate different cultures and different societies. You also have to appreciate doing things that improve the quality of life as defined in those countries, not necessarily as quality is defined in the United States."


For Boeing, supporting C&ER activities around the world does not mean simply writing a check to an organization with good intentions.

Boeing's game plan for backing C&ER activities around the world calls for the company to fund specific projects and not merely organizations. Not only must these programs address a particular need in the community being served, but they must have a line-item budget within their organizations, along with a schedule and a financing plan for how the program will be sustainable in the future.

"We don't just give away money. That suggests there's no strategy or intent," Bailey said.


Text QuoteNot only is it critical that a group seeking assistance from Boeing state what program the funding would support, but the entity must be able to demonstrate its ability to manage the program and operate in a sound manner. This due diligence has become more rigorous to ensure that Boeing conforms to recent U.S. laws such as the U.S.A. Patriot Act.

"Just like with any kind of investment we make, we always do a background check to make sure our investment is going to be well-managed," Bailey said.

The documentation needed includes financial records, budgets and background on the entity's leaders. Organizations seeking support must complete an online application (see for more information about Boeing's support of organizations outside the United States). The due-diligence duties are shared between Boeing representatives from the 18 countries/regions where the company make grants and the Global Community & Education Relations office at World Headquarters in Chicago.

That process can be challenging to organizations based in countries that do not have transparency and disclosure requirements for nongovernmental organizations. International operations representatives of Boeing, as well as people from entities such as United Way International, help explain Boeing's guidelines to groups considering seeking the company's support. And if warranted, Boeing people will work with an organization to enter data, especially in areas where there's low Internet penetration.

"The business of making a difference isn't as easy as it used to be, and it's not what some people see on the surface," Bailey said. "It really requires a level of expertise and professionalism."

Yet there's a greater good behind these efforts-a good that manifests itself through activities such as helping support a learning center for vision-impaired children in poverty-stricken western China. It's a good that truly reflects the importance Boeing places on corporate citizenship.

"We're not necessarily out there to get a good reputation, make people feel good about us or enhance the image of Boeing-though certainly, those things may happen as a secondary result." Bailey said. "We're out there to improve the quality of life wherever Boeing has a major presence."



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