Developing any project requires a strategy, even if it is to have no strategy. The effective choice of strategy is not simply posting alternative options and throwing darts at them. It takes a delicate science to build attractive strategies and a certain art to implement them. If, as Michael Porter advocates, “the essence of strategy…is choosing what not to do”, it is just as necessary to accept limits and move forward with the most valuable strategy as it is to develop the valuable strategy (Magretta, 2011, para. 8). In designing education system improvements for Cameroon, many external and internal factors must be established, while taking into consideration pertinent global and international issues.
Before elaborating on strategy management concepts, the idea of competition should be defined. The first definition is that of other organizations opposing investments in education, as their revenues rely on a dependent, less educated population. The second definition is that of other organizations seeking similar progressive goals as this project that form partnerships with communities, or use limited foreign monetary resources, which ultimately restrict those results for this project. The key difference is the potential for collaboration. In the first definition, for each step taken in progress for one side, the opposing side is weakened, but there is limited, if any, potential for collaboration to be made. In the second definition, for every dollar or partnership formed, other organizations are likely to lose out on those resources, but collaboration can change that dynamic.
External and Internal Evaluations
The external and internal assessments of strategy formulation will be critical pieces when improving the education in developing countries. The factors used in these assessments will provide current opportunities and threats as well as strengths and weaknesses that may help or hinder progress. As this problem exists in various degrees on a global scale, there will be many threats that are affecting such forces as the barrier to entry and substitutability. Governments in these nations may also provide the approvals for intergovernmental organizations [IGOs] and non-governmental organizations [NGOs] to interact with the school system, as well as the funding and policies that schools use to operate.
The external and internal factors are only theoretical at this point of the project as an actual organization has yet to be officially formed. Considerations can, however, be used as a framework for specific data that will be needed at the onset of strategy formulation. External factors will consider the economic state of the cities and nation; cultural trends and traditions; governing laws, political unrests, and corruption practices; communication and technology infrastructures; and funding availability from international organizations (David & David, 2017, p. 63-68). There are also external factors that materialize without warning, such as the recent disconnection of internet in the English-speaking region of Cameroon due to anti-government protests (Fandio, Tchaya, & Landais, 2017, para. 1).
Internal factors will consider the planning activities of management, specifically the employment of Cameroonians with regards to cultural differences; marketing capabilities for enrollment from parents and teachers; important financial ratios, specifically those for liquidity and leverage; workforce availability and skill training; operations capacity and automation capabilities; research and development resources, both domestically and globally; collection and management of data, supported by appropriate training capabilities; and productivity of the value chain (David & David, 2017, p. 94-114). As a white male with an advanced degree from a developed country, there must also be an acknowledgement of my differences from the target population. These differences can vastly affect the reception, and therefore effectiveness, of any strategy during the implementation process. It can be a strength or a weakness, depending on the history of a given area’s population with previous foreign aid organizations. As the Nigerian-American author, Teju Cole wrote, “If we are going to interfere in the lives of others, a little due diligence is a minimum requirement” (Cole, 2012, para. 1).
Using the first definition of competition, economic suppression and oppression are not typically in a mission statement of a company. Consequently, it is necessary to trace symptoms of poor education systems to the root problems caused by certain organizations. Having a strategy that can account for these issues will help promote solutions that address the organizations themselves, and/or the communities hurt by their actions and policies.
Global and International Issues
Inherent to working in a developing country, global and international issues will be extensive and often uncontrollable. Additionally, the social responsibility aspect of the organization to be formed is paramount to ensure the project takes actions “beyond what is legally required to protect or enhance the well-being” of the community members where the strategies are implemented (David & David, 2017, p. 306). As strategizing aims to gain greater profits for organizational growth, the definition of profitability must consider the multifaceted implications of humanity and integrity.
Global and international issues overlap with the external and internal factors. Many multinational organizations rely on natural resources found in these nations and, at times, the corruptibility of government officials to obtain those resources. Transparency International is one resource that assesses multinational corporations on their commitment efforts to anti-corruption. This type of information will significantly help in determining opportunities with transparent organizations and threats from potentially corrupt ones. Similarly, the strengths and weaknesses found during the internal audit can capitalize on or avoid companies in the Transparency International assessments.
In Cameroon, there is a history of inconsistent government accountability to the people. As crude and refined oil make up more than half of the national exports, the government can be less reliant on microeconomic stimuli, such as the domestic business growth or education level of employees that this type of project could produce (Products Exported by Cameroon, 2014). Less than a year ago, in May 2016, numerous cases of embezzlement in Cameroon’s government emerged, leading to arrests and losses of over $150 million in government funds (Kindzeka, 2016). In the 2016 Transparency International corruption perceptions index, Cameroon ranks 145 out of 176 countries, down from 130 out of 168 countries in 2015 (Cameroon Perceptions Index, 2015; Cameroon Perceptions Index, 2016). Cameroon’s position declined five percentile points over one year, a trend exhibited by more than half the countries in the index.
With multiple cultures involved in the project, clear vision and mission statements for the project will help develop strategies that those involved can align themselves behind. Ensuring social responsibility and ethics clearly exist within these statements, as well as the strategies developed, will better ensure effective implementation. Additionally, evaluation and control will be measurable against the goals and policies established, uncovering which external or internal factors may need to be altered to adhere to dynamics of Cameroon.
Strategy Review and Evaluation
Strategy review and evaluation will help determine how to move forward once the “external and internal environments change” (David & David, 2017, p. 280). As incentives are offered and teacher training programs are implemented, the strategies must be correctly and promptly evaluated to compare results with expectations. This includes the need to evaluate the current strategies being used by World Bank, International Monetary Fund, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], and United Nations International Children’s Fund [UNICEF].
Using the second definition of competition, some of this work has been started and progressed upon by other organizations. In my research, no one company is succeeding enough to dissipate the problem; it will be an effort of many organizations using multiple strategies. The aforementioned organizations each strategize their efforts, so an overarching shared value framework must be adopted by those involved. For-profit companies are joining IGOs and NGOs in this shared value framework, but each company and organization “exists in an ecosystem where societal conditions may curtail its markets” (Kramer & Pfitzer, 2016, para. 3). The Collective Impact of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, referring to education in the United States, suggests a similar analysis of affecting a complex system:
The heroic efforts of countless teachers, administrators, and nonprofits, together with billions of dollars in charitable contributions, may have led to important improvements in individual schools and classrooms, yet system-wide progress has seemed virtually unobtainable (Kania & Kramer, 2011, para. 1).
It is necessary to know what strategies each has tried and evaluate those to incorporate results into this project. For consistency and growth, the project requires multiple strategists and an infrastructure that can evaluate and discern what is progressing, needs realignment, or must be abandoned.
The evaluation of strategies should measure these organizations’ performance in several ways, including their own progress across time and their cross-sector coordination efforts. Corrective actions are necessary if external or internal factors have changed since the initial implementation of their strategies, with a lack of correction affecting a collaboration with those organizations. Similarly, if the planned strategy is not being reached over a quantified time, corrective actions are necessary. In regard to the cross-sector coordination, external and internal factors and progress over time should include appropriate measures of collaboration with other organizations. This evaluation structure will also serve as this project’s self-measuring standard when that stage is reached.
As with many other business topics, the availability of information is extremely hard to determine in these countries. Through my previous interviews with Cameroonian natives across various sectors, it is clear that some communications are based on older technology, files can be damaged or lost, and current policies are often outdated and ineffective. Disregarding the more obvious issue of distance, being in the country would not necessarily grant any productivity towards answers or data. Corruption in government officials, as discussed earlier, can barricade the pertinent information. Being located an ocean-away then presents its own issues, as trying to contact the proper departments without the necessary credentials can stifle conversations with the people who may hold important answers.
In these interviews with Cameroonians, I discovered that social responsibility is, in itself, a roadblock. While many charity organizations and donations offer goodwill, the products or services can many times fall short of solving a problem. In certain cases, it can create more problems. Many cases have been found that show how “socially conscious businesses have created a state of dependence” in these countries (Sullivan, 2016, para. 6). From the 2014 documentary, Poverty, Inc, these cases presented a message from aid recipients: “Stop giving us free stuff and help us figure out how to build sustainable businesses that will have positive and long-lasting impact on our communities” (para. 7).
Personal resources will also be a roadblock. Projects like this one require financial resources that even international organizations like UNICEF sometimes have difficulty obtaining (Humanitarian Action for Children: Cameroon, 2017). Strategy can be powerful, but without a team, I am limited to the resources I currently have or can obtain, financial or otherwise. With respect to obtaining information, as quickly as I obtain anything, it could change. New government regimes and uprisings across relatively short time periods in developing countries can bring new policies and potentially new burdens to the country. These changes can alter the interactions and effectiveness of this project, specifically external and internal factors which require new evaluations and strategy corrections.
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Kindzeka, M. E. (2016, May 17). Corruption probe nabs 14 more Cameroon officials. Retrieved October 02, 2016, from http://www.voanews.com/a/cameroon-corruption-probe-arrests/3332488.html
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