Clare Melford: Promoting ‘smart, inclusive and responsible’ growth

Clare Melford, CEO of the International Business Leaders Forum. Photo by: Hannah Maule-ffinch

When seeking for innovative solutions to development challenges, many business leaders turn to Clare Melford for assistance. Today, the International Business Leaders Forum, the nonprofit she leads, has enduring partnerships with some of the world’s leading brands — from Accenture and Chevron to GE, Microsoft and Starbucks.

Melford is one of today’s most influential development leaders under 40 in London. She and her peers have inspired change that transcends borders.

Devex is recognizing 40 of these young London-based trailblazers in international development. They are social entrepreneurs, government leaders, development consultants, business innovators, advocates, development researchers, nonprofit executives, philanthropists and investors.

We asked Melford about her leadership and vision for development cooperation in the years to come. Here’s what she said:

You’ve helped brand (and rebrand) several development-focused organizations. What has been your main challenge doing so, and how have you tackled it?

At IBLF, we are focusing around the key issue for CEOs today — growth. We are living in a world of tremendous volatility and uncertainty. For companies to grow under these conditions — and to help build the environment in which they can thrive — they need to redefine growth so that it can be smart, inclusive and responsible. We aim to challenge the companies that work with us. And by building capacity for effective cross-sector partnerships and implementing pilot programmes, we can make the case by turning the theory into practice.

What innovative types of international development partnerships are you eager to push in the coming years?

Since the initial Rio summit 20 years ago — and reaffirmed by the MDGs in 2000 — the global community has been striving for a ‘global partnership for development’. Despite many good, isolated examples of effective collaboration, we are far from achieving a systemic approach in the way that business, donors, government and NGOs must operate together to achieve truly transformational societal change. Drawing on IBLF’s significant experience in this area, we are promoting the concept of country-level Inclusive Development Action Forums which not only bring all sectors to the table, but provide direct support, exchange of learning and capacity building to drive innovative cross-sectoral partnerships.

What role should the aid community play in impact investing?

Contrasting the overseas development assistance budget with the figures for worldwide foreign direct investment, FDI trumps ODA by a factor of 10. The role of the aid community must therefore be catalytic — working with governments to create the right ‘enabling’ environment to make it attractive to invest; working with companies to reduce their risk and encourage investments with clear pro-poor benefit; and working with companies, NGOs and governments to ensure the greatest development impact from business operations and from companies’ strategic social investment.

Read more about the Devex 40 Under 40 International Development Leaders in London.

For more information on IBLF, visit its website and blog. IBLF is also on Twitter and Vimeo.

About the author

  • Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.