The Cincinnati-based Center for Economic Initiatives (CEI) is an independent, nonprofit corporation whose mission is to promote and assist economic development in emerging markets and developing countries. Programs provide industry with training and technical information, leading to improved productivity and the production of high-quality, low-cost industrial and consumer goods for domestic and export markets.
CEI specializes in the Marshall Plan model, which helped Western Europe’s economy become robust after World War II. The Technical Assistance Program component of the European Recovery Act was the only program which had a record of successfully raising long-dormant levels of national productivity and technology in a few short years, resulting significant increases in living standards.
USAID has created the James Silberman Award, to be presented to others doing work in the spirit of his work, “to acknowledge similar achievements, innovations, and alliances in development.” The award is “in recognition of your outstanding contributions in participatory development and training that underpinned the Marshall Plan and successor foreign assistance programs.”
What’s A CEI Study Tour?
A CEI study tour brings business professionals to the United States to see how their fields function in a market economy. CEI selects participants in open competition, seeking people willing to change and capable of generating positive impact. Study tour participants typically include decision makers at companies in the sector as well as government officials involved in the sector’s functioning.Study tours focus on management, technology and marketing. Industries chosen are those critical to their country’s economic growth. The objective is to help the country raise its living standards rapidly and visibly.The three-week study tours include meetings with industry experts and visits to varied businesses and organizations. In addition touring sites, hearing presentations and asking questions, tour participants receive literature and take photos and video.Then the site visits begin, usually two per day over 10 business days, within a 600-mile radius of home base Cincinnati, Ohio. Host companies – from small entrepreneurs to global conglomerates – show their plants/facilities, with senior management answering questions about methods, procedures, technology. In more focused discussion after the site tour, they provide strategically valuable information, such as about marketing, key factors responsible for their company’s achieving or maintaining market share, growth strategies and distribution.Participants record their observations in log books. Each evening, they meet as a group to talk about their learnings and how to apply them at home.Participants agree to share their learnings at home by speaking to other professionals and writing for professional journals, thus enlarging the impact of each study tour.
CEI follow-up helps business leaders implement ideas they see during study tours in the United States.
How CEI Study Tours Work
CEI invites decision makers from target industries to participate in U.S. study tours examining modern manufacturing, management, technology and marketing methods. We believe people best come to an understanding of a market economy by seeing for themselves what works. CEI selects participants in open competition, seeking people willing to change and capable of generating positive impact in their fields.The three-week tours include meetings with industry experts and visits to varied businesses and organizations in each field. In addition to touring sites, hearing presentations and asking questions, tour participants receive literature and take photos and video. CEI’s home base of Cincinnati, Ohio, is the ideal starting point. Within a 1,000-mile radius is a strong and varied manufacturing and agricultural base providing a rich learning experience.Study tours proceed by charter bus to urban and rural sites, with each stop designed to add a puzzle piece until a full picture of the industry emerges. While riding the bus and at their hotels in the evenings, tour participants discuss what they’ve seen.Upon returning home, alumni publish their notes and further disseminate their learnings to colleagues via seminars, articles in professional journals, etc. They contribute to a technical report that summarizes their observations and conclusions and gets shared with others in their field.Several months after each tour, CEI representatives interview alumni to document their actions and results. Tour alumni typically:• Substantially increase sales and profitability.• Introduce new products.• Improve management, leading to better decisions and reorganized operations.• Create sales and marketing organizations in their companies.• Reduce production costs.• Increase wages.
The objective is to help the country raise its living standards rapidly and visibly. As individuals build their businesses, the strength of the entire regional or country economy improves as does security.
CEI Success Stories from Ukraine
CEI follows up with study tour participants to find out how they have used their learnings. Tour alumni have:• Substantially increased sales and profitability.• Introduced more than 100 new products.• Improved management, leading to better decisions and reorganized operations.• Created sales and marketing organizations in their companies.• Reduced production costs.• Increased wages.CEI study tours have an outstanding benefit to cost ratio – 18 to 1. In Ukraine, these specifically include:1 Save 50 percent of fuel costs by using low-till farming techniques.2 Increase annual average dairy farm milk revenue by 7 million hryvnas due to better feed.3 Increase annual average pork farm revenue by 6 million hryvnas due to improved feed and reduced animal mortality.4 Generate 1 million hryvnas annually from the sale of composted waste on the average livestock farm.5 Save 10 million hryvnas annually by using new software at the Chernobyl power plant.Here are some specific success stories:Product differentiationAn important focus area for each study tour is product differentiation and product branding. In Ukraine, this has been especially important for bakery and dairy products; they traditionally have been sold as commodities, without distinctive packaging. But now, if you go to Pervomaisk, you’ll see bread that you know comes from the Roma Bakery. How can you tell? Because it comes in a colorful plastic bag that says so, both in words and with Roma’s new logo. This product differentiation technique has allowed Roma Bakery to expand successfully into nearby villages. And, by the way, Roma offers one kind of bread that’s very different from other bread sold in Ukraine but very common in America: It comes sliced!ManagementIn the construction field, CEI alumni are bringing construction management techniques to Ukraine. On their study tours, they visited U.S. construction sites and noticed that “the workers knew what to do and were busy doing it.” The Ukrainians said that in their companies, job responsibilities were not as well defined. They said that when materials were missing or work was defective, the workers would shout and blame each other, resulting in chaos and loss of productivity. After returning to Ukraine, construction tour alumni reorganized their companies. Job responsibilities were more clearly defined, and workers who could not adjust were replaced. Companies started using foremen to direct various types of building site activity, where previously there was only one executive director to make all decisions and direct all work.Subcontracting
On a household appliances manufacturing study tour, a popular topic was subcontracting. Ukrainian companies typically have been vertically integrated and invest in technologies they often could easily buy from other companies. Study tour participants started thinking about whether they really needed to manufacture all the components of their products themselves. Some discovered that they could subcontract with other members of their tour, purchasing components at lower cost than they’d be able to manufacture them.