2.7. British Executive Service Overseas (BESO)

The British Executive Service Overseas (BESO) was conceived in the UK 1972 when a group of businessmen collectively decided that they wished to put something back (ie their experience) into the developing countries. It was founded by the UK Government, the CBI and Institute of Directors as an independent (not for gain) charitable organisation. It was supported by British Industry, Charitable Trusts, Individuals, the UK Government, the World Bank, the European Community (EC) and other multilateral aid organisations. Its mission was to help deserving enterprises and organisations overseas by providing assistance for sustainable economic and social development from volunteers undertaking short advisory, consultancy and training assignments.

BESO worked in about 100 countries worldwide and had about 3000 highly qualified and experienced professional volunteers registered. Assignments lasted from 2 weeks to 6 months. The host country asked for assistance, if deemed appropriate, BESO set up and funded travel and the host country provided in-country accommodation and subsistence. Assignments were diverse ranging from improvement in manufacturing in small business (clothing, chocolate manufacture etc), the introduction of cleaner energy technology to environmental education. Volunteers ran the operation from the London headquarters. The Commercial Arm of the British Embassys (along with in-Country BESO representatives) provided additional support to volunteers whilst on their assignments.

However, during the 1990s the UK Government decided that for its support it wished to see a more streamlined and ‘professional’ organisation fitting in with UK Foreign Policy objectives. It introduced its paid DEFRA staff which led to some major changes in ethics and objectives. Subsequently the BESO position became unsustainable and the organisation merged with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in April 2005. VSO is now engaged with coming to terms with the concept of Short-Term Volunteers.

Unfortunately, somewhat against the ethos of BESO, VSO has withdrawn from all countries except those on the lowest level of the 'Human Development Index (HDI)'. This reduction of geographical coverage has subsequently led to a huge demand from ex BESO clients for the restoration of true BESO-type services. To meet this demand, BESO's former commercial arm has been acquired and rebranded as British Consultancy Limited (BCL). This has set up the British Consultancy Charitable Trust (BCCT) as a division. So, 10 former BESO volunteer staff work at Vauxhall Bridge road much as they used to, re-building the network of overseas representatives. It has completed over 140 assigments since April 2005, many being either client or specific donor funded. In this way, BCCT is able to compliment the work of VSO.

Slideshow 2

Watch the following slideshow of an example of BESO support in Bolivia.

The slideshow lasts 4 minutes.

A slideshow of an example of BESO support in Bolivia.

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Slideshow of an example of BESO support in Bolivia
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Thinking question 4

These notes on developing communities of eco business practice should have given you some flavour of the ‘state of the art’. You might want to seek out and add some others of your own in here? Include them in your Personal Notes or learning journal.

Concluding Remarks

To conclude this Unit, much of the thrust of thinking in developing communities of eco business practice is based on a cooperative approach. For small producers this means getting the product marketing and labelling right. That is, mutual assistance is needed in getting a foot on the eco-ladder.

You might want to follow up this unit by focusing in from the eco-communities and self-help groups towards the goods and services that they can provide through sustainable product innovation.

2.6. Market Transformation Programme (defra)

3. Useful Websites