Inspiration comes in many forms. For me it came through one of my early jobs in Afghanistan. 

I was managing over $8M in infrastructure improvement projects in one of the most volatile regions of the country. Thankfully, we had a strong team of locals who knew how to get things done in a challenging environment and an international staff with strong managerial experience. Together we did some incredible work including constructing schools, clinics, roads and water networks. 

One winter day we were visiting the site of one of our school projects and when we arrived, we realised that the doors had been removed and hay had placed in the ‘classrooms’. Goats were huddled together, eating and staying warm – the scene was shocking to say the least. Our intent was to build a school serving the needs of local children, not to build a goat shelter!

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At another school project site, construction was close to 70% complete with the structure fully enclosed with installation of flooring, doors, windows, and finishing work remaining. Every classroom was filled, with 10-15 young students, sitting on the dirt floor, sharing hand-held chalk boards to take notes; supplies were obviously much needed. This sobering experience showed me the strong need and the desire for education while also illustrating some of the fundamental shortcomings of international development projects, such as lack of furnishings and educational materials. 

Even back then, I thought to myself that there must be a better, more efficient way to achieve the desired results on these international projects, beyond the simple brick and mortar physical progress.

With so much time, money, and effort expended to implement these projects, it was a shame not to have results that actually made a real difference. Effectively responding to this specific issue has become a primary tenet of Fellgroup’s value proposition – it’s in our DNA, now, and drives everything we do.

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Clients hire Fellgroup to design and build physical infrastructure and facilities. The immediate deliverable is horizontal or vertical construction, concrete, asphalt, steel, etc. Due to the strength of our global team of employees, vendors, subcontractors and partners we have done very well at this and received numerous exceptional evaluations for high quality workmanship, management, and safety. It means a lot to us to successfully meet all contractual requirements, while satisfying our client and earning their trust. But, our mission as a company extends beyond just the brick and mortar and any single contract. 

We realise that our long term goal of positively impacting a billion people by the year 2040 is an ambitious one.

Our brand promise is that we’re committed to successfully deliver each project under any conditions, with full transparency to all stakeholders. This means, that in addition to performing contract work, we focus on involving all stakeholders to ensure a successful outcome. Our experience has proven that that kind of transparency benefits everyone. 

We realise that our long term goal of positively impacting a billion people by the year 2040 is an ambitious one. To accomplish this goal we’ve had to break it down into doable and measurable increments, a plan with benchmarks all along the way to let us know how we are doing vis-à-vis the ultimate objective.

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This Impact process puts a strong emphasis on stakeholder identification, analysis, and involvement. Experience has shown us that when working in some of the more challenging areas of the world, successful outcomes depend on building and maintaining key relationships and managing projects to benefit as many people as possible. 

In order to further improve our level of transparency, we’ve built a proprietary software platform to aid in remote project monitoring, and currently use this service on more than a dozen projects worldwide. The platform, called Vezde, captures verifiable data from a smart phone in the field and immediately syncs with the cloud to present photos and data to global project managers, effectively giving our team members “eyes’ on multiple sites simultaneously. This is one way we aim to keep our projects on track even in some of the more remote corners of the globe. 

Though we have come far in our quest, we have a long way to go. We have positively impacted 146,000 people so far and if we are to hit the long-term number we are shooting for, we’ll need to double our revenues every year and get even better in every way. At the end of the day we want to make sure that the international projects we are involved in serve the greatest possible need, through education, health or sanitation – even if this means the goats are left out in the cold. 

- This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.


David Gatchell is an Entrepreneurs' Organisation entrepreneur. Virgin Unite and Entrepreneurs’ Organisation work together to inspire, showcase, and connect entrepreneurs who are changing the world of business for good.

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