Lieutenant General Jeffrey Talley, the 32nd Chief of the United States Army Reserve, spoke to students Tuesday afternoon about how social entrepreneurship in engineering and business can help achieve and maintain global security and stability.
Talley, the commanding general of the United States Army Reserve Command, is also a businessman and engineer with over 33 years of experience. He earned his Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and was CEO of Environmental Technology Solutions prior to being drafted back into the army’s private sector. Talley has been a faculty professor at Johns Hopkins University, Southern Methodist University and University of Notre Dame.
The lecture began with a conversation on alternative means of combatting threats such as pollution, lack of security and poverty — all direct results of globalization. Talley said that violence or the use of lethal force is usually the solution of choice, but empowering disadvantaged populations to help themselves would prove more efficient.
Rachel Rowzee, a sophomore majoring in philosophy, politics and law, expressed her opinion on Talley’s preferred alternative solution to threats.
“Empowering people now benefits both parties. Teaching people to protect themselves for the future prevents further U.S. involvement and creates communities that are self-reliant,” Rowzee said.
Talley began with an analogy explaining how social entrepreneurship is the best method to achieve global sustainability.
“You’ve probably heard people say, ‘I don’t want to give you a fish. I want to teach you to fish,’” Talley said. “Well, if you want to have that sustainability, what you really want to do is help [people] create their own fishing company that could help sustain the village so they could be self-sufficient. That’s really what sustainability is all about. I would argue that it’s really social entrepreneurship that promotes global security.”
Carter Boisfontaine, a sophomore majoring in business administration, offered his own opinion on why social entrepreneurship efforts would prove successful in establishing global stability.
“Social entrepreneurship means striving to alleviate a pain point within a community,” Boisfontaine said. “Social entrepreneurship ventures can educate, protect or provide for any demographic. I believe social entrepreneurship is humanity’s natural instrument to improve aspects of daily life, including security. The notion is both inspiring and infectious — entrepreneurship empowers people to conquer adversity by example.”
Talley continued with an example of his experience as the first preventional engineer in the “Engineering the Peace” operation in Sadr City, Iraq. The mission consisted of projects meant to build security and stability in Iraq’s “center of gravity” through non-lethal efforts. Talley said that they aimed to offer essential services and infrastructure for the Iraqis, lessen the presence of violence and use capitalism to convince the Iraqi people that they need to invest in themselves and their country.
Talley constructed numerous projects to help stimulate the Iraqi economy.
“These projects are projects that are initiated and completed by the Iraqi start-up companies, and with my engineering and business background with a really good team, we were helping them write business plans — helping them technically execute [those plans] to serve the Iraqi people.”
He then described the transformation Sadr City underwent as a result of the social entrepreneurship efforts of him and his team.
“So [when] I came into Sadr City, you couldn’t walk down the street because of the debris, the rubble and the gunfire. When I left Sadr City, you couldn’t walk down the street because of all the commerce,” Talley said.
Talley explained that another objective was to persuade the Iraqi people to invest in Iraqi companies rather than the militia. Eventually, Iraqis started to come to the U.S. Army to self-report the location of IEDs — improvised explosive devices — and possible militia attacks.
Talley ended the conversation by reasserting that the United States should focus on measures that promote “preventing and shaping” rather than lethal operations, especially with the utilization of holistic engineering and an entrepreneur’s mindset.