A visionary leader with a unique perspective and an unwavering commitment to ethical and impactful solutions, Marcel Roura i Puig provides a fresh outlook on the sustainable development industry’s challenges and opportunities. Recognizing his significant contributions and the compelling stance he has taken on vital industry issues, DevelopmentAid approached Marcel to share his insights. As we delve into this ‘Hero Stories‘ interview, not only will you discover what sets the founder and CEO of DEVPOLES apart in the sector, but also understand why his voice is of paramount importance in reshaping the landscape of sustainable development.
DevelopmentAid: Why are you involved in the sustainable development sector?
Marcel: I’ve always believed that I can approach things differently than other companies. I feel there’s a distinct way I can meet the needs of our clients, leading to real, tangible change. The right motivation for change, especially when it aligns with our company’s principles, values, and ethical code, solidifies our reason for existing in this sector. I’ve observed that, over time, some companies might start prioritizing profit over meaningful impact. While everyone needs to earn, the real essence lies in caring about the final product and the change it can bring.
DevelopmentAid: Following on from that, what specifically sets your company apart in the sustainable development sector?
Marcel: What distinguishes us is our commitment and genuine care. It’s vital for those in leadership roles, be it a CEO or company president, to remain deeply involved and passionate about the product and the outcomes. This passion and commitment can shape the company’s entire vision. When everyone, from employees to consultants, sees this level of dedication, it creates a more cohesive and impactful working environment. Our hands-on approach is also a defining factor. Our management and higher-ups aren’t just figureheads—they’re on the field, collaborating with our clients, junior staff, and experts. This direct involvement ensures that we provide the most organic and effective solutions to challenges. It’s this unique combination of dedication, passion, and hands-on involvement that, I believe, sets us apart.
DevelopmentAid: With your company involved in numerous areas, what drives your passion and excitement for the work you do?
Marcel: What truly excites me about our work is our distinct ethical stance. While I recognize how other companies operate, I believe there’s room for improvement. We’ve instilled a strict ethical code in our company, ensuring we don’t partake in corrupt practices like influence peddling, a common issue in our industry. I read recently that corruption equates to around $2.6 trillion globally, a conservative figure in my opinion, close to the gross domestic product of France, marking about 3% of the world’s GDP being stolen annually through corruption practices. As a company, if we achieve success ethically, not only are we advancing our business, but we’re also addressing a global issue. Particularly when dealing with public funds, we have a responsibility to uphold the highest standards because it’s the taxpayers’ money. Our message is clear: if we secure a contract, it’s a testament to a clean, corruption-free process.
DevelopmentAid: How do you equip your team to uphold the standards you’ve set, and how has this impacted upon your client relationships?
Marcel: One key aspect I take great pride in is our robust commitment to planning, quality control, and performance assurance. Over recent years, I’ve observed a trend in our sector where these elements are often side-lined. It’s concerning, as some companies seem to be taking shortcuts, potentially at the expense of clients who might not have the expertise to verify the quality of the deliverables or to ascertain if the service they’re receiving is worth the fees they’re paying. We’re transparent in our commitment to quality and regularly communicate this to our clients. Every meeting, for instance, isn’t just a discussion; it has a clear objective, is tied to a specific result, and fits into our broader goal of efficient time and expertise allocation for the project’s specific result areas. All staff are onboarded, trained, and constantly coached on the ethical implications of DEVPOLES’ work when dealing with everyday business across our partnership development, proposal/product development and project management functions, be it with people or institutions.
DevelopmentAid: What are your company’s primary focuses for the forthcoming period?
Marcel: Our primary focus is to align with market trends and demands. We consider ourselves a company that’s highly responsive to these market shifts. It’s not solely about specific sector expertise, as the realms of knowledge across sectors are ever-evolving. Our strength lies in our practical approach to implementing knowledge to tackle developmental challenges. We draft, refine, and adjust our methodologies and products in the field to deliver leading results. The essence of our strategy is the flexibility to cater to current major partners’ priorities, such as climate change, social inclusion, gender issues, and others.
DevelopmentAid: You mentioned the importance of adjusting to market needs and following trends. With that in mind, what recent market trends have you identified and how is your company adapting to these emerging demands?
Marcel: A significant trend is the ability to harness and interpret data effectively. As we initiate projects, there’s an influx of data, predominantly from early studies and surveys. This data is pivotal, not just for the project’s direction but also for creating a compelling narrative. We’ve been agile in embracing this trend, integrating data visualization tools and even crafting custom solutions using Java and other platforms. It’s essential to present this data coherently, particularly when stakeholders might not be domain experts. For instance, in our recent project mapping indigenous communities in Panama, we dealt with vast data which we presented in an easily digestible format for the client. This approach, combined with considerations for data sustainability and protection, highlights our strategic direction.
DevelopmentAid: If you were to highlight key initiatives or standout projects for your company, what would they be?
Marcel: One project that stands out is our recent collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank. We were tasked with assessing the economic and social impacts of a diverse selection of universities in Latin America, including both public and private, large and small, and those based in various regions. We evaluated the economic contributions of these universities such as job creation and regional economic effects. We also took a qualitative approach to understand the broader social benefits they provide to their communities, not limited to education but extending to healthcare, climate change initiatives, and support for at-risk populations. This project was particularly ground-breaking for Latin America, as such methodologies are more common in Europe. The insights from this study could greatly assist the Inter-American Development Bank in crafting policies and initiatives to further enhance the societal and economic contributions of universities in the region.
DevelopmentAid: As we come to the end of this interview, considering the future and ongoing transformations in the sector, what is one major change or improvement you feel the industry should focus on?
Marcel: It’s imperative for us to reconsider and modernize our procurement systems. Given the significant role that procurement plays today – be it private-to-public, private-to-private, or even peer-to-peer – there’s an urgent need for improvement. This could address the annual loss of nearly three points of GDP to corruption. Just think about the vast sums of money spent every year on procuring goods and services. If we can develop efficient solutions, the potential savings, compliance, and benefits are enormous. It could revolutionize the market by quickly adopting these solutions and extending them to various levels of government, such as municipalities or regions. Additionally, considering the private sector, smaller firms might benefit from specialized procurement solutions, ensuring they get the best value and quality. This could result in increased efficiencies, economies of scale, and scope.
DevelopmentAid: Do you see any specific solutions on the horizon to address these concerns in the procurement sector?
Marcel: By 2025, we aspire to introduce a technology-driven solution using the tools currently available. This endeavour is one of the legacies we wish to establish. Introducing solutions that make corrupt practices unfeasible would undoubtedly result in mutual benefits for society, businesses, and governmental institutions. A single effective solution could potentially revolutionize our sector, fostering a more transparent and ethical environment. Our focus remains on contributing in this manner, understanding the lasting impact our company can have.
DevelopmentAid: At the start of our conversation, you shared the inspiring story of launching your own business. For those on the cusp of making the leap from consultancy to entrepreneurship, particularly within this sector, what guidance would you offer about stepping out of their comfort zone?
Marcel: For all those looking to start their own show, well, my recommendation would be, first of all, to seize the motivation. It’s a precious resource that allows you to channel your energy, knowledge, and networks into planning and realizing your idea. During this motivational phase, you’ll analyse and develop a concrete plan for your venture. You need to envision how your idea fits into the market and society, what it will provide as a product, and what its development over the first five years will look like.
It’s essential to seek validation from experienced individuals, especially those who have succeeded as entrepreneurs, to ensure your plan is viable. Keep in mind that nobody can predict with absolute certainty whether an idea will thrive. Most ideas need to be tested. So, if your analysis is sound, your plan is well-structured, and your idea addresses a real societal problem, it has the potential to thrive. If your idea requires substantial capital and you don’t have it yourself, you should actively seek external funding. Procrastination can lead to stagnation and a loss of motivation. Escaping that comfort zone can be incredibly challenging once you’ve settled in. You always have the option to revert to your previous job as an employee. However, you can also expand your horizons and see where it takes you.
This approach, while general, is tried and tested. When you combine thorough analysis, effective planning, validation from qualified individuals, and a bold launch with the right assumptions and risk awareness, you set yourself on the path to success. It’s natural to have doubts about failure, but it’s equally important to maintain a positive outlook. Yes, failure is an option, but it’s not the only one. There’s also the option of achieving modest success initially, followed by more significant success. Some companies take many years to grow organically or to develop mature products. By focusing on the day-to-day and seizing your motivation, you’re on the right path to success.