Nearly 200 people found their way to Credit Suisse headquarters in London on 10th and 11th April for a corporate volunteering forum led by the International Association of Volunteer Effort (IAVE) in collaboration with VSO. Corporate and NGO representatives from 23 different countries, representing a cross section of industries and organizations joined the discussion.
The emphasis was on best practice and the sustained change that employee volunteers can bring to international projects tackling issues like poverty, inequality, youth employability and climate change but also how best to measure the impact that support had delivered.
Kicking off the event, Kylee Bates, CEO of Ardoch (a children’s education charity involving 1,600 volunteers) spoke of her journey from a 15-month secondment with a national volunteering group in Australia in 2000 to becoming World President of IAVE, and amended Samuel Johnson’s well-known phrase to say: “If you’re tired of volunteering, you’re tired of life!” She set out the objective of the event: “to enrich and deepen the conversation around corporate volunteering for those who live it and breathe it”.
The opening panel led by IAVE Interim Executive Director Kenn Allen, included Marta Gil Ibanez, director of La Caixa Volunteer Association, Sophi Tranchell MBE, Group CEO of Divine Chocolate, and Scott Desmarais, Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships at VSO. They outlined their experiences and raised the questions: What is a transformational partnership? Why is it important today? What are the benefits for companies, for NGO partners and for communities?
Laura Hemrika, Global Head of Corporate Citizenship & Foundations at Credit Suisse, set out some of the ways in which some 18,000 or 40% of their global staff volunteered their time in 2018:
She said new programmes were evolving to promote financial inclusion, financial education and community engagement and that they were essential because: “The complexity which our partners are faced with every day… whether it’s geopolitical dynamics of other kinds are very, very complex… and that’s where partnership, knowledge exchange and close collaboration are key to really have the impact we want to have. Employee volunteering is a fantastic mechanism to do that – to become closer partners, to build that trust and to really add value in a sustained and inspirational way.”
Gib Bulloch, the former management consultant talked about his ‘epiphany’ – the moment a newspaper article about volunteering changed his mind set from “work, eat, sleep, repeat” to “intrapreneur”. Within a year, Gib had signed up to VSO’s business partnership programme and was sent to Northern Macedonia to become a business volunteer. Gib helped small businesses gain access to loans and trained female entrepreneur’s in e-business, just as the online world was being born.
He took a 90% salary reduction but had never been more motivated. He said it was an incredible experience and it made him wonder how much better he could have carried out his role with access to the rest of his usual team at Accenture.
He soon set up Accenture’s Development Partnership (ADP) programme in which employees volunteered as he had done, but for 50% of their usual salary. Against all odds, it became a success – a “lightning rod for talent” in more than 80 different countries involving thousands of Accenture employees. Today, more than 50,000 people across the business world are on the waiting list to volunteer in a similar way.
It succeeded, he said, because “there’s a latent desire for organizations to attract and retain talent – the leaders of tomorrow – and they want not just money but meaning in their careers.
He said: “Volunteering gets people out of their cocoons and into a different context where they can think differently about their roles while, perhaps, making money for their company. Allowing people to have the time to volunteer will pay dividends and we’ll start to see that benefit coming through to the wellness of people.”
The one and a half day forum highlighted the importance of building partnerships to create transformational impact. Speakers shared details of their partnerships as in the Google.org Fellowship program and the Schneider Electric- Ashoka Social Innovation to Tackle Fuel Poverty program. Randstad and VSO talked about their long-standing partnership and leaders from EDP and Doctors of the World told the group how they collaborated to respond to the devastating fires in Portugal. A hands-on workshop helped participants walk through the steps to building a corporate –NGO partnerships.
Breakout sessions featured critical topics such as measuring impact, promoting innovation, and using technology. One session illustrated how best to engage multiple departments and functions in corporate volunteering. Others featured examples of volunteering to advance youth employability, to promote the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and how through the efforts of key national volunteer leadership organizations to effectively partner with companies of all sizes.
The forum presented the opportunity to hear directly from six corporate volunteers (Disney, MSD, Credit Suisse, Randstad, Mondelez International, and Accenture) on their individual experiences, the impact they felt they had on communities and how they themselves had changed as a result of their experiences.
Juan Gonzalez Valero, Head of Sustainable and Responsible Business at Syngenta and Serena Brown, Director, Sustainable Development and Global Corporate Citizenship at KPMG International closed the forum with heartfelt examples of their own experiences and reflections on the impact corporate volunteering has had and can potentially have on communities worldwide.
This two-day forum consisted of plenaries, breakouts and case studies, featuring a lineup of distinguished leaders in the corporate volunteering sector. The program also provided opportunities to network with fellow participants, promoting engagement and new partnerships. Learn more about the program and speakers and download the presentations.