This guest blog post was written by Mark Horoszowski and his team at MovingWorlds, a global platform that connects skilled volunteers with social impact organizations around the globe.
Given how innovative tech companies are, I’m always shocked by the lack of innovation in their CSR and people development programs. While they are great at solving for “Root cause” of some of the most challenging technical issues, they don’t bring the same rigor to developing their employees or giving back.
I’ve seen some of the brightest engineers working in homeless shelters, graphic designers pulling weeds, and finance professionals building homes — every time I stop and wonder “what would happen if that brain power was used not for manual labor, but for solving root causes behind these problems?”
The answer, as it turns out, is growth and development for both employee volunteers and beneficiaries. Organizations such as Team4Tech and MovingWorlds recognized this gap in corporations — CSR programs, innovation labs, and leadership development departments to name a few — and have developed unique models that provide skills-based volunteering opportunities to individuals and companies.
Volunteers in these programs travel overseas to resource-constrained organizations to share best practices, help teach skills and solve challenges. Sample projects have included supporting the Kenyan Red Cross in developing an IT strategy that supports its growth objectives and providing computer lab installation and teacher training for rural schoolteachers who work with World Vision Tanzania.
Year after year, our data shows that when people volunteer their technical skills in overseas environments, they make lasting change, and they come back more innovative and engaged. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise. After all, skills are best learned through actual experience, and “to teach is to learn twice”.
“The only source of knowledge is experience.”
A few years ago, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the founding President of the Center for Talent Innovation, published an article in the Harvard Business Review titled Strengthen Your Workforce Through Volunteer Programs. More recently, TED speaker Kare Anderson wrote in Forbes about Leveraging volunteer experience. Both highlight ways that people can use skilled volunteer projects overseas, from one week to one year, as an opportunity to develop new skills while solving real challenges.
Here are even more benefits to companies, their employees, and the organizations that receiving volunteers:
Benefits to Sponsoring Companies
We recently published 7 reasons — backed by research — why companies should be socially responsible, and specifically why an international corporate volunteering program can help any business, its employees, and the world. Just a few reasons include:
· Consumers are demanding corporate responsibility, and you’ll get more customers if you exhibit your good efforts
· People want to work at companies with world-positive missions and programs, and you’ll recruit and retain better talent
· Employees perform better when they engage in socially responsible activities and help develop new innovative solutions
· Companies can help develop new markets and improve operations by building and strengthening partnerships
Benefits to the Hosting Organizations
More importantly than the benefits for the company, these programs really help people and our planet, too. A “lack of access to talent” is considered one of the leading barriers to progress — right up there with a lack of access to capital and global connections — all things that tech companies tend to have. As such, when companies donate more than just money, and start to also donate their resources, partnerships and talents to causes, they can really accelerate impact where it’s needed most. Here are the main benefits that organizations receive when they host skilled volunteers:
· Access skilled support to solve a specific challenge or achieve a new opportunity
· Develop the skills and know-how of current team members
· Identify new and improved ways of doing things more efficiently and productively
· Build a bigger, global network to help with partnerships
Benefits to the Volunteers
Volunteering provides all kinds of surprising benefits. It makes people healthier and happier, it can also help people find and get their dream job or assist with a promotion. In fact, some companies consider it a new executive training ground.
We live in a time where the most valuable thing we have is our time and brains, and where the very same things are capable of driving the most positive change to our world. As more and more companies are looking at international corporate volunteer programs, it will be exciting to watch more and more skilled technical professionals unleash their potential for global good.
Mark is co-founder and CEO of MovingWorlds.org, a global platform that connects people who want to travel and volunteer their expertise with social impact organizations around the globe, on their own or through corporate-sponsored programs. Since its launch in 2011, MovingWorlds.org has already helped unleash over 1 million dollars worth of professional skills to social enterprises around the world.