Outside the Comfort Zone: Why Corporate Pro Bono Assignments are a “Win-Win-Win” Proposition
IBM and SAP both send volunteers to work in emerging economies, where their job is to support non-profit organizations on site and solve a range of challenging tasks. This article looks at why pro bono assignments are a “win-win-win” proposition.
“It was an extremely intense time,” recalls pro bono volunteer Nadine Ebert. “You have people around you 14 hours a day and you don’t get much time to yourself. It’s a very bonding experience.”
In April 2014, the 32-year-old SAP manager swapped her office in Palo Alto, California, for a refurbished factory in Porto Alegre, which is home to nós coworking, a Brazilian start-up community. Its aim is to revitalize the former industrial quarter in which it is located and create new jobs at the same time. The necessary funds will be channeled principally through a crowdsourcing platform: And it was for this platform that Nadine and two SAP colleagues from Bulgaria and Ireland traveled to Brazil to design an implementation concept.
The Porto Alegre project is a prototypical example of the kind of mutually beneficial relationship that socially responsible enterprises are referring to when they talk about “social impact.” These pro bono projects involve collaboration with educational institutions, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and the private sector to promote sustainable development in target countries. During their assignments, pro bon volunteers utilize precisely those skills that they are used to applying in their regular jobs back home: The difference is that they are working in a cultural and economic environment that is largely alien to them.