Not the why, but how.

Finding pragmatic steps to executing corporate volunteerism well

 

There’s no shortage of commentary and strong research evidence as to why the private sector should get involved in volunteering, including in education specifically: whether it is to help close the skills gap, increase diversity in the workforce or increase opportunity for underserved young people.

 

Even the view that “doing good” is good for business seems widely held by senior executives, not least billionaire Larry Fink as asserted in his most recent Annual Letter to CEOs. Strong employee volunteering initiatives have even been proven to help with attracting talent, reducing employee turnover, increasing engagement, even top-line revenue.

Employee Engagement

…but that is just a broad mantra.

 

As George Soros acknowledges in his preface to the OECD report “The Sustainable Development Goals as Business Opportunities”, business interests and the public interest simply do not always align.

 

Thought-leaders such as CECP (a coalition of 200 of the world’s largest companies), the World Economic Forum, and the UN Global Compact with their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), go some way to help companies with their CSR strategies more broadly, but to date there has been little to no “in-the-field” guidance as to how companies can best execute their corporate volunteerism initiatives. Let alone practical steps for companies of all shapes and sizes to take.

Learning from the best

I wanted to meet companies who were seemingly at the top of their CSR game. What were they doing well when it comes to employee volunteering? How were they doing it? What challenges did they face? What was holding them back from doing more? Were there any common themes that could apply between companies – large and small?

 

Inspired by Sir John Holman’s research into the practical actions schools could take to improve career guidance for students in England (otherwise known as The Gatsby Benchmarks, and which, since December 2017, forms part of the UK Government’s career strategy), we set out to explore best practice in corporate volunteerism to:

Footsteps

1)

Establish the pragmatic actions employers (of any size) can take to increase the efficiency & effectiveness of their corporate volunteerism, including efforts in education;

 

Tech

2)

Understand the extent to which the use of tech could be an enabler.

The Itinerary

To find out, I visited the US & Canada to meet with a multitude of corporate, SME & intermediary players whom are (current or emerging) leaders in CSR & corporate volunteerism.

 

Travelling some 11,000+ miles, I spoke with CEOs, VPs of CSR/HR, start-up Founders, employee volunteering programme managers, policy makers, social investors, education leaders and many more interesting individuals.

Route map

The Itinerary

Why the US & Canada?

 

1) Leaders in corporate volunteerism

Volunteering style=

Undeniably, North America could provide ample ground to compare and contrast employer best practice in corporate volunteerism: an overwhelming majority of North American companies (91%) of all shapes and sizes run volunteering initiatives, far greater than any other region globally.

 

North American philanthropy is also known to be highly “values-driven” and thus deeply ingrained into core business values, norms and strategy. In contrast, the UK approach has typically been more “performance-driven” and simply “bolt-on” in response to stakeholder demand.

 

Yet – given strong millennial attitudes towards capitalism and having social impact – companies now find themselves needing to embed CSR ever more into their corporate DNAIndeed both North American and UK companies share culture/brand building (both internally, to engage employees, and externally) as the core driver of their CSR activities.

 

2) The forefront of tech

Idea Lightbulb

When it comes to tech, San Francisco and the Bay Area on the US west coast holds a well-established reputation as being the world’s number one city.

 

Yet – as crazy living costs increased – startup hubs have been springing up elsewhere within the continent: Toronto, Boston, Denver, Austin, and more. Where better to soak up the innovator mindset and witness first hand how fresh tech solutions can tackle some of society’s biggest problems!

 

3) Similar passions for solving inequality in education

The US & Canada were also able to provide a highly relevant context for my research as – unfortunately – societal issues we’re familiar with in the UK (educational inequality, lack of diversity in the workplace, lack of opportunity in remote rural areas) are all too common in North America too.

 

In the UK, it has been acknowledged that employer-“pull” (as opposed to school-“push”) is probably the most important way that career guidance can be improved for young people in the UK. Indeed, education is the most popular choice for corporate volunteering programmes, with supposedly 35% of employee volunteer hours up for grabs.

 

Yet Ofsted (the UK Governmental department responsible for inspecting a range of educational institutions) reported that “links with employers were perhaps the weakest aspect of career guidance”.

 

In an attempt to explore solutions to some of the root causes of this education-employer disconnect, the US & Canada offered a variety of employer-education approaches to explore: From hearing how individual state governments utilise their devolved responsibility to encourage education-employer initiatives, to seeing employers partner with traditional educational establishments as well as experimenting with new digital approaches

Next: Read onwards to Methodology >>

Find out how we are applying the CSRtech.org research at EdTech startup Prospela.com

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