As an account manager for global marketing consultancy WE Communications, Jon Repp works with some of the world’s leading brands to help them extend their reach and bring new services to market.
In September, Repp began a new chapter in his career as he waved goodbye to his colleagues in Bellevue, Washington, and headed to Bogotá, Colombia. There, he joined a newly integrated team of volunteers as part of Corporate Champions for Education, a multi-company pro bono program led by SAP and PYXERA Global to support digital inclusion.
Repp’s new team was diverse in multiple ways, comprising members from Germany, India, and the U.S, and from various corporate cultures and professional backgrounds. It was, however, united in its mission to create a strategic plan for Computadores para Educar (CPE), one that would enable the educational not-for-profit organization to expand its services to Colombian schools and children in order to equip them with the skills to participate in the digital economy.
“I love being able to take my skill set and help another organization, especially when you have a mission like this,” Repp said, speaking from the CPE offices. “ For CPE, the mission is to put computers in the hands of kids in classrooms. What could be better than that?”
Repp’s experience with Corporate Champions for Education is featured in this video:
Growing Interest in Corporate Social Impact
Launched by SAP Corporate Social Responsibility (SAP CSR), Corporate Champions for Education opens the pro bono experience to private-sector companies of all sizes and industries, with the aim of enabling them to foster systemic change in education through shared resources and experiences.
The program was announced in September 2018 at the United Nations headquarters in New York, where SAP received the inaugural IMPACT2030 Innovation Award for Collaboration for Good.
Accepting the award on behalf of SAP, Alexandra van der Ploeg, head of SAP CSR, made a pledge to open the award-winning SAP Social Sabbatical program to other corporate participants. “We are more committed than ever to cross-company collaboration and multi-stakeholder partnerships,” van der Ploeg said at the event. “We invite you to join us in multi-company cohorts that will look at innovation and systemic change in education in a few select markets over the next two years.”
Corporate Champions for Education is part of a growing trend in corporate-sponsored volunteer initiatives that aim to align social impact with the broader strategic objectives of the business organization. Interest in these programs is increasing as companies face growing scrutiny of their commitment to sustainability – from consumers, employees, investors, and strategic partners alike. According to a Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report, companies that prioritize purpose demonstrated greater profitability over a three-year period than those that do not.
Wanted: Flexible, Curious, Self-Starter with High EQ
It was only one year from the time van der Ploeg made her Impact2030 pledge until Repp made his journey as part of the first Corporate Champions multi-company cohort with eight team members from SAP, WE Communications, and Niagara Bottling. To launch the program, SAP worked closely with PYXERA Global, a leader in the global pro bono practice.
PYXERA Global oversees the program design, partnership management, and operations in the field. “They handle the intricate, complex work on the ground, allowing us to invest our time in working with our employees to prepare for the trip,” Rhian Rotz, director of Corporate Citizenship and Employee Engagement for WE Communications, explained. “If we didn’t have a third party to assist us, we wouldn’t be able to deliver programs like this. The people who are benefitting – namely, our employees and the NGOs – would be the ones that really miss out.”
Three Colombian not-for-profits emerged as suitable matches for Corporate Champions based on their organizational structure, ecosystem, and educational mission: Computadores para Educar; Fundación Nacional Batuta, dedicated to children’s education in the arts, music, and culture and Co-School, dedicated to children’s well-being through healthy social and emotional development.
Employee participants are carefully selected to help ensure the program’s success. Gavin Cepelak, senior vice president for Global Pro Bono at PYXERA Global, says the ideal candidate is flexible, curious, takes initiative, has strong emotional intelligence and a sense of humor, and can take things in stride.
Triple Win for Education
As for Jon Repp, his four-week tenure with Corporate Champions expanded his professional development in terms of his leadership skills, intercultural communication, and collaboration with professionals from different sectors. In turn, CPE benefitted from Repp’s contribution toward helping the organization achieve its long-term goals by extending its social impact and sustainable development.
Although WE Communications had to arrange for Repp’s temporary absence at work, the organization gained long-term benefits by providing a unique opportunity to its employees that delivered social impact aligned with the organization’s commitment to quality education.
“We see this as a trifecta impact opportunity: the professional leadership growth experience, the unique social and cultural immersion opportunity for employees, and social impact for the NGOs and local communities,” Rotz said. “The fact that you can bring these three components together and provide employees this opportunity is key to our employee engagement strategy.”
The benefits of participating in a multi-company pro bono program like Corporate Champions can be multifold for small to midsize companies that do not have the resources to establish their own program or that want to try out the pro bono experience before making a bigger investment. For these companies, Corporate Champions offers the possibility to send just one employee in a cohort if they wish – one of the program’s many advantages over similar single-company programs.
The diversity that the multi-company cohort brings to the host client is also significant. “For CPE, the main benefit was having an outside perspective that was not biased by the day-to-day life in CPE and could objectively propose measures thinking outside of the box. The expertise of each one of the consultants enriched the final consultancy proposal,” Catalina Reyes from Public Affairs for CPE explained. “This broad view on how big companies tackle issues like ours was really insightful.”
Join Corporate Champions for Education
For more information visit the Corporate Champions for Education website.