Tag Archives: volunteerism

The Unrealized Potential of Volunteerism in Pakistan

pakistan-earthquake

Fayyaz Bhidal is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Atlantic Council

Saturday, October 8, 2005 was an unfortunate day in the history of Pakistan. The entire country was ravaged by an earthquake that registered 7.6 magnitude on the Richter scale. The tremor devastated the entire Kashmir region, razing almost every building to the ground. It also damaged large parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan provinces and caused a high rise housing tower to collapse in Islamabad. The loss, both human and material, was colossal. The death toll surpassed 100,000, and 3.5 million people were displaced. The injured were numerous and everywhere.

This earthquake in Pakistan, just like earthquakes anywhere else in the developing world, caught disaster response institutions off guard. They were unprepared, lacked the essential rescue equipment, training, and resources. On top of that, road and rail networks were no longer usable without major repairs.

In the face of this massive catastrophe, when the state institutions were stuck in a state of panic, the responsibility fell to common people to take it upon themselves to do whatever they could to save their brethren pinned under the rubble and debris. Their efforts rescued over 138,000 injured stuck under collapsed buildings, and saved many more women, children, and elders who lost their families in the calamity. Had it not been for their efforts, most of the injured would have died by the time government rescue teams reached them after a delay of 78 hours.

Attending a panel on ‘Disaster Protection through Preparation’ at the Points of Light Conference in Atlanta, and learning about the role volunteers played in Nashville in saving people and properties during the 2010 floods, and later on helping the city clean up and recover, I could not help but think about the role volunteers played during the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. They not only helped minimize the damage and sped up rescue, recovery, and rehabilitation efforts, they also left the affected communities more united and self-reliant.

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Learn More About CIPE’s KnowHow Mentorship

What if experienced professionals could share their expertise and wisdom by mentoring non-profit organizations around the world?

As highlighted previously in CIPE blog  (here and here), KnowHow is a virtual mentorship program that links the professional skills of volunteers with the needs of associations and chambers of commerce from around the world seeking technical assistance.

Join a conversation on Tuesday November 12, 2013 at 8 AM EST with two current KnowHow pairs to learn about the benefits of participating in the program. Hear how the Georgian Small and Medium Enterprise Association used the knowledge they gained from the mentorship to increase its membership by over 30% in less than a year. Discover what new insights and life-changing experiences the mentors have gained from sharing their expertise and experience with organizations overseas.

The webinar will feature two mentor-mentee pairs:

Peter O’Neil, Executive Director, American Industrial Hygiene Association

Olivera Popovic, Vice President, Association of Business Women in Serbia (ABW)

and

Elissa Myers, President & CEO, Advice & Consensus

Kakha Kokhreidze, President, Georgian Small and Medium Enterprise Association (GSMEA)

Please register for the webinar here

When doing good is good for business

Case Foundation CEO Jean Case participates in a Pro Bono Service panel at the 2008 CECP Corporate Philanthropy Summit. (Photo: Case Foundation via Flickr)

When most people hear the term Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), they usually picture cheesy, Orwellian subway ads by oil companies or glossy brochures with pictures of African children and their new soccer balls. Corporate volunteerism is a recent trend that belies the image those ads present.

The perception that CSR is only for public relations has grown in part by the notion that social responsibility will always be a superficial, secondary concern so long as a firm’s bottom line trumps concerns of community engagement. In the last decade, as CSR has matured from strict philanthropy to more integrated and thoughtful approaches, companies’ concern for the social and physical environment in which they operate is no longer detached from profit margins.

Enter international corporate volunteerism, showcased last week at CDC Development SolutionsInternational Corporate Volunteerism Workshop. There are many different models for corporations to follow, but most involve groups of 6-10 employees traveling together to a developing country to tackle a specific problem or project (infrastructure, IT, supply-chain, management, etc.) for a local nonprofit, business or association.

In these cases, employee skill-development is one of the central takeaways as crops of engineers or marketers who’ve likely never met but work on similar issues for the same company, come together as part of one team focused on the same goal. Multinationals with subsidiaries all over the world also benefit from knowledge exchange through corporate volunteering—not only from North to South but from South to South—as volunteer group members from local offices contribute to projects in their own countries.

As Intel has shown, donating laptops to needy students around the world doesn’t just provide local benefits, it yields tangible research and development outputs as well. This is so because as the next generation of Kenyans learn to incorporate the internet into their education, Intel workers get a first-hand glimpse of how its technology is employed in new markets. Volunteers gain fresh insights into user preferences and can then transmit them back to improve marketing and project design.

For a company like Dow Corning—a leading silicones supplier with 25,000 customers worldwide—it isn’t always easy to see who buys and uses goods containing your products. Through its citizen service corps, employees are able to overcome this knowledge gap. Innovations gleaned through Dow Corning’s volunteer program have already led to the development of several new products.

As multinationals look to expand into emerging and developing economies throughout the world, corporate volunteerism offers an undeniable opportunity for cutting edge market research. Rather than sitting in an office in corporate headquarters, employees are out in the field learning about ways to introduce and refine their products in markets whose dynamics have long been unknown, all the while doing good for communities and NGOs along the way.

Companies striving to do good while also doing well may have stumbled upon a promising model in corporate volunteerism. As it expands into a more pervasive and established CSR tool, corporate volunteering should make sure it doesn’t lose its vision along the way.