Volunteers impacting communities around the world

Story of service • Worldwide • April 2012

In March, the 10 winning volunteer teams for the 2011 On Demand Community Excellence Award were announced. Each volunteer team was selected based on their extraordinary projects created during the Centennial Celebration of Service. The winners supported projects that apply IBM’s smarter planet strategies to community service, and each project can become a model for similar volunteer engagements elsewhere. This month we are reporting on the continuing progress of five team projects.

Team Argentina


Social observatories in Argentina
are helped by IBM volunteers.
In Argentina, citizenship observatories publish quality-of-life indicators for cities (housing, access to public utilities, transportation, environment, health and education) that are used to generate proposed public policies, leveraging the management of local mayors. The observatories are designed to deal with the deep dissatisfaction with government’s capability to provide needed services in urban areas of Latin America. Effective local governance, characterized by the highest standards of ethics and transparency, will be a key ingredient in consolidating democracy in Latin America.

A team of IBM volunteers, led by Mario Bolo, Chief Technologist for Argentina, is working closely with El Agora, one of the not-for-profit social observatories dedicated to observing local living conditions and making their observations available to those who will support positive change. The IBM team is helping to promote the exchange of information across several cities and promote specific improvements by providing expertise for the implementation of SmartCloud for Social Business, a series of online office tools from IBM designed to improve collaboration. This project, known as Smarter and Sustainable Cities for Latin America, includes five cities in Argentina, and more than 60 in Latin America, including Rosario, São Paulo, Bogotá, Lima, Cartagena, and Montevideo. In addition, the project engages upwards of 250,000 citizens to participate in working groups, transcending borders and distance. The El Agora organization will be the gateway to other social observatories in Argentina and the Latin American network.

Mario Bolo explained that each member of the IBM team contributed a specific part to the project, according to his or her skills. “My own contribution was mainly the solution design. I also helped to frame the project into the smarter planet vision, which, I believe, is critical to the project’s final success.”

Mario added, “I have been very fortunate in life, but not all the people in my country have the same opportunities that I had, so I feel a need to give back. In the past, my contribution was to give presentations in public universities about different IT topics, sharing my skills – and IBM’s knowledge – with the students. This is good, but very limited. This project with El Agora gave me the chance to help with a much broader initiative that can potentially impact the lives of thousands and even millions of my fellow countrymen.”

Elly Keinan, General Manager of IBM Latin America and executive sponsor of this project, further explained, “This project is not owned by one country only. Although it is led by IBM Argentina, it integrates a team from different Latin American countries. The initiative is planned to grow. Our people, with their talents, and passion to support cities to become smarter, are impressive. Also, I would like to mention the educational potential that the project has in terms of preparing better citizens for the future through using collaborative tools widely. I believe that, at the end of the day, our role is to help make life in cities more sustainable by using collaboration.”

Team Austria


IBM volunteers in Austria use their
professional skills to help feed
the hungry.
Austria has nearly one million people on the edge of poverty, yet tons of surplus food are thrown away daily. Wiener Tafel, a not-for-profit organization in Vienna, currently collects leftover food from supermarkets in Vienna and distributes it to more than 80 organizations, ensuring that the food gets into the hands of those who need it most. However, Austria has more than 600 supermarkets, and Wiener Tafel’s current capacity only allows them to collect food donations from 16 supermarkets.

Under the leadership of Tatjana Oppitz, County General Manager of IBM Austria, and Dorota Krizmanitis, Global Business Services (GBS) Project Manager, a large group of IBM volunteers are working with Wiener Tafel to develop a Smarter Logistics project that will increase the amount of total food delivered by 20% while lowering the carbon dioxide emissions. IBM employees currently volunteer in various capacities for Wiener Tafel, lending their expertise in marketing, communications, logistics, IT and other areas.

Dorota explained why she got involved, “I was born in Poland and have seen a lot of people in need. Therefore I feel it is my responsibility to help fight poverty whenever I can. When IBM announced the project with Wiener Tafel last year, I found it to be the perfect opportunity to bring in my experience and engage personally.”

Dorota managed the team working on the IT-concept for the organization’s logistics. She found the right GBS experts on the volunteer team and coordinated meetings with Wiener Tafel to understand how the organization worked and why they needed to enhance their logistics. She served as the point person to coordinate the information back and forth between IBM and Wiener Tafel since it was important not to overwhelm the small not-for-profit’s logistics team of two people with a huge number of IBM contacts.

There are now approximately 160 IBM volunteers involved in this project who are divided into three working groups: IT-concept, delivery of leftover food, and spreading the word about the project to IBM customers. The IT-concept team has delivered their recommendations to enhance the planning of the delivery routes, which have been implemented at Wiener Tafel and, as a result of the IBM contribution, the organization has already been able to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions while enhancing the delivery of surplus food by 12 percent.

The volunteer support from IBMers on the delivery rounds continues and more volunteers have expressed their interest in helping with the collection of surplus food during the summer when there is a shortage of volunteers for Wiener Tafel. In addition, an IBM customer, Telekom Austria, has expressed their wish to extend their volunteer support to collect surplus food.

Tatjana wanted to get a personal impression of the work Weiner Tafel does and personally volunteered with her husband to collect surplus food. “I learned how much quality food would be wasted without the important work of this organization and I am now a major ambassador for Wiener Tafel. In my meetings with influencers and customers, I talk about my personal experience with Wiener Tafel very often, and invite people to actively support the organization. This project has proved that if IBMers work together as ‘one team’ we can really make a difference and truly contribute to the solution of a pressing societal issue.”

Team Brazil


IBM volunteers in Brazil impact
hundreds of not-for-profits
in Latin America.
Not-for-profit organizations and small and medium businesses in Latin America face many challenges to their survival – and research has demonstrated that lack of technology is one of the main reasons they fail. A volunteer-led Jam engaged not-for-profit leaders and SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) on technology to help the organizations build smarter processes, improve methodologies, influence public policies, and enable economic development. This winning volunteer project in Brazil, with 75 IBM volunteers, uses IBM Lotus Connections to create a permanent social network for the not-for-profit and SME stakeholders.

Sergio Loza, IBM Social Business and Collaboration Software Sales Executive, and team lead, explained, “This project is very relevant due to its ability to showcase the advantages of collaboration, powered by IBM technology, between not-for-profits and small enterprises. This is one key theme of our Social Business value proposition to clients. We were able to help society, in the form of SMEs and not-for-profits, with what IBM does best – providing solutions that offer business value to clients.”

The not-for-profit partner ATN Telecentre Information and Business Association (ATN) hired a business partner to implement the solution with the supervision of IBM volunteers. The volunteers are also supporting ATN to create a sustainable business model to use the solution to promote SME development. The infra-structure implementation phase is about to end and the next phase will focus on training and piloting the first 30 – 50 users to interact using the social media tool. In addition, the IBM volunteers have applied analytics tools and methodology to extract the Jam data and summarize the discussions to create the final report entitled, “Technology Toolkit Guide for Not-for-profit Organizations and Small and Medium Enterprises and Orientations for Public Policies in Science and Technology.” ATN is expected to publish the completed report in April.

Sergio added, “It is satisfying to provide the same state-of-the-art technology to ATN that is usually seen in larger companies. The work that the volunteers did enabled ATN to help hundreds of not-for-profits and SMEs better leverage new opportunities and transform their business.”

Team Canada


IBM volunteers share their skills and
creativity in the ONS project.
The Ottawa Neighbourhood Study (ONS), a partnership between United Way Ottawa, University of Ottawa, City of Ottawa, Champlain Local Health Integration Network, and Coalition of Community Health & Resource Centres, seeks to better understand how and where people live, work, and play together can shape the health and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities. The ONS has collected and analyzed 148 indicators of health and well-being, creating 107 neighbourhood profiles throughout the city to enable policy developers, program planners, community organizers, service providers and residents to better understand those neighbourhoods and use the information to improve the quality of life for its citizens.

Karen Williams, Vice President, Business Analytics Global Customer Success and Support for IBM, and team lead for this project, explained why this is the perfect initiative for IBM to get involved with, “The ONS is about collecting, using, and sharing information to build smarter and better communities. That’s completely aligned with the IBM Smarter Planet agenda and exemplifies the smarter approach to community engagement. In addition to the volunteer work, IBM has joined the ONS steering committee to help drive future direction making Ottawa a better place for IBMers to live and work.”

One of the volunteers, Pat Froese-Germain, explained why she got involved, “I love Ottawa. The city is lovely, but it does have some challenges and programs, and there are people in need. Having smart data like the ONS project will help organizations make better decisions about where help is needed. For instance, with the smart data, the city can match demographics to services so that after-school or elder-care programs are in the most optimal locations. Being involved in the ONS project is a way to give back, just a little, to a city that has been very good to my family and me.”

The skills and creativity of all 75 IBM volunteers working on this project are what make it successful as they collaborate with the ONS to bring together business insight, advanced research, technology and marketing expertise to help ONS better service its community in a rapidly changing environment. Over the course of the project, the IBM volunteers’ engagement in this project has increased and decreased based on the skill sets and work outcomes required to take ONS to the next level, focusing on increasing its stability, functionality, user-friendliness, and usefulness to the community.

One of the first tasks completed was to help the ONS team focus on who the audience is. One volunteer guided them through the process of defining personas, and, as Pat noted, “The ONS team delivered the most detailed and thoughtful personas document I’ve ever seen.” This document helped other volunteers design the website, as well as FAQs and a sustainability plan.

Currently, volunteers are continuing to work on the replication documentation so that the project can be replicated by other communities in North America, completion of the new web site design rollout (currently in beta) and planning for the mobile application. After the mobile application planning is completed, the development of that application will begin. Karen Williams added, “Ultimately, ONS is an excellent step towards our goal of creating a Smarter Planet.”

Team India


IBM volunteers helped develop an
inexpensive solution to provide advance
warning of possible flood conditions.
Urban flooding is a severe, annual problem in India. The 10-member IBM volunteer team in India leveraged the Centennial Grant to provide a Sensor Web for Smarter Cities (SENSIT) project which will develop a low-cost, sensor-based solution to assist with rainfall monitoring and flood forecasting, providing flood warnings to citizens and local authorities.

Skilled IBM volunteers are part of the team, led by Professor Dhrubajyoti Sen of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), developing the sensors, deploying the communications network, setting up the algorithm for flood forecasting and establishing the data sharing system. At present, IBM volunteers are engaged in the build out stages by reviewing the progress and providing guidance and evaluation. The first rainfall and water-level sensors were installed in the city of Kolkata in March, and IBM volunteers will also assist in the deployment and pilot stage of the project. Both qualitative and quantitative information from the sensors will be uploaded in the web page depicting the flood scenario for the city. When the project has live sensors on the web, the IBM volunteers will connect the IIT team to the researchers in flood modeling from India, Brazil and Watson Research for further discussions.

Mezjan Dallas, a senior manager leading industrial sector solutions at IBM’s software lab in India, worked closely with Nithya Rajamani, IBM’s lead for Smarter Cities from its research division in India, to lead this award-winning volunteer project. Mezjan noted that IBM’s support of this project was key, “The guidance that IIT received from IBM, based on its wealth of experience in weather forecasting, modeling, communication and integration technologies, and smarter cities product capabilities helps enhance the success of this project.” He added, “To see how a conglomeration of technology from all the various business units of IBM, including software, research and hardware, can come together to solve a real life problem like urban flooding is important to me personally because it gives me the opportunity to make a difference to my county and its citizens in the long run.”

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