Congratulations to IBM Australia for winning the 2012 Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) Ian Kiernan Award for Corporate Social Responsibility for their Corporate Service Corps (CSC) program! Australian Business Volunteers (ABV) has partnered with IBM to deliver the innovative CSC program in Asia since its inception in 2008. We are excited that IBM has received recognition for such an important program as it goes from strength to strength every year.
The AHRI award for corporate social responsibility (CSR) reflects the importance businesses are increasingly placing on addressing social issues as part of their business model. CSR is maturing in Australia, moving from what is traditionally termed philanthropy to more engaged philanthropy or what is more aptly called social investment. It is a long-term strategy. To be effective, it is a partnership based on collaboration, drawing on a myriad of stakeholders whether they be corporations, not-for-profit organisations, governments or foundations to achieve a social end.
The IBM-ABV partnership to deliver the CSC program reflects this approach, combining the skills of IBMers with ABV’s knowledge of the needs of the organisations and communities in the developing and emerging economies in which we work. The relationships developed as a result of this partnership expand far beyond IBM and ABV, with the clients and communities driving much of the delivery.
Each year the IBM-ABV partnership is strengthened and outcomes enhanced. We have moved from establishing the infrastructure and managing logistical arrangements to the evaluation and refinement of the program. Obvious business benefits of the CSC program include enhanced reputation and development of IBM leaders. More subtly however, is the experience acquired by working with people in different cultural settings and often with limited resources. It challenges participants to examine assumptions and preconceived ideas of doing business, and to think creatively in developing solutions, working with a team of individuals who each bring unique perspectives to the table. This is mutually beneficial to the participants, and through them IBM, as well as the clients with which they work.
As Australian businesses increasingly look to work in global markets, particularly in Asia, immersion through a program like CSC is a great way to understand how to do business in other markets. The University of Melbourne Asialink report Developing an Asia Capable Workforce: A National Strategy identifies capabilities such as the ability to build partnerships and networks, and cultural and management understanding, as critical to business success in Asia. IBMers can testify that participation in the CSC program has enhanced their leadership, consulting and training skills to facilitate international partnerships, and possibly most importantly, their cultural intelligence.
Finally, the organisations IBM works with in Asia as part of the CSC program benefit through skills improvement and overall increased staff performance and morale; new or improved practices, behaviours, standards and products; and exposure to outside experience and knowledge. ABV looks forward to continuing to work with IBM in 2013 and the years ahead.
Sarah O’Connor is CEO of Australian Business Volunteers.