Corporate Service Corps

Making a Difference: A How-To Guide

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Anyone looking for inspiration about how the public, private and not-for-profit sectors can collaborate need not look much further than a new book authored by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Titled A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity, this remarkable book describes how individuals and organizations can make a difference in the lives of others. Two of the many examples cited by the authors include IBM’s Corporate Service Corps and Smarter Cities Challenge. These programs deploy pro bono teams of problem-solving IBM consultants who work with community stakeholders around the world, while improving their own skills and cultural literacy. Here is how the authors put it:

In their desire to showcase corporate social responsibility, companies are giving more leeway to employees to give back – just as law firms have regularly done pro bono work. IBM developed a Corporate Service Corps, modeled on the Peace Corps, and has sent more than 2,400 people to provide consulting advice in more than thirty countries. In 2010, IBM also began a three-year, 100-city grant initiative in which employees donate their time to help cities launch large projects and resolve tough issues. IBM dispatched teams of five to six people for three weeks to formulate a master plan and strategies for execution. In
St. Louis, IBM helped devise a citywide information technology system that tracked everyone who entered the criminal justice system and allowed different agencies access to that electronic information. That system contributed to a 50 percent decline in crime in some neighborhoods, IBM says. Toyota has taken its sophisticated production expertise and helped hospitals, schools, and other non- profits improve efficiencies. In Harlem, for example, it trimmed the wait at a soup kitchen run by an organization called Food Bank for New York City from one and a half hours to eighteen minutes.

We would like to see more companies step into this arena, allowing employees to use their skills to take on pro bono projects. The nonprofit world is in desperate need of the corporate skill set, and our guess is that companies would be rewarded with increased morale and greater success in recruitment and retention. In the same vein, it would be good to see more corporations take on social joint ventures from time to time, in echoes of what Danone did with Grameen to make yogurt. If we insist on nonprofits and corporations being kept in separate silos, we all lose. If you work in a company, think about how it could help, or what a pro bono policy might look like, and see if there is interest among executives.

The best programs tackle a social problem that the company has the right toolbox for. That’s why Danone’s new yogurt with micro-nutrients and IBM’s information technology systems make sense. In finance, one of the most interesting initiatives to tap private funding has been Social Impact Bonds, launched in the United Kingdom in 2010 with the help of the Rockefeller Foundation, and two years later in the United States. ‘There simply wasn’t enough money in philanthropy, even with the explosion of philanthropy, and not enough money in government aid to really solve all the social ills,’ said Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation. ‘Not that money can solve everything, but that for those things that required money and big money at times, that unleashing private capital to do social good was going to be critical.’

Excerpted from A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Copyright © 2014 by Nicholas D. Kristof. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Related Resources:

Read More About IBM Corporate Service Corps

Read More About IBM Smarter Cities Challenge

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