IBM makes an impact in Montreal

By , Romain Le Duc, and Larissa Nseyep | 2 minute read | February 14, 2020

A few years ago, under the initiative of young consultants, IBM Canada partnered with local university students to help OxFam expanding their reach within the Anglophone community in Montréal. What started as a one-time consulting gig, grew into a wonderful mentoring program called IBM ProBono that is helping students throughout Montréal hone their knowledge and workplace expertise with real-world experience at Canadian non-profit organizations.

Now its fourth year, IBM ProBono is currently working with 40 students from five universities and seven non-profit organizations. More than 35 IBM consultants have volunteered to support IBM ProBono in training students in Quebec to be future leaders and in bringing corporate expertise and operational solutions to local non-profit organizations.

IBM ProBono gives students the unique opportunity to apply theory into real consulting mandates. At IBM, they take part in design thinking workshops, story-telling sessions and presentation training directly from IBM practitioners.  From there, they take part in meetings with local non-profits to tackle challenges, brainstorm and deliver innovative and technological solutions. In their weekly mentoring sessions, IBM consultants coach students as they perform situational analysis, define problem sets and apply their acquired knowledge through several milestones and check ins, including a midterm presentation.

In the fall of 2019, student-consultants worked with La Dauphinelle, a non-profit which provides a safe haven and professional psychosocial support for women who are victims of spousal or familial abuse.

The student-consultants were challenged with improving communication experience between domestic violence victims and La Dauphinelle. As a solution, the team built and deployed ‘Dauphie’, a chatbot that answers questions and assesses victim needs. The technology included robust natural language processing and machine learning algorithms, acting as multi-lingual agent support.

Another success story is Les Ballons Intensifs, which helps young people from disadvantaged backgrounds become change makers in their community by teaching them about teamwork, engagement and making healthy choices through their free basketball camps.

Les Ballons Intensifs faced two major problems: a shortage of volunteers and difficulty to communicate with parents while their kids were enrolled in the program to avoid dropout.

Students rallied to the challenge and proposed a three-tier approach to directly address recruitment, revise existing business processes on what is communicated and how. They helped to install new tools to improve the frequency and quality of agency communications, setting up a newsletter tool and mass text messages.

There are several more of these examples within the program. In the Montréal Chapter, IBM Probono is partnering with McGill University, HEC Montréal, ETS, Concordia University and École Polytechnique Montréal and several diverse non-profits.

Currently, the executive team is working to grow the program and scope in Toronto and Calgary. So if there are any IBMers reading this, please reach out to us for support in building your own chapter in your city!

At IBM ProBono, we know that mentoring matters and makes a difference. With your help, we look forward to support local non-profit organizations to grow as well as help our students gain the valuable work experience and knowledge that they need to get a heads start on their career.