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Icons of Progress

A Global Volunteer Network

IBM100 A Global Volunteer Network iconic mark

IBM’s tradition of volunteerism is as old as the company itself. In the 1910s, IBM President Thomas J. Watson Sr. challenged employees to share their time and talents with their communities, and IBM’s culture of community service was born.

Nine decades later, IBM expanded on this tradition by developing a new way for IBM volunteers around the world to engage with their communities. With the launch of the global volunteer and service network called the IBM ® On Demand Community in November 2003, IBM reinvented the way it supports the volunteer work of its employees and retirees. With On Demand Community, IBM’s approach mirrors its business strategy. The program supports community efforts in multiple ways, including providing solutions and activity kits with how-to resources, calculators and tools for organizations. It enables volunteers to track volunteer hours, apply for grants, sign up for and propose activities, learn more about their peers’ volunteer efforts and receive recognition. IBMers can look for volunteer opportunities related to disaster preparedness and response, including training.

In the words of IBM Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano, “The On Demand Community … underlines our support for volunteerism around the world, and focuses on the contribution that not-for-profit community organizations and schools have told us they value most—the skills and expertise of IBMers. A global program with a local focus, On Demand Community facilitates IBMers’ own volunteer efforts—and provides a concrete vehicle to give our values of success, innovation and personal responsibility added, real-world meaning.”

The On Demand Community can drive significant and measurable change by taking advantage of IBM’s technology and the vast skills of its employees and retirees in 170 countries, and by linking community service with the company’s Smarter Planet business strategy. It offers hands-on involvement to schools and not-for-profit organizations that might never have had access to such levels of volunteer expertise and support.

A strong culture of community service also makes good business sense: it allows IBM to attract and retain a talented workforce that increasingly values social responsibility. It offers employees the opportunity to strengthen their skills; for example, by volunteering project management expertise for a non-governmental organization, an employee can gain the hours needed for certification. And IBM nurtures valued relationships with clients and IBM Business Partners by working together on such community projects as Engineers Week (EWeek), which promotes technical, science and math careers.

Through the On Demand Community, there are countless ways that IBMers are making a difference:

  • In Madrid, Spain, a team of nearly 70 IBMers and retirees are helping immigrants develop technical, personal and professional skills to improve their chances of finding good jobs.
  • In Santiago, Chile, IBMers are advising female entrepreneurs on business skills such as sales, purchasing, finance, taxation, marketing and communications.
  • In the United States, a researcher combines extreme activities—skydiving in a vertical wind tunnel, for example—with science to inspire high school and college students.

Since the launch of On Demand Community in 2003, more than 180,000 IBMers and retirees have contributed some 12 million hours of service in more than 84 countries. Retiree participation is an essential component: since June 2004, nearly 15,000 retirees have registered and maintained IBM’s tradition of volunteering to make a difference.

The Points of Light Institute conducted an independent evaluation and found that it is “a program without peer. IBMers are able to positively and uniquely benefit the range of organizations using the resources provided by On Demand Community.”

Many of the On Demand Community solutions build on IBM’s proven citizenship programs, including KidSmart, a computer learning center and software targeted to preschool children; TryScience, an online science and technology center; MentorPlace, a virtual mentoring system, as well as our disaster response initiatives. Many more solutions are the result of the collaboration between IBM business units and geographies worldwide to support volunteering efforts such as Days of Caring and other large-scale initiatives.

This year, to mark a century of social engagement, IBMers and retirees have pledged more than two million volunteer hours in a Celebration of Service that includes Business Partners, alumni, family members and clients. Around the world, IBMers are sharing their technical, financial, legal, project management and marketing communications skills to help make their communities better.

IBM has invested in the development and translation of 18 new activity kits—and made them available online for the public to use in their volunteer projects.

In this Centennial year, through the On Demand Community, employees and retirees are helping schools and not-for-profit organizations qualify for some US$12 million in community grants that IBM has invested, more than double the contributions of previous years.


Selected team members who contributed to this Icon of Progress:

  • Sam Palmisano IBM CEO, President and Chairman of the Board
  • Stan Litow Vice President of IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs
  • Diane Melley Director, Strategy and Implementation
  • On Demand Community Team John Bakke, Bryan Barone, Rebecca Curzon, Olukayode Dosunmu, Lisa Farnin, Daniel Giblin, Timothy Keogh, Heidi Kraemer, Adele Laffey, Dharmesh Mistry, Mary Murray, Randi Perez, Deborah Putt, Gregory Reeves, Jeannette Schaefer, Christian Schoen, Lisa Shepherd, Christian Voth