Australia | Brazil | Chile | China | Czech Republic | Denmark | India | Indonesia | Ireland | Japan | United Kingdom | US-Florida | US-North Carolina | US-Texas


The 2016 winners of the twelfth annual IBM Volunteer Excellence Award have been announced. The award is recognition from IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty, and is the highest form of global volunteer recognition given by the company to employees.

IBM volunteers from 12 countries—six teams and eight individuals (the United States had multiple award winners)—were honored as those who best exemplify the IBM values of dedication, innovation and trust in their volunteer projects.

These volunteers live IBM’s practices by using their skills and expertise to engage communities around the world. Their impressive impact leveraged IBM strategic technologies such as IBM Watson, IBM Bluemix, and social media to solve critical community issues. They created innovative programs to develop STEM skills, and mentor students to increase economic development opportunities for local communities; they worked with children with disabilities, immigrants, and LBGT+ communities to foster environments where every person matters.

Since 2005, the IBM Volunteer Excellence Award has recognized a select number of IBM employees who embody IBM values through their dedication, innovation and personal commitment.

Below are summaries of the award winning individuals and teams from 2016; each will be featured in a story of service in the coming months.

Australia—IBM volunteer helps P-Tech succeed overseas (Education)

It didn’t take long for Steve Davies to guide the IBM P-TECH program in Australia from its infancy to a success. In just two years, Steve and the IBM Citizenship team have created the first IBM pilot in Ballarat, Australia, and the first to be established outside the US. The program has created opportunities for college staff and IBM employees to work together to create a local context for the program, develop a robust curriculum, and establish a vision for P-TECH. Through Steve’s personal leadership and engagement over the course of the program, students progressed to be able to apply their lessons and publicly present their individual experiences. The opportunity to develop technology and soft skills needed for the students’ future success has also been a rewarding experience for Steve.

Brazil—Volunteer preps youth ambassadors for the global stage (Civic Engagement)

IBM volunteer Leonardo Fernandes served as a mentor, and also coordinated a team of mentors preparing 50 students selected to represent Brazil as youth ambassadors in the US. While the students had strong backgrounds in leadership, community service and the English language, they lacked global cultural awareness and other skills essential for the program; most had never traveled outside their home state. Leonardo and the other mentors used their skills and IBM experience to prepare the students to take full advantage of the overseas opportunity by reducing their nervousness, enabling them to present their ideas, and providing them with techniques to better interact with others. The mentors also helped the students prepare presentations on individual volunteer projects, which will influence other students to volunteer after the program. Leonardo will continue mentoring the students when they return to Brazil, helping them with plans for college and careers.

Chile—At-risk students get practical in caring about the ecosystem (Environment)

Since 2013, IBM volunteer Claudia Mondaca has been conducting workshops and activities using IBM Activity Kits to positively impact the education of students at Carmen Rodríguez High School—an institution that receives and welcomes children at social risk. The curricular intervention associated with the care of the environment has helped to develop self-esteem and self-care. The concepts learned in the classroom are being applied in the construction of a greenhouse with recycled materials.

China—IBM volunteers use music to help children with autism (Disabilities)

Working with the Shanghai Cao Peng Music Center, a team of IBM volunteers is helping autistic children improve their social skills through music. For seven years, IBM volunteers have participated in activities that help children with autism better understand their own feelings and the feelings of others. In 2016, the IBM Design Studio in Shanghai used their skills and resources to increase awareness of autism and positively influence the Music Center’s fundraising efforts.

Czech Republic—Romani students benefit from experience of IBM volunteers (Social Service / Mentoring)

A critical social issue in the Czech Republic is Romani exclusion from the workplace, housing, and education. For the last several years, four IBM volunteers have been mentoring elementary and high school students from the Romani community, helping them achieve defined educational goals and pursue career possibilities. The mentors also provide a safe environment for the students to discuss private problems. In 2016, the IBM volunteers helped students with math, the transition from elementary to secondary schools (there aren’t many Romani secondary school students in the Czech Republic), graduation exams and computer skills certification.

Denmark—IBM volunteers mentor immigrants for business success (Mentoring)

A team of 25 IBM volunteers provided the expertise, passion, and commitment for the success of The Business Mentor Program for Refugees—a collaboration with Forening Nydansker (“New Dane”). During a six-month engagement, the mentors assisted refugees with integration into Danish society and the labor market. The team helped refugees earn full-time jobs, continue their education, and obtain internships, while receiving extensive positive coverage by news agencies. After just six months, the refugees outperformed the average integration measures. Out of 25 refugees, eight are in fulltime jobs, four are continuing their studies, four started internships, one was accepted as an apprentice and another is an entrepreneur. In Denmark, the initiative has become the new standard and IBM’s role has been lauded as the model for private sector employee volunteerism to help address certain refugee issues.

India—IBMer delivers job training for people with disabilities (Jobs / Disabilities)

Four years ago, Arun Kumar started as a volunteer teaching basic computer and life skills to students with neuromuscular and developmental disabilities. Now Arun leads a team of IBM volunteers and runs a 10-week curriculum twice a year, to provide vocational training to differently abled students at Spastics Society of Karnataka (SSK), an NGO in Bangalore, India. He has used IBM community grants to help SSK procure systems and software to equip the students with employable skills. Arun and his team depend on several IBM Activity Kits to add excitement and effectiveness to their teaching. Each of the 20 Saturdays Arun spends with the students has been a life enriching experience for him.

Indonesia—IBM volunteers lead creation of digital library for the blind (Disabilities)

In Indonesia, resources for the blind are limited—there are only 2,000 books in braille for nearly four million blind citizens. Two IBM volunteers are improving the situation by working with government, NGOs and other volunteers to lead an IT programming education series and the creation of the IBM Digital Library for the blind. The goal of the library is to digitize 50,000 books into braille and audio.

Ireland—Girl powers gets technical with help from IBM volunteer (STEM)

Niambh Scullion was among the first to volunteer to mentor young students at the local CoderDojo club at Dublin City University (DCU). Not long after she started volunteering, Niambh and her colleagues noticed that girls were quick to drop out of the programming club. To address this issue, in 2013 they modified the concept and founded CoderDojo Girls to appeal more directly to girls. For three years, participation among girls has steadily risen as they learn to code, develop websites, apps, programs, and games, and explore technology; the mixed CoderDojo at DCU is now 50 percent girls. Niambh also co-founded an annual event called Coder Girl Hack Day to inspire more young girls to join their local CoderDojo and is a member of the implementation team at CoderDojo Coolest Projects, an awards event for CoderDojo's; the DCU CoderDojo has the highest percentage of girls in attendance at this event which attracts over 1,000 students.

Japan—IBMers raise profile of LGBT+ acceptance in the workplace (LGBT+)

Eight IBM volunteers are using their expertise and skills to raise awareness of the continuing challenges facing Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT+) citizens in the workplace. As leaders of the IBM Japan LGBT+ community team, the volunteers are actively engaged in activities to promote understanding and acceptance outside the company, such as co-hosting or participating in job hunting events and sponsoring the rainbow parade. They have created partnerships with not-for-profit partners, including Work with Pride, to accelerate change and develop a LGBT+ equality index to demonstrate the business value of inclusion.

UK—IBM volunteer makes the business of caring more effective (Social Service)

Since 2010, Matthew Lee has been a volunteer at the Nightline Association, which enables students to provide confidential emotional support to other students. In 2015, he became the organization’s head of development. Using project management principles and business leadership experience, Matthew has focused his team on a limited number of high quality, reusable deliverables. That approach has driven the creation of new guides, a nearly four-fold increase in volunteer attendance at meetings, their biggest publicity drive ever, the opening of four new Nightlines, and participation at six e-conferences.

United States—Florida: Volunteer helps girls grow through STEM and respect (STEM)

In his volunteer work with the Girl Scouts of Citrus Council (GSCC), John Quillinan is demonstrating the power of trust and personal responsibility in relationships. In 2013, John created a single STEM program for GSCC that he has grown into a full year series, an annual coding event for girls, and achievement toward a STEM-related activity patch. In 2016, based on the strength of John’s commitment, IBM and GSCC piloted an anti-bullying and diversity program, which resulted in the creation of a new IBM Activity Kit on “Teaching Respect” and an associated activity patch. This resource is now available to volunteers globally. GSCC is also leveraging IBM expertise through an Impact Grant to develop a culture and system for consistent staff evaluation and feedback.

United States—North Carolina: The really new math: cognitive gameplay (STEM)

At Connally High School, whose students are mostly at-risk or disadvantaged, a wild duck approach to game-based learning was embraced by a team of Raleigh-based IBM developers, who helped the students integrate IBM Watson into a “Medical Minecraft” game. The project has become a terrific introduction to cognitive computing through gameplay. It has been shared on many news sites and was featured on the main stage at InterConnect, SXSW, the IBM CIO Summit, and more, as an example of how a cognitive game can drive learning and engagement with even the most disadvantaged learners. The success of the project supported creation of the Computer Science Academy of Innovation at Connally High School. IBM will offer students a capstone internship or lab-based practicum in their senior year.

United States—Texas: IBM sellers use skills to boost hospital’s effectiveness (Health)

In July 2016, a cohort of IBM sellers came together to volunteer at Shriners Hospital for Children – Houston, as part of the IBM New Seller Journey program. They delivered on IBM’s purpose to be essential with our clients; gaining real world experience of IBM core values. In a two-phase project, the first team worked with the hospital to uncover, validate and document an actionable business plan, tackling two key issues for addressing an antiquated system to transport children to and from the hospital, and a method to engage patients more effectively using an efficient transportation system outlined by IBM volunteers. Improvement in the transportation process is estimated to reduce no-shows and surgical cancellations by 56 percent, while an enriched social media strategy roadmap, developed by the second team, will increase the hospital’s brand recognition and outreach replicable across the Shriners network.

About these stories

Read about IBMers whose volunteer efforts are improving communities around the world.

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