Helen Palmer (nice_cup_of_tea) wrote,
Helen Palmer

Reading, Mentoring and a new adventure in South Africa...

I have been accepted onto my organisation's "Global Citizen's Program" and i am absolutely thrilled about this! The Global Citizen's programs offers employees at management level that opportunity to apply for an assignment in one of their partner countries. The assignments are 1 -2 weeks. The participants work beforehand on the project, then get their flight paid and time paid, covering the rest of their travel expenses. This initiative allows the bank to support their partner organisations, by lending them skilled staff in order to offer them free consultancy and skills training. This is part of their employee engagement work, and one of the global skills-based volunteering programs. The GCP has been running since 2010 - more here.

Anyway, each year I look at the assignments available, but up til now it was never the right time for me personally or professionally and I never connected wtih any of the projects. This year thought there were several assignments around learning and development, and one jumped out at me! The assignment was to support Room to Read in South Africa by training staff on how to build and run a mentoring program. My passion for reading and books, my belief that all kids should be given access to books and my professional passion for mentoring all intersected - direct hit!

Of course, there was no guarantee I would get it. I spent a long time writing my application, getting a written recommendatino from line manager and also linking this project to my career goals and needs. I was thrilled to get an interview and really enjoyed talking with the interviews about why I would love to be accepted. The application process was so positive, that this was an excellent experience for me in and of itself.

Then just after Easter I got an email teeling me that not only had I been accepted, but I got my first choice - the mentoring project! Due to COVID-19, it's not clear when I will be able to travel, but the project will begin anyway. I have spent the last weeks talking to past assignments and starting a mind map of resources and ideas! And of course I've bought some books from Amazon - "Long Walk to Freedom" and 2 mentoring books! If in doubt, buy a book and read it!

I told my boys today and M particularly was very excited - I got an unsolicited high five from him and a "I'm proud of you!" Was also a good chance to start talking to them about these issues, education, poverty, sustainable projects.

I will be blogging about this adventure using the tag GCP and am so excited about what I will learn, experience and share! Watch this space :-)

Reading so far! Can highly recommend these books....
Creating Room to Read: John Wood
Purpose Inc, Turning Cause into your Competitive Advantage: John Wood - see except below about the Global Citizen's Program

Wood, John. Purpose, Incorporated: Turning Cause Into Your Competitive Advantage (pp. 113-115). Big Purpose Press. Kindle Edition.

Listening to this feedback, some companies are embracing the move toward skills-based volunteering programs. The idea is one that is simple and smart: rather than have a group of employees do unskilled labor for a day, a small number of them are given a more significant amount of time off (typically between two weeks and three months) to tackle a strategic problem in a way that takes advantage of their skills and talent.

I first learned about this when Credit Suisse asked Room to Read to be part of the launch of their Global Citizens Program. The program was piloted in 2010 and rolled out the following year with the goal of playing “matchmaker” between talented Credit Suisse employees and their international grant partners, including Accion, Plan International, Teach for All, and Women’s World Banking.

The partners identify a strategic project for which they do not have the required skill set or time internally, and the bank then identifies and recruits an employee with those skills. Like many great purpose-driven ideas, this one came from the front lines. Two employees managing the bank’s newly launched global initiatives (the Microfinance Capacity-Building Initiative and the Global Education Initiative), Dawn Emling and Eva Halper, realized that there was an opportunity to go “beyond the check” and to support their partners through volunteering by sharing their relevant skills and experience honed in the business world.

They pitched the idea to two senior executives, who quickly signed on to have their own teams involved in a low-cost and rapid-to-implement pilot. Before long, human-resource executives were in Bangladesh and Ghana teaching about performance management to a rural hospital system, an expert on Salesforce was in Nepal teaching an education NGO how to move terabytes of education project data into the cloud, and data geeks were in Tanzania and Zambia helping microfinance organizations to better quantify their social impact.

Soon, the bank found that those who volunteered reported significantly higher levels of motivation and were much more likely to stay engaged in their jobs. An internal 2016 survey of those who had taken part in the program quantified many of the benefits: All felt proud that Credit Suisse was offering the opportunity to employees. Most were more likely to tell others (including potential customers and prospective employees) about the bank because of their experience.

Almost all believed the program provided opportunities to develop and practice new skills in a way that wasn’t offered through any formal training programs. Seven in ten identified their skilled volunteering experience as contributing to their decision to remain with the bank. Eight in ten felt more prepared to take on roles of increased responsibility at work and believed the experience had helped to improve their problem-solving skills.

One program participant was Aniket Patel, a London-based IT director whose volunteer assignment was with Teach for Argentina (Enseñá por Argentina). He took on the challenge of designing and running a training program to help senior staff members to increase their project management skills and to develop systems to monitor and control project progress. He shared his experience with me: Taking part in the [program]…taught me so much about myself, the way in which I work, and the skills I have to offer, and these lessons continue to be relevant to me in my daily working life…It took me way outside my comfort zone and gave me the opportunity to apply my skills in an environment which is so different to daily life at Credit Suisse. It taught me more about how I work, what I know, what I have to offer to others, and how I can go about passing that knowledge on. It taught me not to underestimate myself, to be open, to take risks.

Credit Suisse executives I interviewed repeatedly talked about how it was not just the NGOs and volunteers who were benefitting but also the bank. It helped that volunteers learned about frontier markets, how NGOs manage to always “do more with less,” what life is like for the unbanked, and the growth of the informal credit and banking sectors in less developed nations. The program has become so popular that there is now a perpetual waiting list.

What is true at Credit Suisse has also been shown in other organizations with similar programs. Studies of skilled volunteering programs at companies including Microsoft, EY, GlaxoSmithKline, and others have found that 92 percent of participants recognized their experience had led to positive development in leadership skills and competencies.
Tags: books, gcp, work

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