Global Pro Bono is Changing the World
In July of 2008, I coordinated the first-ever IBM Corporate Service Corps (CSC) team in Timisoara, Romania. While I’d spent most of my career working with individual pro bono volunteers on development projects, working with 10 corporate employees at the same time was a completely new experience. For those of us working for PYXERA Global (then Citizens Development Corps), it quickly became apparent through the work completed in Romania and in the other pilot locations that international corporate volunteerism, or global pro bono, would have a game-changing impact on enhancing local capacity in emerging and frontier markets. In a mere four weeks, a team of 10 IBMers had demonstrated just how much a highly-skilled team could accomplish, completely changing how our organization worked.
On the first team to Brazil, a software engineer was tasked with designing a database handbook for an organization working with youth centers in the favelas of Sao Paulo. We thought it was an ambitious month-long assignment—to first assess and understand the system, to outline the handbook, and then to actually create it. He accomplished it all in the first week, and then had it translated into Portuguese.
Nearly six years later, IBM’s CSC, has sent more than 2,500 employees on assignments in emerging and frontier markets and PYXERA Global has designed and facilitated similar programs for fifteen more corporations. This year, our benchmarking survey went out to nearly 40 companies, all with programs that provide opportunities for their employees to work on skills-based, pro bono projects in countries other than their own. And yet, I think we are just reaching the tipping point of the dramatic impact global pro bono can have on some of the world’s most pressing global challenges.