Global Corporate Citizenship Conference

October 12th, 2012 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

I’d like to nominate Washington, DC as the official American city for conference-going.  I think I could spend all of my days at events related to my various career and extracurricular interests – I live in a veritable “thought mecca.”  And a very cool perk of being an officer of the Smith chapter of Net Impact  is being invited to many of the events and networking opportunities related to responsible business, such as last week’s Global Corporate Citizenship Conference hosted by the Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC).  Together with two other Net Impact board members, I went to hear Net Impact CEO Liz Maw speak on a panel titled, “The Rising Role of the Corporate Intrapreneur.”

intrapreneur (noun) [in-truh-pruh-nyoor]: an employee of a large corporation who is given freedom and financial support to create new products, services, systems, etc., and does not have to follow the corporation’s usual routines or protocols.

The panel included representatives from Hewlett-Packard, Ashoka, and Ernst & Young, which made for a very dynamic discussion about employee engagement in impact-related corporate programs.  The panel was moderated by Taryn Bird, who is on the leadership team of Business Corps, a project of the BCLC which aims to “redefine how companies work together and leverage our respective strengths to collectively address the needs of society around the world.”  The project has been called “A Peace Corps for Business,” which, as a former Peace Corps Volunteer, caught my attention – I truly believe that sustainable development requires a thriving private sector, which can be made possible through the exchange of technical knowledge and practical business skills.  These exchanges are made possible through skills-based volunteering sponsored by employers.  The panelists discussed how each of their organizations implemented employee engagement programs, including the successes, challenges, and the tricky business of measuring impact.

Last year, Net Impact at Smith took on the role of facilitator for Smith’s participation in Team MBA Month.  We had six unique club-sponsored service projects, and a charity auction that raised over $2500 for local charities.  As a local chapter of a national organization, these activities counted towards our service requirements, but we still needed to better integrate the initiative into our core values as a club – among the industry-focused clubs at Smith, we have to be strategic in our sponsored activities to avoid being seen as “the canned food drive” club.  

During the discussion I realized that Team MBA Month provides students with a great opportunity to organize, lead, and participate in events that build community and leverage our skills to do some good – refining the soft skills that are so valuable to our future employers.  The panelists agreed that recent graduates are valued for bringing this type of inspiration and excitement to corporate teams, and as future recent graduates, we can start building this spirit among our cohort at Smith.  

Studies have shown that employees are more satisfied with their jobs when they have a chance to volunteer or interact with colleagues for a social cause; higher satisfaction leads to higher-performing employees – and thus, higher productivity.  However, making the business case to middle management can be difficult, as the effects of employee engagement programs are often intangible, immeasurable, and don’t directly contribute to day-to-day performance – the yardstick of middle management success.  

To help frame a strategic implementation of service projects, Net Impact has created a great toolkit to help both employers and employees create impact.  The toolkit provides a series of basic, actionable steps and worksheets to help guide the implementation of a workplace impact program, which can be applied to external programs as well – as long as key stakeholders believe a project is relevant, engaging, and creates value, it is likely to have a positive impact on employee satisfaction.