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Trends in Global Employee Volunteering: over 10 years of ENGAGE and Give & Gain

Posted: Monday 5 February 18, 4.11pm GMT

In 2018 Business in the Community is re-assessing its global volunteering programmes and the impact they have generated through the CSR360 Global Partner Network. As we do so, we take a look at the key insights and learnings from over 10 years of ENGAGE Key Cities & Give & Gain.

There is no denying that as businesses diversify supply chains or expand into new markets across the globe, corporate community investment initiatives continue to grow. This trend isn’t solely driven by multi-national corporations however: is just as much a result of local and regionally acknowledgement of the importance of healthy communities for healthy businesses.

Despite regional manifestations of corporate community investment globally (See CECP’sGiving Around the Globe 2016), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), launched two years ago, have been embraced as a global framework and common language from which to build and assess initiatives. And employee volunteering, as a key tool in corporate community investment, plays a key part in the UN’s drive to encourage business to act on the SDGs through organisations like Impact 2030 and The Global Compact.

For over a decade, BITC’s two global community investment programmes Give & Gain and ENGAGE Key Cities have supported both multinational corporations and local enterprises to engage with their communities through employee volunteering. Both initiatives are organised through the CSR360 Global Partner Network, a group of over 130 organisation leading CSR in nearly 70 countries worldwide. Together, these initiatives reached over 300,000 benefiaries last year, engaging 250 companies and over 7000 volunteers.

So what have we learnt from these experiences and what do we see as the future of employee volunteering and community investment initiatives worldwide?

1. A Change in Approach
Employee Volunteering, as a key tool used by business to engage with communities is used in a variety of different ways globally and addresses a range of different issues. Overwhelming employee volunteering continues to be used as a way of engaging employees and building camaraderie among teams – concentrating on numbers of people volunteering, numbers of beneficiaries etc. For example, CSR360 GPN members Dubai Chamber achieve the largest charity drives as part of Give & Gain, beating their own targets annually. Other partners across the globe have similar stories but increasingly we are seeing organisations look at the skills that their employees could exercise during their employee volunteering. CECP’s report has found the same with skilled based volunteering and pro bono increasing in all global regions. There are some inspiring examples of this from our Partners Fundacion Compromiso in Argentina and also from Fuping Development Institute. Furthermore, employee volunteering is moving away from one-day opportunities to all year round initiatives. One of the biggest success stories for ENGAGE Key Cities has been the programme run by Pontis Foundation in Serbia who, thanks to the programme now manage a business-led national network that tackles a range of issues in a truly collaborative way. Similarly in the UAE, while Give & Gain is used as a one-day celebration of employee volunteering, ENGAGE Key Cities in Dubai acts as a year round brokerage and collaboration facilitator for businesses looking to invest their time, skills and resources into the community.

2. Similarity in focus with local approaches to the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Sustainable Development Goals have been playing a key role in defining and communicating the outputs from employee volunteering over the last two years. This approach is being championed by Impact 2030 and the Global Compact on a global scale but we are seeing local manifestations of this as well. ENGAGE Key Cities initiatives over the last two years have primarily been addressing four SDGs. SDG 10: Reduced inequality has been the most addressed quickly followed by SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth which makes sense when many of the ENGAGE Key Cities Programmes support young people into work or the most disadvantaged in society. Give & Gain on the other hand has there abouts addressed all 17 of the goals. As will be shared below, there remains a focus on youth unemployment and education but this is coupled by local manifestations. GRACE in Portugal for example facilitated initiatives across their coastline to clean up debris and improve marine life (SDG 14) while Fuping Development Institute in China encouraged employees from Citi Group to volunteer their time with migrant children improving their soft skills and financial literacy (SDG 11 / 4). Lastly, we are seeing increased efforts on the refugee crisis as well with organisations like IMS Luxembourg or Fundacion Forética in Spain organising employee volunteering on the crisis, but overwhelming youth unemployment and education have taken centre stage in all our employee volunteering initiatives.

3. Youth unemployment and education
Throughout Give & Gain and ENGAGE’s history, a good proportion of planned opportunities focus on supporting students and children indirectly by improving infrastructure in schools and colleges or directly by improving their soft skills and educational attainment. 3 of the 8 ENGAGE Countries, Italy, Hong Kong and France have developed comprehensive and holistic approaches to tackling youth unemployment and opportunity. While ENGAGE partners in China, the UAE and the Czech Republic run one day employee volunteering activities throughout the year that engage young people and children. Activities include work experience in business, mentoring and skills workshops from employees. In addition, as part of Give & Gain this year 8 countries organised activities with children and / or young people on education, skills and / or employability. Working with children and young people is a key way for business’ to help secure a future workforce with the skills needed to undertake roles in their companies and can help employees develop soft skills and gain confidence in their knowledge of their field. Even before the financial crash, youth unemployment was a pressing issue for many countries across the world but the crash has meant that for young people particularly removed from the job market, getting into stable employment continues to be a problem. We will be looking at this in more detail during our webinar on Global Youth Unemployment on the 18th September where IHG, the Youth Careers Initiative and CSR360 GPN Partner in Hong Kong Community Business discuss their approaches to tackling youth unemployment.

The Future for Employee Volunteering
The trends that we have seen through Give & Gain and ENGAGE Key Cities look promising. Business’ around the world are increasingly organising employee volunteering opportunities throughout the year that use their skills, resources and expertise to tackle some of the greatest challenges that affect not only their surrounding communities but the world at large. These initiatives are being embedded within business strategy ensuring that support the sustainability of the business itself but, in addition, the global framework of the Sustainable Development Goals are increasingly being used to help define local context and report back on impacts made. Fundamentally, when looking to build an international community investment strategy, business can forget the very principles that have applied in their locality that could actually help frame thinking in other regions. BITC’s 5 principles provide a useful framework from which to plan and manage any international community investment strategy.

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