by Shaleen Rakesh, Executive Director, VSO India
According to the World Bank, India’s economy is expected to grow at eight per cent annually by 2017. Amidst talks of India’s status as an emerging economic superpower, 33% Indians continue to live below the poverty line, the highest in the world.
Given this context, there is a huge felt need and opportunity for development agencies to engage the private sector for more equitable social outcomes. This requires a paradigm shift for private and non-government organisations to team up and become joint agents of change. VSO is a leading international development organisation has been addressing development issues by engaging with people for over 55 years. Globally, the organisation has made the beginnings with likeminded and forward thinking people and corporations. It is looking to develop models at international, regional and country level to develop corporate citizenship partnerships to create lasting impact for the communities. VSO develops each corporate partnership strategically drawing upon combined strengths to deliver shared value.
One of the models VSO is currently pursuing and is working well to achieve this is corporate volunteering. VSO’s work with IBM in India is a good example of this. In April this year, 12 global IBM Corporate Service Corps (CSCs) volunteered for four weeks with four Indian NGOs in Bangalore. IBM CSC helps communities around the world solve critical problems while providing IBM employees unique leadership opportunities. The 12 IBMers developed and strengthened IT, knowledge management and HR systems for these organisations. Future cycles of IBM CSCs are planned for Varanasi later in the year and Mysore early next year. For corporate volunteering to be successful, it needs to be aligned to the in-country strategy and programming of the placement organisation. Placements should build capacity and enable positive change for local NGOs and beneficiaries. Both development organisations and corporate partners should be able to monitor and measure impact and effectiveness of this approach.
VSO conducted an exit survey with the IBM volunteers in Bangalore to understand the impact of the placements on their professional development. The survey reported maximum impact on teamwork and collaboration, cultural awareness, consulting and communication skills. Ninety percent of those surveyed reported they had learnt about IBM’s current priorities in India as well as about other IBM business units as part of a cross business team. Eighty percent reported that the contacts they made during the placement would benefit their work post the assignment. All of those who were surveyed reported that they had made new and useful networks with people from other business units across IBM. VSO in India is also in the process of documenting the change at the level of placement NGOs and communities through qualitative interviews and case studies.
Corporate volunteering provides an important platform for development programmes to engage with the private sector. With an increasing interest of corporate firms in employee volunteering programmes, the IBM CSC provides an excellent model for the future of corporate citizenship programmes in India.
People interested in volunteering with VSO in India can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org