By Amanda Bowman, IBLF
It’s the end of the European Year of Volunteering and the International Year of Volunteering +10. What impact has this spotlight had on corporate volunteering and in particular, International Corporate Volunteering (ICV)?
Corporate Volunteering is now an important element of companies’ approach to engage employees and recognised as a source of innovation, human resource development and cultural change. The year 2011 has seen a number of companies introduce International Corporate Volunteering (ICV) programmes to leverage employee skills and power up initiatives for new market or supply chain development, and to drive innovation.
Looking at the variety of ways in which ICV is now used, it’s accurate to say that it is fast becoming the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of a company’s CSR and HR toolbox.
So how is ICV being used as the ‘multi-tool’ to support a company’s efforts within its areas of operation? I’m going to use IBLF ‘s Spheres of Influence model (below) to illustrate.
- Many ICV programmes are designed to demonstrate how the company lives its values and how its leadership recognises the importance of its shared destiny with those communities in which it operates. For instance, Marriott’s volunteer programme “Spirit To Serve Our Communities” helps fulfil the company’s pledge that ‘every community will be a better place to live and work because we are there’ and focuses on areas aligned with their core business, such as readiness for hotel careers.
- ICV is increasingly being used for leadership and skills development at all levels to create a workforce fit for today’s challenges.
- ICV is being used as a valuable tool for market development and to understand customers through the immersion of employees in different – often challenging – settings. Intel’s Education Service Corps programme reaches over 40,000 students and 1,000 teachers. It provides opportunities for stakeholder engagement and Intel then gets feedback on how its products and services are used in the market.
- ICV can also be used for supplier capacity building and to help with developing shared values and standards. Carrefour España’s Commercio Solidario created of a line of Ecuadorian food products for the Spanish market. The project helped farmers create small associations and achieve greater volumes. Carrefour volunteers worked during vacations on product quality improvement and planning and logistics, resulting in regular supply and good sales of product in store.
- 2011 has also seen ICV supporting company efforts in the outer Spheres of Influence. GlaxoSmithKline’s PULSE initiative makes a sustainable difference for communities and patients in need. As the programme focuses primarily on health issues, PULSE Volunteers have been able to use their professional skills to work on strategy, operational development, research, marketing and communications to enable sustainable revenue streams. Another example is that of IBM’s Executive Service Corps which puts top IBM experts on the ground to work with city leaders and make recommendations to support legislation change or build new partnerships.
2011 has seen ICV programmes help to build business; build employees and build companies’ licence to operate. Not all the examples above are innovations from purely the past year, but the European/International Year has brought a new energy and focus to corporate volunteering and ICV programmes.
The Bottom Line: ICV as a Swiss Army Knife can yield a range of business benefits including leadership and skills development around creativity, adaptability, emotional intelligence, communication – the list is truly limitless….
For more on ICV look out for Part 2, IBLF’s 10 Steps for Success in ICV which will appear on this blog in January
 ICV is a form of employee community engagement, where employees are given assignments outside their home country in order to contribute their skills to the improvement of the conditions of communities or social organisations or find solutions to specific challenges.