ABV attends US Department of State International Corporate Volunteering Forum
Wednesday, 29 May, 2013
Sarah O’Connor recently attended a forum on International Corporate Volunteering, hosted by the US State Department in Washington. As IBM celebrates it’s fifth year of running its Corporate Services Corps, it was heralded as the leader in the field. As a key partner of IBM to deliver the CSC, ABV plays a significant role in contributing to the success of the program, sending nearly 500 IBMers since 2008 on programs across ASEAN countries and China.
Stan Litow, President of the IBM Foundation, called on other companies to develop similar programs: “If only 100 of Fortune 500 companies sent 500 of their top talent on such assignments, we could collectively deploy 50,000 of the most talented leaders around the world to solve some of the most difficult problems facing society and, in the process, create remarkable goodwill."
Wednesday, 29 May, 2013
ABV's long-standing partnership with IBM to implement their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Program has just wrapped up a three-week Smarter Cities Challenge in Christchurch, New Zealand. A team of six IBM executives travelled from four different countries to work with the City of Christchurch on economic development ideas for the earthquake-ravaged city.
Enjoy some of the team's stories of their community service and other activities, impressions and thoughts of their time in New Zealand by viewing their blog on:
You can also view blogs from other teams participating in IBM's CSR initiatives on the same site.
ABV Corporate Programs: Strengthening businesses and, through them, communities!
Monday, 25 March, 2013
ABV volunteers are profiled in the media, highlighting how their expertise as consultants, small business owners and executives has enabled them to use their talents to transfer their skills to the businesses and communities ABV supports.
To read more follow the links to media articles:
Thursday, 22 November, 2012
In December 2012, IBM won the 2012 Australian Human Resource Institute Ian Kiernan Award for Corporate Social Responsibility for their Corporate Services Corps program.
ABV congratulates IBM for developing such an innovative model of engaged philanthropy which recognises the need for broader partnerships between corporates, not-for-profits and governments to achieve a social end.
ABV has partnered with IBM in delivering this program since its inception in 2008 and it has gone from strength to strength every year.
Read more: http://citizenibm.com/
Focus on the Solomon Islands
Friday, 14 September, 2012
Australian Business Volunteers (ABV) currently operates in 18 countries, including Australia, throughout the Asia Pacific region. We are always exploring opportunities to expand our global impact through new corporate partnerships and we have the capacity to work wherever our services are.
This month we focus on our work in the Solomon Islands.
ABV has a history of working closely with business, government and communities and continues to do so through it’s expert volunteers. The Solomon Islands is a resource rich country but which is also one of the poorest in the region. Lacking in the institutional capacity to best utilise these natural resources, the Solomon Islands have had further constraints placed on development a lack of law and order, high illiteracy rates and a deficiency of basic service delivery in health and education.
With a population increasing at a fast rate, and a largely rural population that depends on subsistence agriculture, the Solomon Islands are well positioned to grow and thrive due to the support ABV is able to provide.
Since our inception, ABV have sent 152 volunteers to undertake assignments in ‘the Solomon’s’.
This September we will have several volunteers in country undertaking diverse assignments which include; Implementing Standard Operating Procedures at National Public Health Laboratory; Legal and Community Education Training at the Public Solicitor's Office and assisting with the improvement of the IT Department at the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education. These assignments were managed under the auspices of the Australian Volunteers for Development Program (AVID). We have recently run two other AusAID funded programs in Solomon Islands. One was with the Festival of Pacific Arts, where we sent five stage managers to assist with the running of the festival. The other was with the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education where we provided four volunteers.
An exciting new initiative to assist the people of the Solomon Islands do business better has been created through the involvement of ABV volunteers. Recently launchedby the Prime Minster Gordon Darcy Lilo, who pledged his government support, the introduction of the new Domestic Money Transfer Service by Solomon Islands Postal Corporation (SIPC) will benefit the rural and remote populace. ABV expert volunteer, Fiona Stewart, will be involved in taking this project forward. The service was one of the components of the Business Development Plan Strategy that Fiona had helped develop in 2011.
ABV was successful in gaining the support of the Central Bank of Solomon Islands, UNDP and AusAid to ensure this work continues.
At the launch, Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo declared,“I am convinced that the launch of this product is timely given the scaling down of many of the agencies and branches of our banks throughout the country in particular in many of our rural economies of our country.” He added that through the product, many more services and products will reach rural dwellers.
With the new service in place, which operates similarly to an ATM card, rural dwellers will spend less time and money selling their produce and will instead spend more time in helping to build the wealth of the community.
ABV is proud to be making a difference to the lives of the Solomon Islands people.
A volunteer shares her experience
Friday, 20 July, 2012
For the usual reasons - last luggage off the plane; questions for foreigners with working visas - my husband and I were the last passengers to emerge from the customs hall. Besides the gaggle of hopeful touts and taxi drivers, only two other people stood by the door. The younger one dubiously raised a sheet of paper with my name on it. As we approached, the older one, even more dubiously, declared “But you are not an African!” “That is true.” I replied, “But does it matter?” He smiled. “Your name has confused me. I was expecting an African man and you are a European woman.” Inwardly I smiled and thanked my long-departed mother for giving me a name that for the past sixty years has never failed to be a great conversation starter. During this exchange the driver stowed our luggage, ushered us into the waiting car and set off for Medan, the third largest city of Indonesia. As the driver slipped his way skilfully through the clamouring early morning traffic Vice Rector Professor Berlin Sibarani introduced himself. “Your own name is interesting for an Indonesian”, I said. To which he replied, “Ah yes, I was born after the war and my father had heard this name. So we both have names that confuse people.” It was a relaxed start to amonth long ABV assignment as lecturer trainer and capacity builder at Universitas Negeri Medan (UNIMED), Northern Sumatra.
The conversation continued. “We will start the day with breakfast” declared Berlin, which was an appealing proposal given that we had boarded the flight from Singapore very early. “That would be very much appreciated,” said I, “but I should explain that we are vegetarians”. He turned from his front seat to look at us with considerable curiosity. “Does that mean you don’t eat meat at all?” he asked incredulously. “That’s right. No beef, lamb, pork or chicken. We do eat seafood and fish though.” There was a pause as he digested this information then he turned to the driver and they discussed this oddity in Bahasa Indonesian. We had enough familiarity with the language to follow their exchange as they tried to think of a vegetarian restaurant. This was an ABV request they had not encountered before. As the driver dodged down streets of increasing narrowness, Berlin sought reconfirmation. “How long have you been like this?” he enquired, making vegetarianism sound more like an affliction than a choice. By the time we had explained, the car was pulling up in front of a typical back street Asian restaurant in which we found the freshest and most varied array of vegetarian dishes we had seen for a long time. It was a great choice. Driver Harry declined to join us for a meal – he later joined us whenever we ate fish – having told Berlin that he thought a meal without meat was simply not a meal at all. Berlin, however, declared that he found the experience most enjoyable and over the course of the assignment he was happy to take us back there several times. Sharing meals prompted many conversations about diet, health, vegetarianism, and different cultural approaches to food. Although we have travelled throughout Asia for many years we shared with Berlin our first experience of eating durian at a night stall, on a frantic roadside, under a leaking tarpaulin, in a tropical downpour. To avoid getting drenched we huddled together as he explained the finer points of durian appreciation. It was part of an ongoing exchange of culinary experiences that enriched both parties over the course of the month.
Thankfully we did more than eat during our stay in Medan. The university consisted of a large number of low rise building of eclectic styles spread over a huge area and all connected with a one way grid road system and wonderfully maintained tropical gardens. It had begun life as a teachers’ training college before gaining university status and teacher training across a variety of discipline areas is still the major focus. Enrolment is about 20,000. A number of faculties have bilingual studies and one of the unexpectedly beneficial outcomes was the opportunity for both students and staff to hear workshops given by native English speakers. The workshops were developed around the philosophy and practices of student centred learning, how to design appropriate and varied assessment and the design and use of rubrics in assessment and evaluation of achievement. More than 400 lecturers and final year students attended the workshops and question time proved very lively. We learnt that when Indonesians ask questions, they ask several long questions at once. By the time they got to the end, we had practically forgotten the first question. It was necessary to jot down a couple of keywords as they spoke in order to remember exactly what was being asked. It was definitely a two way exchange of skills! Not all workshops were with competent English speakers. A number were Bahasa speakers only and for us, learning to deliver through an interpreter had to be a rapidly acquired skill. The pace certainly changes as does the your feel for how well the material is being received or understood. Keeping the interpreter focussed on the topic is also a necessary skill.
But eating had an important role in workshops as well. Each attendee was given a small box containing at least three savoury and/or sweet snacks as well as strong, very sweet tea or coffee. As guests we were expected to take several of these away with us each time.During our stay there was an ongoing debate in the Jakarta Postabout the quality and nutritional value of the snack boxes supplied to parliamentarians. Should the cost be reduced from 20,000 rupiah ($2) to 10,000 rupiah? Should they hire a nutritionist at great expense to evaluate the government snack boxes? Whatever the outcome for the Indonesian Government, we felt that the UNIMED snack boxes were very much appreciated by all and if the variety of store names we saw on the different boxes was any indication, UNIMED is wisely and widely distributing its contribution to the local food economy.
Medan’s main appeal for tourists is as a transit point to get to Samosir Island, the world’s largest island contained within an island and in the fifth largest lake in the world, Lake Toba. It was a four hour drive and a 30 minute boat ride but the peace and quiet was most welcome after Medan. It is the centre of Batak culture and where Medan is 95% Muslim, the Batak are 95% Christian. The other attractions are the orang-utans at Bukit Lawang, a three hour drive. Driver Harry and his wife accompanied us for the weekend and we had almost as much pleasure watching them enjoy a very rare sojourn away from Medan as we did viewing the very endangered orang-utans. “The feeding station is a short ten minute walk from the entrance” declared the guide book.Hmmm. We slipped and slithered, sweated and swore, puffed and panted our way up a steep jungle-clad slope for 30 minutes with my husband pausing occasionally to catch his breath and ponder out loud “I wonder what David Attenborough would do at this point?” But victory was ours when we finally reached the feeding platform and saw five magnificent animals come in from the jungle of their own free will to enjoy some bananas and a cup of milk.
This was our third ABV assignment; each one has been different and given us different rewards. While locations can have their challenges (though never insurmountable), the people one works with, the satisfaction of a job well done and the shared experiences such as eating together or slogging up muddy jungle trails are the unforgettable gifts of being a volunteer. From our perspective, long may ABV continue to offer capacity building to the Asia Pacific region and long may we be healthy and emotionally wealthy enough to participate in the process. It’s a skills exchange for all parties. Ngaire Douglas
Monday, 9 July, 2012
A changing of the guard at ABV has placed Chair, Sarah O’Connor in the CEO seat left vacant by Michael Lynch last month, with Deputy Chair, Jonathan Pinshaw elected to the position of Chair of the ABV Board.
With over 8000 international volunteer assignments in 18 countries around the globe placed by ABV in its 30 year history, the task predominant for the new leaders will be to guide the already successful organisation into the next phase of growth and development.
Jonathan Pinshaw, a mentor with executive coaching firm, Stephenson Mansell, has been with ABV as a board director since 2010. He has a solid, long career history working with large household brand names in senior roles including Chairman of Barbeques Galore, Super A-Mart and Just Group, Deputy Chairman of John Fairfax Holdings, CEO and Managing Director of OPSM Group, where he established the award-winning Community I-Care program and as Managing Director of Freedom Furniture. He currently sits as a non-executive director of Burger King New Zealand and a Board Advisor to Bras N Things.
“Australia has an enviable record in providing volunteers to developing communities in order for alleviate poverty. ABV plays a very special role by being able to provide volunteers who are experienced business experts and who provide long term sustainable solutions.
ABV's board is focused on the organisation's long term capability to provide the volunteer services as it has done for the last 30 years. This means employing the very best staff and selecting the most qualified volunteers for relevant and meaningful assignments. It also means putting the organisation on a financially sustainable footing and growth path. I am committed to ensuring that the good work that ABV has done over the past three decades continues well into the future – in more communities, with more volunteers and with even greater impact.
We shall be seeking to grow our co-operation with both government agencies and business corporations in order to generate funding and capacity to deliver our valuable services,” said Mr Pinshaw today.
New CEO, Sarah O’Connor, spent five years working in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, including the Social Inclusion Unit where she drove the Government’s not-for-profit reform agenda. Most recently, she has worked with a range of Australian not-for-profit organisations in an advisory and business development capacity. Sarah has been a volunteer with ABV since 2003 and an elected member of ABV’s board since November 2009. Sarah was elected Chair of ABV in 2011.
“As a former ABV volunteer and Board Director, I am very aware of the value of our work to the businesses and communities within which we work. I look forward to building on the work of ABV, maintaining the essence of what we do best, but also recognising that the world in which ABV operates - the not-for-profit and international development sector - is experiencing significant change in the way it addresses social issues. I'll be working with a team of committed and professional staff, the Board and our volunteers to ensure ABV is innovative and collaborative in the way we embrace change with a view to long-term impact.”
The new appointments commenced on July 1st.
Tuesday, 1 May, 2012
Local Indigenous organisations, Girudala Community Cooperative Society Ltd in Bowen, and the Gudjuda Reference Group Aboriginal Corporation in Ayr, are experiencing an increase in performance efficiency due to the involvement of Australian Business Volunteers (ABV), Optus and Townsville Indigenous Coordination Centre (ICC) through a corporate social responsibility program involving a team of Optus business volunteers.
The program, facilitated by ABV, has seen Optus send two of its best managerial staff, Shelley Davis and Maria Harrison, to assist the organisations on two projects, each of five week duration.
The projects included the development of a strategic plan for the Girudala Society’s main source of income, the Flagstaff 360 café, enabling growth and greater opportunity for the café at Bowen, whilst in Ayr, the program ensured the development of a clearer, strategic vision and a Reconciliation Action Plan to enable future growth for the Gudjuda, which will also help meet the demand for skilled workers across the fast developing traditional owner lands from the Whitsundays north to Townsville and west into the coal and gold mining regions
Girudala CEO, Michelle Hooke says: “This project has provided invaluable experience for Optus staff to work alongside Girudala in a unique cultural exchange program that has been beneficial to both parties. After the project, stakeholders will be able to better understand where Girudala has come from, where we are at present and we are heading in the future and how they can be part of it.”
Mr Eddie Smallwood, the Gudjuda Reference Group Chairperson said that Gudjuda had set up a not for profit social enterprise for Indigenous business development and employment, and the Optus project has assisted to build the Gudjuda capacity to meet the business and employment objectives.
Ms Jean Sum, Program Manager Partnerships for ABV, has reported that excellent feedback has been given at the near conclusion of the programs with comments about the high quality of the volunteer business advisers provided by Optus.
ABV provide corporate social responsibilities programs for leading organisations in Australia and around the world including a premier program for IBM, which has been named the No.1 CSR program by US magazine, Fortune.
Sunday, 15 April, 2012
“‘Just an update on Rainbow Bakery... after 19 years of operating we have made a sales record on Christmas day with sales of over T$6000! The knowledge that (Australian volunteer) Martin Warnes has left behind has been used wisely and thanks to you all for the support in our business...” email sent by Vili & Annie Malupo & Staff from Rainbow Bakery, Nukualofa Tonga.
The assignment at hand was ‘Up skilling knowledge in bakery industry’ for host organisation, Rainbow Bakery, Nukualofa, Tonga and the results achieved by Australian volunteer, Martin Warnes during his eight week assignment were significant in creating sales records not seen before.
Rainbow Bakery was established in 1992 and its core business producing and selling confectionary, pastries and bread products. They also distribute bread to retail shops around Tonga. 70% of the current products are white sandwich bread, bread rolls, burger bun and sweet buns. Other products include cakes, sponge cakes and scones.
The bakery has 20 staff, 14 of which have no baking background. They had requested assistance in improving baking quality and in producing new products. They also wanted assistance in addressing the lack of consistency in baking.
The overall goal was to have the Rainbow bakers trained in different recipes and to develop techniques which would improve the quality of pastries, creating opportunities for the business to improve and expand their market and diversify of product lines.
The four main objectives being;
- To provide staff with improving the quality of bread being produced
- To offer suggestions on how to diversify the bakery’s product lines
- To explore methods for increasing their sales and market
- To improve current capacity of staff and the business
Martin Warnes, a catering professional from NSW was sent on the assignment, perfectly matched to the bakery with his impressive experience and business acumen which seen him successfully running his own award winning bakery and setting up international hotel training schools.
Martin worked seven days a week to thoroughly understand the issues of the bakery and to achieve their goals – and beyond! He was thoroughly impressed with the counterpart he worked with who was able to pick up the skills he taught straight away and able to replicate the baking products he showed just once or twice, commenting that he had only come across a handful of these individuals in his lengthy career.
Whilst working in Tonga, Martin was pleased with his renovated living quarters as well as the meals provided to him on workdays, making life away from home easier.
The Rainbow Bakery continues to go from strength to strength as the effects of this ABV assignment volunteer experience continue long after the volunteer has left.
Sunday, 18 December, 2011
ABV is building a solid reputation as a provider of excellent corporate social responsibility programs, training tomorrow’s leaders and creating win-win partnerships with organisations in developing and emerging countries as well as at home, working in indigenous communities.
With high profile organisations such as IBM already on board (IBM’s Corporate Services Corps program facilitated in a range of countries by ABV has been named the No. 1 leadership program in US magazine Fortune, as well as being lauded by Harvard Business School research) and several other significant companies poised to commence, future is looking extremely bright for the ABV Partnership team.
In order to forge new partnerships with large multi-national organisations who will benefit from the leadership programs, ABV CEO, Michael Lynch and ABV General Manager Partnerships, Helen Bird, embarked on a whirlwind trip through Africa, United Arab Emirates, Germany and the UK in October and November.
The aim of the trip was to introduce Michael Lynch, CEO to contacts and opportunities made on a previous trip by Helen and to continue discussions with these corporate organisations around their adoption of ABV leadership programs, ABV Training courses and ABV Expert Advisor opportunities. They also introduced the concept of international corporate volunteering to new audiences.
“The trip introduced us to many senior decision makers ranging from several Heads of Government Ministries and their teams in Botswana, top business leaders in Johannesburg, Maputo and London and to a memorable meeting with a member of the Royal family in Dubai . The calibre of several meetings was such that the Australian Trade Commissioners in UAE and Germany attended to act as hosts and introduce ABV,” explained Michael Lynch.
Countries visited by Helen and Michael included Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban in South Africa, Botswana – Gaborone, Mozambique – Maputo; Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE; Michael returned to CEO duties in Australia as Helen continued on to Frankfurt, Essen and Cologne in Germany and London. In total six countries and 11 cities were visited and 44 meetings were held during this time.
As an international Rotarian, Helen was invited to be a key speaker at both the Rotary Club of Frankfurt and Rotary Club of Westminister West (London). A co-hosted event run by Austrade West Europe and Australian Business in Europe (ABIE) featured a roundtable in Frankfurt attended by a number of European business leaders and chaired by Helen.
“The work of ABV was well received at the various meetings we attended,” said Helen back on Australian soil. “The flexibility of ABV to tailor programs for different types of industry groups and senior leaders through to graduates was well noted and the role of ABV programs and personnel in supporting local communities in Southern Africa was welcomed by both government ministries and also mining companies, who have since requested proposals and next steps. It reinforced that there were potentially some good opportunities for ABV in markets that we traditionally have not worked in before.”
A highlight of the trip was an invitation to attend a Business in the Community (BITC) seminar on Public Reporting Guidelines: Employee Wellness and Engagement, which was attended by over 200 HR and CSR executives from major UK companies. This is a hot topic, as the outcomes of Engagement combined with Wellness enables sustainable employee performance and companies are realizing that this in turn offers better recruitment and retention, better brand image and higher productivity. ABV Leadership Programs provide similar outcomes and it is useful that companies are now provided with a way of reporting outcomes.
So where to from here you may ask?
After their busy trip, there is still much work needed to set up potential partnerships. Thank you emails and carefully costed proposals have been sent out and then there are regular follow-ups. A business development professional, Helen is used to doing the ground work it takes to make partnerships a reality. “Our experience tells us that we work on long sales cycles, so the work that is put in today could take some time to come to fruition. The decision makers that we met need to take our proposals to their CEO’s or Boards, which usually takes much longer than we would hope. Having been doing this work for a long time I also say it’s like playing the board game Monopoly – the roll of the dice can quickly change the outcome. One moment you are progressing well and then you pull the ‘go to jail card’ and need to start all over again. It’s all about developing and growing relationships, persistence and working with the decision makers, who are the best ally and champion for ABV. “
Stay tuned to hear more about ABV’s new partnerships and for more information on how ABV helps businesses to create tomorrow’s leaders and help emerging and developing communities here and abroad see http://www.abv.org.au/corporate/