Business Corps Volunteers Advance Sustainable Development in Rio

June 28, 2012

//Editor's Note: This is part 1 of 2. Read Part 2: Development in Rio.//

Last week the global development world converged at Rio de Janeiro for the UN's Rio+20 conference on sustainable development. BCLC was there with a twofold mission -- to be part of the conversation and to tell the story of the immense positive impact businesses are already making through community investments around the world (more on this on the Business For Good Map).  

One example of business investment in long-term development, the International Business Corps, is unfolding in Rio's favelas and low-income communities. The Business Corps is a corporate network that pairs skilled business volunteers with effective, local NGOs that will benefit from capacity-building support. The Business Corps -- comprised of BCLC, Executives Without Borders, and 10 member companies: Alcoa, Amadeus, Dow Chemical Company, Greif International, HP, IBM, Merck, Motorola and Tupperware -- launched in October 2011. 

The vision that drives the Business Corps is leveraging the skills, efficiency, and innovation of the private sector with the relationships, knowledge of local development challenges, and expertise of NGOs for a partnership yielding exponential community development impact. Members of the Business Corps love that they now have a platform for collaborative engagement in community development, which builds partnerships, dilutes risk, and catalyzes collective action.

From a strategic CSR standpoint, the Business Corps selected Rio as the focus of the first round of projects because of the desire to help facilitate a strong business environment and to invest in developing a strong workforce ready to engage in Rio’s emerging economy. Nineteen volunteers from four Business Corps companies are working with Rio's Bola Pra Frente, CDI, and Saúde Criança. I had the privilege of visiting each of these NGOs while in Rio. 

Bola Pra Frente

Bola Pra Frente uses the activity and language of soccer to educate children, teens, and their families to meet social challenges. It uses sport as the principal tool for developing values that support community development. In Brazil, children attend school for half a day, and in the favelas and low-income communities are often unsupervised for the other half of the day. While the pervasiveness of gangs and violence have improved, school drop-out rates are high even amongst elementary school students, making programs like Bola Pra Frente’s critically important for ensuring that students not only stay in school, but to ensure that Brazil’s emerging economy has a workforce to meet its increasing employment demands. 

Business Corps volunteers from Amadeus, Dow Chemical Company, and HP partnered with Bola Pra Frente on several projects identified as mission-critical needs. A volunteer from Amadeus is helping with marketing strategy, website, messaging, and portal development. “Before the Amadeus volunteer came, we had a marketing plan on paper, now Amadeus is working to create a new marketing plan and bring it to life, “ said Susana, Bola Pra Frente’s Executive Director. 

HP is working with Bola Pra Frente to translate their entire website into English, and a volunteer from the Dow Chemical Company provided event planning expertise. These projects are invaluable in building the NGO’s capacity to help Rio’s children. “When the (Business Corps) program started,” Susana said, “I had no idea the project would have such quick results.” She estimates that services provided to Bola Pra Frente are valued at $15,000 USD per month.

There have been other positive unanticipated outcomes from the Business Corps volunteers’ work, as well. The companies and volunteers that have been matched up with Bola Pra Frente have become very passionate about the work and have invested in the organization beyond their volunteer projects. Amadeus Brazil chose Bola Pra Frente for their annual volunteer day, which will occur on July 4th.  A volunteer from the Dow Chemical Company introduced Bola Pra Frente to a friend who owns a small event planning business and the owner ended up hiring two Bola Pra Frente program graduates.  “The Business Corps benefits extend beyond the NGOs,” the Dow volunteer said of her experience working with Bola Pra Frente. “It changed my perspective on what I can do to help.”

After six months of work the Business Corps' is already producing tremendous results.  Check-in tomorrow to see my next blog post about the Business Corps' work with Saúde Criança, which advances the self-sufficiency of low-income families with ill children, and CDI, which empowers low-income people through information and communications technologies. 

Next: Development in Rio: Business Corps Companies Offer IT, Marketing, and Other Pro Bono Skills