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Business Corps Volunteers Advance Long-Term Development in Rio

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Last month the global development world converged at Rio de Janeiro for the UN's Rio+20 conference on sustainable development. The Business Civic Leadership Center 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 -- which includes BCLC, Executives Without Borders and 10 member companies: Alcoa Foundation, 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 corporate social responsibility (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. Business Corps volunteers from Amadeus, Dow Chemical Company and HP partnered with Bola Pra Frente on several projects identified as mission-critical needs.

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.

Saúde Criança

Saúde Criança works to restructure and advance the self-sufficiency of families with children at social risk who are ill and referred to the program by public health units. The organization was founded over 20 years ago by Dr. Vera Cordeiro, who saw children being repeatedly admitted to Rio hospitals for illnesses that were exacerbated by systemic poverty.

Amadeus volunteers are also working to assist with the NGO's São Paulo operations and are providing assistance with business planning and implementation strategies, are translating press materials into Spanish on a weekly basis for publication, and are finalizing a comprehensive evaluation of Saúde Criança's marketing strategies and online donations systems.

IBM is completing a comprehensive diagnostic of all IT systems and is beginning work to improve user and document confidentiality and a new document sharing system. Dow Chemical Company continues supporting event logistics and planning.

CDI

CDI strengthens low-income communities in Brazil by empowering people with information and communication technology. The NGO equips residents with the skills they need to create their own job opportunities or to succeed in existing jobs.

With CDI, Business Corps member companies and their volunteers are investing in workforce preparedness in Brazil for years to come. By migrating CDI's IT systems, volunteers from HP, Amadeus, and Dow Chemical Company are investing in workforce preparedness in Brazil for years to come.

Ed Canaes, CDI's Director of Operations, said that the Business Corps' volunteer engagement forced the organization to think about problems with their technology systems that they had been pushing aside due to limited time and resources, and then to divide the problems into projects. Project meetings with volunteers set deadlines that helped CDI move the work on their email system migration forward.

In addition to IT support, Business Corps volunteers are working on updating CDI's communication and marketing plans. "Hiring people to do this work would be very expensive," Ed said.

We know that healthy communities and investment in workforce development are good for business. And after six months of work, the International Business Corps is already producing tremendous results for the NGOs, companies, corporate volunteers, and communities in Rio.