"The importance of social actions and corporate volunteering" - Felisa Liss

"The importance of social actions and corporate volunteering" - Felisa Liss

Dr. Felisa Liss - CSR Session (CUMIPAZ 2016)

Thank you very much. First of all, good morning to all, and I want to thank the organization of Activists for Peace for the warm welcome from the moment I arrived at the airport until this moment, thank you very much. And also to thank Mrs. Raquel, who since the beginning answered all my concerns, and to Dr. Ivan Sarmiento who also, was in contact with me.

For me this day is a very special day. I am with you, I am here present, but I also want to share that yesterday, and today, the Jewish people celebrate their new year, that is to say ... [Shaná Tová! - voice among the audience] Exactly! Thank you. It is what I wanted to say, let me greet you as we greet people all over the world (and I see you already know it, too): Shaná Tová! Good year!

And with this opportunity, too, let me remind you of our beloved ex-President Shimon Peres, who passed away last week at the age of 93, and I believe he was an entrepreneur and activists for peace on a global scale, and today, thanks to the founding of the Center of Peres Studies "Le Shalom" for Peace, individuals come to study the theme of all the countries of the world.

And if we talk about volunteering, I would like to comment here and see it from another point of view. What is corporate volunteering?

I think I found the phrase that says it all: “We earn a living by what we get, but we make a living by what we give.” And I think that explains what it is to be a volunteer. That is to say, all of us present know what it is to be voluntary: we are the ones who give life to an organization, in a place…and either once a week, once every ten days, we deliver what we can give

But the question is: What is corporate volunteering? What is it that we call...? We have the definition here, it's very nice, but I ask myself the question: Do we have corporate volunteering?

I can give examples of my country, Israel. In the past few days (all of last week), all businesses, from small children in high schools to large companies, said, “No house will run out of food on New Year's Day.” It was incredible to believe; children, youth waiting for us at the supermarket entrance, gave us a list telling us how we could collaborate.

Then companies provided in their areas; and there the other companies of cardboard boxes gave their cardboard boxes, and they were accommodating the provisions. Transportation companies gave their transport, and therefore, they were distributed to all the houses because nobody could stay without celebrating.

But I ask myself the question: Is it only two days a year that these people need to eat? Only two days a year where companies collaborate in this way? Is that corporate volunteering? Is that the support?

I'll give you another example. We have (maybe in your countries, too) once a year the day of good contacts, good ideas. And what is done on that day? A whole week, from the children in the school to the big companies, they give donations, they are going to paint houses, help; but, is that done once a year? Could we not do it constantly?

A few days before I came here, I had...I volunteer in the municipality near where I live, and they called me on the phone and said, “You know, in the municipality it was decided that you cannot do a single day a year of good deeds, we want to do it constantly. Can you support us?” And I really said: We are moving one step further. What is going to happen, I hope I have another opportunity and I will comment; but that is the idea, the idea is that companies understand that not only once a year, or once every so often, we collaborate voluntarily.

We want this to stop being a trend, we want for volunteering to be an everyday thing for companies; for it to be something that (all of us who are here, who understand volunteering) we help companies understand.

Now, how is this done? We have the IMPACT 2030. It is intended that up until 2030 corporate value be a tool of private service to society as a whole. How do we do this? In what way can we do it? That is the great question.

And now, I want to tell you something that we have been doing in Israel for several years now, since my colleagues before me called it, “education begins at home”, education through volunteering begins at home and begins at school.

When I was preparing this conference, I began to think: when was my initiative to educate about volunteerism born? And suddenly I remembered that when I was little, in Argentina, every Sunday morning my dad went out with another group of friends to go from house to house and raise money for the poor.

And that I think was the best education. While the other kids were going for a walk, my dad gave me the example of what volunteering is in itself.

Almost 10 years ago the Israeli Ministry of Education decided to look at things differently. At first it was to think of how we could reduce the violence in the schools by giving the responsibility to the children. And that's how social classes were born or what we like to call: the key to the heart.

Initially it was done in pilot form, but then realized that the key to the heart focuses the values ​​in the different social circles. That is, the child comes to school, and from the beginning knows his family, then the child in the classroom, then the child in school, and then at the level of community society.

At the moment that this effort began it changed schools (where it is actually managed), it changed the way of teaching, changed the form of behavior; and so you can have an idea: how did they do it? Something very simple, each child had its function, but, how was it managed? It was not that I as a teacher would say, “You are in charge of this, you are in charge of this, you are in charge of this.” No.

Each child chooses the task, either minimal things like erasing the board, or things like having the key to the classroom and being responsible for all the children to go to recess and that no one be left behind. Either to see the cleanliness, whether... But on the other hand we also have the culture of committee, the committee of using the computer, etc., etc. And here began what is volunteering.

It first started in the classroom, and then continued throughout school. Again, at school everyone chose what committee they wanted to be in. And you have to see what election week is like. It is, above all (my apologies to all, because we all know how elections are in our countries), it is respected, they respect each other, and that is why they bring posters that say, “Vote for me on the technology committee, because I studied computer science and this and that,” and they are with their posters, “Vote for me for recreational activities.”

I want to tell you that active recreation... I do not know of...I usually, when groups come to Israel, I take them to schools to learn what active recreation is, and they ask me: how can we transform it, how can we do it? And I was fortunate to advise in Monterrey, Mexico, and tell them. Then says Dolores, who is the director of “WhatsApp” (also a volunteering organization), says: “I want to do it in Monterrey, but in high schools,” I said: “I am with you.”

And I went a few months ago and she says, “I have to take you to see how this is handled.” The students and the principal approached each other, and she said: “It completely changed the behavior of students in school. And we also have the school security committee.” Suddenly... You know that when a child educates another child they are much stronger than when an adult educates them.

Also the school newspaper, order and cleanliness, the library, the committee of ecology… Today in Israel the whole ecology part received great support; and here I want to say: children can educate parents by saying, “The containers go here, cardboard goes here, normal trash goes there,” and it is education; they educate us.

Now, we also have the committee of conflict mediation. Who said that we, the adults, know better than children on how to handle conflicts? It is true, in all these committees we have a teacher who guides them and we also have the school leadership committee that directs everything that is happening in the school. And the commission that also helps all national life in the community, which we are here today, to see how we handle it.

Here we have children organized with the help of a teacher. We have sports activities, we have meetings with members of society; that are interested in coming to schools, whether politicians, whether writers, artists or entrepreneurs...who begin to explain.

And so it is (as I said before): donations to families in need, active recreation with the community, voluntary activities for the good of the community. Parents understand that they have to collaborate with the school and they do it with much love.

That is to say, they are our future, they are the ones that when they attain..., and we already have young people that went through this form of work in schools, they are working in companies; they are not going to say: why do they need volunteers because it is part of them.

Now, what benefits...? Now check, make a comparison between the benefits of the institution, the school and the benefits if we were talking about a company:

- Elevates moral, personal satisfaction; you are going to see smiling children, smiling teachers.

- Institutional pride: the whole community is talking about them, yes, because they came to the nursing home yesterday and oh how they danced and how they sang.

- They motivate

- It gives a completely different image to the institution.

- New habits: they behave differently; and it improves the working environment, for teachers and the behavior of children as well.

And the most important part of the meeting that we are also talking about here:

- Strengthens the bond with the community.

Now, let's go back...this is the school, these are the benefits, but let's go back to what we were talking about regarding what corporate volunteering is all about.

We need commitment; we need responsibility, a consistency, and, above all, motivation. But something that continues, that is not a trend.

Now, for it to continue and not just as a trend, what should we do? We need a methodology. We cannot decide tomorrow that we will do it, because it is impossible. We need preparation, we need previous training to know the motivations of all employees, of all the people who are there; define strategy goals. And so, in this way, we need tools to know how to handle it, and so we have to see the relevant aspects.

First of all, we have to take into account, since we have in each company different areas and different directors, decide on a volunteer area. We need a consultant to help us know how to do that. The advisor must, first of all, sit down with the management of the company and say, “What do you propose, what are the needs? Based on that we can begin to form it.”

How often do you want? Once a week, once every ten days, a group here, a group there; and above all, also, what is the budget? Because we are all here voluntarily, but there is a budget that brought us all here, we must also take it into account.

And then talk to employees, see what their motivations are, what do they want to give? Because it may be that some are perfect in computing, but they say, “I want to collaborate, I saw that there is a little school that is abandoned, the whole part of the lawn, I want to organize there, to have flowers and everything else.”

And also listen to people’s frustrations, orient the concept of volunteering, be creative and innovative (take it into account). This is also a preparation.

I could also tell you that two or three weeks ago... In Israel the municipalities are very advanced in the volunteer part; there is no municipality that does not have its volunteer area, and in one of those...I call them trips or knowledge on the subject, I was recently on a farm.

A family had a few acres and did not know what to do, and decided to collaborate with the community. They heard that there was a school near their house that had students (middle school) that has student who are lost for either “x” or “y” reason; either because they have taken drugs, or because of behavioral problems, and they said, “Give me 15 boys like these to come and work on my farm. I may also have the possibility of housing.” But that also requires assistance, for that also requires collaboration.

And one of the collaborations they asked for was a company that maybe you have heard of (because it's an international drip irrigation company), Netafim; and they went to ask for help with everything related to drip irrigation. When they went to ask, the company went and told them: on one condition. And what was the condition? We are willing to help, but we want to volunteer once a week to go and help those children.

Logically, it is something not so common. I went out to be there when the Netafim group, of drip irrigation, and I was observing the people and each one already adopted one of the students. Then I hear that while they are working on the land, one says, “How are you in math? Do you want me to help you with something else?”

Then I saw, together there, preparing the food with all the vegetables that they have there. And you know? Every weekend they pick up fruits and vegetables and they hold a fair. People from all over the area come to buy, and the money that is gathered is distributed among the boys who are there.

When I spoke to the principal (about these young men being there), he says, “It's amazing how these boys have come along, and it’s incredible, the need to go and work there on the farm.”

Now, that is, that companies contributions must be:

- Sectorial awareness.

- The base of employees outside of work.

- Economic power,

And as we have already mentioned, logically:

- The financial resources.

Another example of Israel’s life is in a territory (we call them cities), in one of its low socio-economic cities, a local company (perhaps you’ve heard of, Intel, high-tech) decided to adopt the whole city; either...especially the schools, because the level was very low.

The moment they entered voluntarily, there came a time in which the boys had to prepare to take exams; they did not care about the hours, they did not care how long they were, what they cared about was that these children pass the exam well so they could continue.

Today that area reached a...if it was here it reached up to there, and they continue to support them. That’s why I tell you that the best prize for volunteering, for the volunteer, is to volunteer; and support once in the company, that the company understand the importance of volunteering.

I would like to tell you that the road is still long and movement is just beginning. We will continue to march together for a future that will give all citizens more security.

And finally, a memory that maybe will help us all reflect: supporting people, supporting the future...and we have here the founder of Bridgestone (which you surely, each of you may know about their tires), who said, “Throughout the years I have been convinced that a business that only seeks profit, will never prosper; but a business that contributes to society and the country will always be profitable.”

Thank you very much, and remember, we earn a living with what we receive, but we make a living with what we give. Thank you.