Latin American Companies Actively Seek to Deepen Social Impact

The Global Pro Bono Network Summit for Latin America draws diverse participants to discuss social progress through cross-sector collaboration.

Achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a common agenda for the public, private, and social sectors in Latin America, and while partnership is recognized as a critical component toward this end, there has been no obvious pathway for cross-sector engagement and collaboration. Nevertheless, the will to take the necessary steps exists, and companies in the region are expressing interest in engaging with nonprofits and governments for social progress. PYXERA Global, in collaboration with the members of the Global Pro Bono Network, is promoting Global Pro Bono as a gateway to purposeful engagement. In late March, the two organizations teamed up to host the first Global Pro Bono Network Summit for Latin America in Mexico City.

Over the last 10 years, PYXERA Global has worked with US and European-based companies to implement over 100 global, regional, and local pro bono projects in 12 Latin American countries. These programs invite corporate employees to leverage their professional skills to assist social mission-driven host clients such as nonprofits, social enterprises, and government entities. In other words, corporate employee work as skilled volunteers, or pro bono consultants, for short-term engagements to support social causes important to the company they represent.

The pioneering work in Global Pro Bono (GPB) from companies like SAP, IBM, and 3M laid the foundation for new ways to partner, however GPB is still a nascent practice brimming with potential. Engaging companies with strong regional ties will support the paradigm shift from traditional volunteering, philanthropy, and development to a broader, skills-based approach benefiting not only the community, but also the corporate employees and the business—or, as the goal is commonly referred, the triple impact.

The pioneering work in Global Pro Bono from companies like SAP, IBM, and 3M laid the foundation for new ways to partner, however GPB is still a nascent practice brimming with potential.

The first Global Pro Bono Network Summit, hosted over two days in March 2019 at the 3M Innovation Center in Mexico City, introduced the concept of Global Pro Bono and demonstrated its value as a change agent in Latin America. The Summit convened over 100 participants from the public, private, and social sectors to discuss and engage with the idea of Global Pro Bono, which for many was their introduction to the approach.

When PYXERA Global Latin America Regional Leads Carolina Gowland and Fernanda Scur began collaborating with Mina Lopezlugo Tovar—the founder of Pro Bono Venture in Mexico and a member of the Global Pro Bono Network—to develop the Summit’s agenda, they knew it would be a challenge due to varying levels of understanding on the topic. However, given their expertise in coordinating partnerships among diverse interests, the Summit successfully gathered and engaged stakeholders from all three sectors to discuss Global Pro Bono, its implications, and its viability as a change agent for the region.

The Global Pro Bono Network serves to promote knowledge sharing, mutual support, and collaboration among pro bono providers from around the world. Among the activities conducted to achieve that goal, the network promotes global and regional summits hosted by its members. The primary goal for the first summit in Latin America was to introduce and define Global Pro Bono in the context of private companies. In the region, pro bono is associated with the service lawyers provide free of charge, therefore the Summit served as a spring board to demonstrate how pro bono is a broader, more powerful tool assisting companies in the region to go beyond traditional monetary donations, leveraging the talent and skills of employees to leave an enduring impact on the community.

Over two days, seven pro bono facilitating organizations from Latin America managed sessions on topics such as the triple impact, how to leverage Global Pro Bono programs, the business case for GPB, social impact, and cross-sector partnerships. Among the first implementing organizations for Global Pro Bono programs, PYXERA Global’s presence was instrumental in the workshops, panel sessions, and presentations to highlight the movement’s trajectory over the past 10 years through descriptions of successful programs, first-person accounts, and explanations of how leveraging a company’s most valuable resource, its human capital, is a growing trend within the private sector across the world.

Representatives from 3M, SAP, Johnson & Johnson, and IBM shared experiences about the impact of GPB programs on their business and employees. Jana Nieto, 3M Government Affairs & Social Responsibility Manager, spoke to the measurable benefits of employee engagement from the 3M Impact program. Joining Jana was José Caceres, SAP’s Head of Internal Communication for Latin America, and Alex Fernandez, Johnson & Johnson’s LATAM Leader for Employee Engagement, Global Community Impact. José spoke about SAP’s Global Pro Bono programs, the Social Sabbatical and the Corporate Champions for Education, the latter representing an opportunity for other companies to send one to five employees to join a multi-company pro bono cohort.

Alex spoke about the J&J Global Pro Bono Program, Talent for Good. For those companies interested in starting a Global Pro Bono program, Alex and José discussed new GPB models and trends, such as joint teams, exemplified through the recent J&J and IBM engagement in Chile. José explained the nuts and bolts of executing a GPB project, saying, “As companies, we identify a need, and the intermediary organizations bring us closer to the NGOs that are solving this problem, and that is when we share our knowledge with them.”

By the Summit’s conclusion, three main themes were clear:

  1. A paradigm shift from traditional volunteering and philanthropy to a skills-based volunteering approach is needed, but it will take time, as Global Pro Bono must be defined and clarified throughout Latin America.
  2. One of PYXERA Global’s State of the Practice survey results was confirmed; employee engagement is currently one of the main reasons for interest in GPB programs.
  3. Latin American companies are interested in implementing Global Pro Bono programs, specifically at the local and regional levels.

The conversations will continue in 2020 at the 2nd Global Pro Bono Latin America Summit in São Paulo, Brazil. Stay tuned!

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