Belo Horizonte, Brazil is best known as the bar capital of the world, but I swear that’s not the reason I have been there three times so far in 2012. As a Program Manager for CDC Development Solutions, I am responsible for helping corporations run their international corporate volunteer programs in developing countries around the world. I have had the honor and privilege to help SAP launch their endeavor into the ICV world this year with their first pilot program in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. I got to spend the first week with the Belo Bunch (the name they endearingly gave themselves) earlier this month, and the experience was nothing less than profound and inspiring.
Nine SAP employees from all over the world arrived in Brazil’s third largest – and mostly unknown – city with a mix of excitement and trepidation: excitement over the fact of being in a foreign country embarking on an exciting adventure; trepidation over being away from home, friends and family for a month. After the first weekend, however, we got to know each other through ice-breaker exercises and various meals and drinks together. Like explorers rounded up to venture off into unknown territory, the sense of being on the same boat and questing for the same objective – to employ their world-class skills and expertise in helping advance and develop the “Third Sector”, non-profit organizations, in Brazil – really helped meld the team together.
The team is split into three groups of three, each working on a different project with a different client. The team working with Rede Cidadã, an organization that trains at-risk youth to obtain employable skills and coordinates with companies to hire them has focused on improving the organization’s infrastructure and human resources capabilities. The folks helping Mãos de Minas, an organization that brings local artisan-created arts and crafts to national and international consumers, have focused on their supply-chain logistics strategy and best practices to improve their capacity to help artisans get their products to market. And the teamwith Asmare, an association of catadores (recyclable material collectors), has taken on the daunting task of overhauling their entire communications strategy, complete with re-branding, new and effective talking points and a website.
Now that I am back in Washington, DC, it has been really exciting to follow the team from afar on Twitter (@jan_seger, @evwelsh, @hkolar, @MonikaBlo, @jahoffman216, @andrewagner,@miwa70, @tijsvanlier and @olenademeter), blogs and emails. The work they are doing, and what they will be able to accomplish in just one short month, is amazing. I am left with a sense of pride and accomplishment knowing that I had a small part in putting together a wonderful team of incredibly smart, talented and dedicated people on projects that will have a lasting impact on their respective organizations.