Weaving the collaboration thread through CSI [African Bank Case Study]

Find the golden thread that takes CSI from boardroom box ticking and into company culture and conversations

Is there a way to get employees from a geographically diverse organisation to come together to create a culture of corporate volunteerism?

Yes. If you use data and insights and real human interaction – and do it with people in mind.

“Employees sit at the centre of our corporate volunteer programme. It’s the only way to ensure they are involved and to make a meaningful impact,” says Kennedy Dembetembe, Senior Manager: Corporate Social Investment (CSI), African Bank. “We also have a golden thread that runs through all of our volunteering and CSI initiatives so that everything we do is connected. Our focus is on education and our method for getting people involved is collaboration.”

So, African Bank did three things to cement its employee volunteering programme.

Let’s get started

First, the company collaborated with forgood to develop a volunteering platform that was aligned with the golden thread of education and allowed for employees to become involved in a variety of different programmes.

“We want our staff to find their own pathway so this platform lets them do what they want, what inspires them,” says Kennedy. “It set the tone for what we wanted to achieve as a culture and for our people. The platform also allows us to capture insights and data that lets us fine tune what we offer and gain deeper understanding into what our employees are interested in.”

Can CSI really change the way employees feel about your business? Read this.

Currently, more than 1,000 employees have signed up at African Bank HQ with the bank now on a drive to share the platform with the rest of the offices and employees around the country. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for people to sign up, pick a passion, and get started.

The second thing African Bank did was to collaborate with its people to launch the forgood platform. To do this, it dug up some old marketing banners.

Sorry, what?

“We found these old marketing materials that we no longer used like pull-up banners and decided to use the skills of the ladies that run Authentic Roots in Soweto,” says Kennedy. “This group of Gogos repurposed these banners into 5, 000 pencil bags. We then filled 1, 500 of these with stationery and gave them to the Winnie Mandela Secondary School in Tembisa. The remaining 3,500 pencil bags were distributed to learners across the country through staff within our Branch Network.”

The idea was simple. To keep the golden thread of education woven into the launch of a culture of volunteerism, the CSI team decided to do a drive to provide underprivileged students with the stationery they needed for a year. They organised handmade pencil cases, laid out candy apples and flags, built a stationery station in the foyer of African Bank, and got their employees to fill the cases in spare moments throughout the day. It was about participation, engagement, collaboration and community.

“The school is in the heart of an extremely poor community so we felt stationery was the right choice,” says Kennedy. “But we first consulted with the school to find out what they needed and then we went out and bought exactly that. We believe consultation is a big part of CSI – we have to accept that we don’t have the answers, they do.”

The launch event was designed to grab the hearts of the African Bank people and it worked. Now, the company is running a roadshow to explain the forgood platform to the different branches and once a quarter it is hosting a forgood-linked event that drives further awareness.

And the third thing?

African Bank collaborated with leadership to put KPIs in place that measured CSI activities as part of employee reviews. Starting from the top, the company has put “advancing lives and getting involved” as a measure in KPIs to ensure that people do one activity per quarter and fundraising for the NGO of their choice.

“This is not a tick box exercise,” concludes Kennedy. “It’s an ethos embedded into the organisation where everyone knows what is expected and required of them. We believe the most important thing is to be committed, as a company, to the lives of South Africans and we are focusing on doing so one volunteer at a time. Forgood has been instrumental to the success of the project – from launch to support at every turn – and now we are confidently able to say that we have a simple and transparent volunteer platform that works.”

The result of the programme? Employees have become increasingly involved in what forgood has to offer and they are bringing their own ideas forward, helping to make a difference in areas that are important to them. It’s become a space for African Bank people to do more as part of their roles and careers, and continues to grow across branch and office as more become involved.

Want to build an industry leading employee volunteering programme as part of your integrated CSI strategy? Talk to forgood.

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