Amazon, Google, eBay and Facebook. Household names and some of the most disruptive technology businesses of their time. Everyone in the ICT industry has a wealth of knowledge on the technology behind these organisations, but how much do you know about their giving? And does it even matter?
As it turns out, it does matter, if you want to attract and retain top talent and have a competitive advantage. In 2014, PWC reports that 65% of people globally want to work for an organisation with a powerful social conscience. This shift has largely been driven by the rapidly growing numbers of Gen Y entering the workforce every year. Top Gen Y talent places strong expectations for their jobs and careers to have a clear sense of purpose and impact in the world. In addition, emerging markets like India, Vietnam and China, all of which have strong impact on the ICT industry, have workforces that increasingly want to be engaged with organisations that have a core philosophy around social good.
Companies like IBM have taken the lead in recognising the business sense in service and social responsibility. They have established the IBM Corporate Service Corps, which sends 500 young leaders annually on team assignments, across 30 countries in the developing world. Employees have 2 months of training while working full-time and then spend a month on the ground tackling a social issue. The result? Over 1000 social projects completed, increase in retention, leadership and skills development of talent through volunteerism.
Technology companies have 3 great resources to give: time (people), talent (skills and knowledge) and treasure (funds and products) to address the social issues of today. As an example, Salesforce use an integrated philanthropic approach, called the 1-1-1 model, based on a simple idea: leverage 1% of the company’s product, equity and time to improve global communities.
This is a model that Atlassian adapted, where its foundation donates 1% of its annual profit to charities, 1% of employee time to social projects and 1% of the company equity donated to the Atlassian foundation, whose vision is to advance humanity through the power of software and education. Meaningful giving is firmly embedded in Atlassian’s company culture and values, and founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar walk the talk themselves. It’s no coincidence that in 2014, Atlassian was voted Number 1 in BRW’s Best Places to Work list.
Beyond the feel good factor, what else is in it for ICT companies to be more engaged with social causes? Out of all sectors, ICT is playing an integral role in the rise of social innovation. Technology drives change and the process of inventing and implementing novel solutions to social problems puts the ICT sector in a very unique position to contribute to a sustainable society. Along with the increasing focus on impact investing, which has influenced the establishment of 4 social trading platforms since 2010, the combination of technology and social impact is rapidly placing the ICT sector on the cusp of a new era of growth.
So, how can individuals and ICT companies kick-start their giving mindset and practices in 2015? Australian technology expert and philanthropist, Daniel Petre, has spoken about how meaningful giving takes a 6-pronged approach: (a) apply a work-like energy and focus to philanthropy, (b) find something that you genuinely care about, (c) choose organisations with a track record of being able to move the dial, (d) only support activities that are worthy, do not fund mediocrity, (e) invest a meaningful amount of money, invest deep and make an impact (f) measure performance.
A non-profit organisation that has attracted the interest of technology companies and the ICT sector is Room to Read. Its founder, John Wood, left Microsoft in the late 1990s to establish Room to Read, which is focused on providing a quality education to children across Asia and Africa. His business acumen and experience as a Microsoft executive ensured that Room to Read was founded on business principles. He insisted on strong metrics, transparency, low overheads, efficiency and a results-focused approach. Business principles + social conscience = phenomenal sustainable impact. Room to Read recognises education as the game-changer in breaking the cycle of poverty. Since 2011, every year, Room to Read has opened up new libraries at a faster rate than McDonalds can open up new restaurants. As of 2014, the organisation has reached 8.8 million children and is on track to reach 10 million children by the end of 2015.
The dot-com boom was Version 1.0 for the ICT sector. A new opportunity and era has arrived. Combine technology and meaningful giving to create Version 2.0. This time, for the greater good.
This op-ed was originally published at Rust Report: http://www.rustreport.com.au/issues/latestissue/why-tech-should-give-back-%E2%80%93-dr-raji-ambikairajah/