Lessons from IBM’s skills-based ‘service corps’

Five years after it was founded, IBM’s Corporate Service Corps has become one of the best-known corporate volunteerism programs. The program has already sent more than 2,400 volunteers to developing countries, where they work side-by-side for a month with local NGOs and organizations.

Speaking with Devex Impact on the sidelines of the International Corporate Volunteerism conference in Washington D.C., Gina Tesla, IBM’s director of corporate citizenship, said the program has become more sophisticated in how it works with local organizations.

“It’s always been skills-based volunteerism, and it’s always been strategic strategic, but we have a better sense now of the partners we want to work with,” she said.

Tesla spoke beside Deirdre White, CEO of CDC Development Solutions, which works with IBM to design and execute the volunteer experience.

“With the first few teams, we said: ‘Anyone who’s good, who’s going to provide a good experience to these volunteers” would make a good partner, White said. “Now, we really do look for organizations that can have a much broader impact.”

“It’s the difference between working with an NGO that works with a small group of women versus working with a state government that has a welfare program and helping them understand how they might better distribute welfare payments to all the people that need it.”

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About the author

  • Andrea Useem

    As former associate editor and content director for Devex Impact, Andrea created and managed cutting-edge content on the intersection of business and international development. An experienced multimedia journalist, Andrea also served as leadership editor at the Washington Post and spent three years as a foreign correspondent in Eastern Africa reporting for publications including the Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News, and San Francisco Chronicle.

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