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At the IDB, we believe that together we can go farther. Our partnership network is making positive differences in Latin America and the Caribbean every day, and this blog is our channel for telling that story. Stay tuned for literature on partnership perspectives, stories from the field, changing trends, outlooks for development and the region, information on ways and opportunities to partner, and more. Thanks for stopping by.
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Beyond Financing: An Untapped Force for Development

By - Oct 6 2016

Volunteer Caixa
In development, we talk a great deal about channeling needed funding to communities, often citing the financing gap currently faced in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But there is another resource through which we, as individuals, can help to advance development priorities. While arguably as scarce as funding, it has the potential to be just as impactful, bringing knowledge, experience, and perspective to development interventions everywhere.

So what is this mystery resource we speak of? It’s simple—our time. We can all agree that volunteerism is a powerful way to engage citizens in development, creating opportunities for participation and providing unique solutions to societal problems. But while individual volunteerism is a potent force, giving it a layer of institutionality stands to give it an extra push towards true impact. A simple way to achieve this is by combining volunteer work with our professional expertise and time.

This blend has resulted in corporate volunteerism, an increasingly important channel of action for companies seeking to integrate their employees into their development-focused activities. Corporate Volunteerism is an opportunity for employees to engage with the communities in which they operate professionally, and allows companies to combine human, financial, and technological resources with the purpose of improving lives. Shown to boost morale within organizations, corporate volunteerism also stands to make workplaces happier, boosting levels of engagement and commitment employees feel towards their companies at national and international levels alike.

Unsurprisingly, corporate volunteerism is growing around the world. According to a recent survey by Pyxera Global and a study by the Committee for Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, since 2008 more than 26 corporations have sent 8,000+ employees to over 80 countries with the goal of achieving both a business and social impact, while at least 30% of these employees volunteered a minimum of one hour at the local level in the past year.

At the Inter-American Development Bank, we encourage this trend. We strongly believe corporate volunteerism benefits communities and helps businesses to engage in development in a sustainable way. In this spirit we’ve worked closely with “la Caixa” Foundation to support a corporate volunteer program called “Programa de CooperantesCaixa de Voluntariado Internacional,” helping all “la Caixa” Foundation employees get on the ground in Colombia and Ecuador in an effort to boost the managerial skills and systems of supported entities.

The IDB –”la Caixa” Foundation partnership has focused on socioeconomic development projects targeting rural areas. Evidence indicates that private sector solutions, such as agriculture cooperatives, can generate wealth in high poverty areas and can grow thanks to the combination of both technical assistance and loans. To know that these efforts are further strengthened through corporate volunteering makes this program an even greater point of pride for us, and an example we often share as we encourage other private sector actors to tap into the potential of corporate volunteerism.  “la Caixa” Foundation has blazed a trial in this space, creating its corporate volunteer program from scratch and encouraging employees, retired staff, and their families to contribute to development through this medium.

While corporate volunteerism requires a high level of professionalism and personal commitment from involved staff, it is an effective way to get people truly involved in social and environmental causes, and to remind them clearly why it’s important for companies and individuals alike to help others. By volunteering, employees everywhere can help to strengthen their organizations’ business strategy, tackle development challenges, and broaden their impact in our collective quest to improve lives.

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