Working in Corporate Social Responsibility, I often think about how I can help create positive change in the world.
I also often wish I had more time and energy so I can help more people in the communities around us. But I am just an ordinary person, so a question lingers: how do I really make a difference?
More than six years into my CSR career at Jebsen, I think I have found the answer: I can make a difference by starting a ripple.
I joined Jebsen as CSR Executive in 2013 and was initially responsible for executing CSR programmes around the region. My work included recruiting volunteers and organising events around Jebsen’s main CSR pillars: philanthropy, environmental conservation and employee wellbeing.
You would think that recruiting volunteers for CSR events would be quite easy, but this turned out to be one of my biggest challenges. I remember trying to get volunteers for the “Shutterbug Club”, an innovative initiative to teach photography skills to migrant children in China. To my surprise, very few volunteers signed up! I decided to change up our promotion strategies. Instead of just broadcasting the programme logistics, I published a one-pager called “10 things you want to know about the Shutterbug Club” – giving colleagues all they need to know in one fun, easy read. This immediately drew more sign ups. By effectively telling our story, I attracted more attention to the Programme, and our work with the children in need has remained robust until today.
Since the Programme I have made extra efforts to encourage colleagues to participate and kept trying new ways to engage volunteers. When we decided to launch a new activity I started targeting employees who have participated in CSR programmes before. Since they are already interested in volunteering, why not re-engage them for other programmes? Why not leverage their word of mouth to draw more volunteers? I did just that, and our volunteer list kept growing longer.
In the spirit of going an extra mile and trying new things, I also introduced new elements in other CSR Programmes. Following a 10-week musical training for children with special educational needs under the “Life is Art” programme, instead of arranging a closed performance for families, I proposed a large-scale performance so that the kids can show of their new mastery of Djembe Drums to a community audience. The show was a hit, and seeing the proud looks on the children’s faces brought me to one important realisation. Perhaps there is a limit to what I can do as one person, but by enabling these children to learn something new, I also enabled them to go out into the world with heads held high, making a difference in the world each in their own way.
Likewise, perhaps it was challenging to recruit volunteers initially, but through new publicity means and proactive outreach, every small act serves to generate much greater effects: more colleagues got involved with peers from different business lines. Our CSR activities have become occasions where colleagues gather and develop rapport, further strengthening their sense of belonging at Jebsen. Some of them have even brought their families on board!
Nowadays, as Assistant Manager of CSR, my role has moved beyond executing projects to strategising them. I am in charge of identifying new NGO partners, designing programme themes and aligning CSR initiatives with our Group objectives. I also started to look after JGreen projects, expanding my focus to include environmental conservation – another area that definitely needs positive change!
What I love most about my work is teaming up with people who care about the community as much as I do. Everyone from my immediate team to our top management has worked to cultivate an environment where individual ideas are embraced and given wings; many of my own ideas have already turned into fruitful CSR programmes. Backed by this company culture, and a passionate, selfless group of colleagues, I am looking forward to seeing more ideas can take flight and ultimately make the world a better place. As long as I keep starting ripples, I know that they can one day create big waves.
(Photo caption: Sasa was introducing the "Life is Art" programme to WABC students with special needs.)