2014 SITE Crystal Award Recipient
Most Impactful Effort toward Corporate Social Responsibility as Part of an Incentive Program
Johannesburg, South Africa
Program Partner: CWT Meetings&Events
“Genband President’s Circle South Africa”
Genband, headquartered in Frisco, Texas with sales and support offices in 50 countries, has built a reputation as one of the most visionary, entrepreneurial and innovative companies in the global telecommunications industry. They have been able to compete and grow as a result of their culture and spirit of teamwork. Their culture’s foundation is based on core values of innovation, imagination, execution and ethical responsibility. These shared values provide the platform for their employees, allowing them to share a global connection while simultaneously celebrating their diversity. With this foundation already in place, it was always the intention to incorporate a CSR element into the Genband President’s Circle 2014 trip to South Africa. This is part of the company ethos, and visiting a destination such as South Africa, where communities rely so much on non-governmental sources to survive, made it absolutely critical. In April 2014 delegates of the Genband President’s Circle 2014 travelled on an amazing program to South Africa spending three nights in Cape Town followed by a three night safari near Kruger National Park in the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve. During their stay in Cape Town, delegates stayed at The One & Only Cape Town and were treated to an action-packed program, including a Cheetah interaction at the hotel and a Gala Dinner at Laurent on the Lourensford Wine Estate. Travelling on both scheduled and charter flights, guests arrived in the bush and were assigned to 1 of 7 lodges, at Lions Sands or Sabi Sabi Game Reserves. A very important part of the program was their "Give back to Africa" campaign. The campaign had a dual purpose; one was to incorporate awards and entertainment with the Gala Dinner, sourced locally to the benefit of the underprivileged communities producing them. The Hout Bay Music Project, which promotes music among township kids, was the entertainment at the gala dinner. The awards, beaded bowls made from telephone wire, were sourced locally and produced by disadvantaged individuals.. The other purpose was a CSR activity, which revolved around supporting a pre-primary school in the rural Kruger National Park area. With a large portion of South Africa's children still living in poverty, Genband identified this as an area of need and decided to support a local preschool, Henna, which is located within driving distance of the game reserves. Prior to the event, delegates were requested to pledge donations via a dedicated Facebook prior to the event and were requested to bring new or gently used items from a predetermined list. Finally Genband donated a new pair of running shoes to each child at the school. After the event, delegates offered to make further donations. Genband agreed to match whatever donations were generated.
Effectiveness and Results
Apart from enjoying a fantastic reward for their achievements within the company, the delegates demonstrated their commitment to giving embodying the true spirit of Genband. Not only did the delegates' generous donations meet their goals – they exceeded them. Because of their employees’ generosity, Genband was able to make a total contribution to the Henna Pre-School of more than $7,000 making a huge difference to the lives of the children. The delegates are planning to come together again around the holidays and do something special for the Henna kids, proving the long term sustainability of this project. The funds donated to the school will be used to buy a lawnmower; wall mounted fans and kids' plastic chairs; seedlings for a garden; stainless steel cutlery, and tiles for the verandah, which will be more hygienic and easier to clean. In addition to the funds, delegates were able to personally hand over the donated shoes to kids at the school where everyone enjoyed the interactive experience and were inspired by the smiling faces all around! The end result of the Gala Dinner responsible approach was a reminder to delegates that something so simple as sourcing locally could make such a meaningful difference in someone else’s life.
The Creative Approach
Creativity, innovation, and attention to detail were demonstrated throughout the entire program. The DMC purposefully researched various forms of entertainment and eventually selected the Hout Bay Music Project for the amazing work they are doing for underprivileged kids in the township of Hout Bay. The children of the Hout Bay Music Project performed for the delegates, showcasing their talents and introducing them to traditional African music. In the pre-planning phase the client asked the DMC to assist with creating a Facebook page titled Genband Henna School –Kruger Project where guests could pledge donations for the school. The Facebook link was sent out by email blast to all guests. While it did raise some awareness, it was not totally successful, as many of the guests did not have a Facebook profile. It was only after the event, once there was an emotional connection to the school and the kids, did the delegates give generously. The Facebook page continues on for those delegates who wish to stay connected. The DMC GM will be visiting the school and will give feedback to the client on how the funds were spent as well as update the Facebook page.
The original concept for the CSR activity was discussed during the incentive program site inspection. The DMC initially suggested that guests bring gently worn shoes with them, which could be handed out to a local school. Genband loved the idea but suggested that instead of collecting shoes, they would identify a local school to donate a new pair of shoes to each child. They also asked the DMC to include information about and a photo of each child, so guests could get to know them on a personal level. The DMC approached the lodges to see if they could link in with any existing CSR Projects, the final decision was made to support the Henna Pre-School through Lion Sands Lodge. The various parties worked hand-in-hand with the Community Development Manager (CDM) to ensure the success of this project. Henna Pre School is located in the greater Bushbuckridge area, where 70% of the community is not economically active. Today, the Pre-School cares for 180 children between 2 – 4 years old, allowing their teenage mothers to go back to school. It offers hope to many families and children.
Executing the CSR activity for the program proved challenging in many ways. Prior to the event, information about the 180 Henna School kids was collected, including their names, gender, age, shoe size, profile with picture and classroom number. The school had to create special classroom numbers and the kids had to be split evenly amongst the different classrooms. This proved to be challenging The school is in a rural area where kids do not attend school every day, most of the kids did not have shoes and it was difficult at times to get their correct shoe sizes. School holidays and strikes in the communities created further obstacles. Home visits were made to collect the information. The images and profiles were delivered to the DMC who used the raw data to write a short descriptive profile story of each child to accompany their pictures. These were all printed on a postcard and tied together with the personalized room gift card. The gender & shoe sizes were sent to a local supplier, who sourced the various sizes from across Southern Africa. A particular challenge was finding a supplier who was able to provide 220 children’s sneakers, in the sizes that were required. The DMC eventually sourced a company called “Tekkie Town” who helped tremendously in sourcing from all their branches, not just in South Africa, but also across Southern Africa. The DMC received more than 20 deliveries of shoes over a period of 3 weeks from different branches. The shoeboxes were labeled with each child’s details and sorted according to the 6 different lodges. They were delivered ahead of the group’s arrival and placed in the delegates’ rooms.. The school visit was planned for the group’s second to the last day, however early that morning the DMC was advised that there was a strike in the local community and all children were told to stay home, so the school visit was cancelled. The organizers had meetings with the Village Warden throughout the day to discuss the situation. The DMC received a call late afternoon to confirm that the strike would not continue and that they would be able to take the guests out to the school the following day (departure day). The DMC had to rebook all vehicles and amend the itinerary, including charter flight departure times. Due to the small school grounds, 13-seater Quantums were used to transfer the guests to and from the lodges. The school is located in a rural area with no directional signage so the DMC arranged for the lodge staff to be positioned along the route to direct the drivers to the school. On arrival at the school, the guests were welcomed and guided to the classroom, where they were welcomed by the kids with a song. Each guest had the opportunity to identify their child and personally hand over the shoes. The time spent with the children was entirely optional but most guests took the time to sit down and interact. It was very rewarding to see how happy these kids were with the little they had. Genband agreed to purchase extra pairs of shoes in each size to have on stand-by on the day. This came in very handy as some shoes did not fit and there were a few unexpected extra kids.
Gathering all the data on the children was a task that could not have taken place without the tireless support of the lodge Community Development Manager (CDM), who deserves a special mention as she donated her time to physically do house calls, in the remote rural towns, to gather this information. The DMC was also able to further reduce operational costs by approaching Fedair, a charter company, who run daily scheduled flights to the Sabi Sand region. They agreed to send the sneakers up free of charge, over a period of time, when they had space and empty legs. It is the intention of the DMC to assist the school in setting up a swap shop for the shoes. As kids grow out of the shoes, they can bring their pair back when they don’t fit any more and try and find a size that does fit. This will add to the sustainability of the project.
The Genband delegates left South Africa moved by the efforts to promote underprivileged schools and felt honored that they were able to make such a big difference. The legacy to support Henna Pre School continues within the company, long after the conclusion of the program.