2013 SITE Crystal Award Recipient
Responsible Experiences – Most Impactful Effort Toward Corporate Social Responsibility as Part of an Incentive Program
Inmedia ONE GmbH, a subsidiary of Bertelsmann AG, has an excellent reputation in the development and distribution of knowledge media. Specialists in various fields work together to make knowledge accessible for anyone at any time – as a multi-volume encyclopedia, a multimedia application for the computer or an interactive information service via the Internet.
The company was going through a difficult management transition and employees, uncertain of the future, were seeking employment elsewhere. The company, hoping to encourage a sense of commitment and loyalty, decided to lead by example. Partnering with destination management company Terra Nova, Inmedia ONE took its top 100 salespeople to Namibia, where Inmedia ONE made small but significant commitments to the local community at the Ombili Foundation. The company wanted participants to not only be rewarded with an amazing safari experience, but to meet and interact with locals who had experienced hardships and worked together to build up their community and keep their culture alive.
Serving the San
The Ombili Foundation, located near Tsumeb in northern Namibia, is dedicated to providing education and training to the previously nomadic San people of the region, who are one of mankind’s oldest ethnic groups but in danger of losing their cultural and social identity. In addition to being a school for approximately 300 children ages 4 to 16, the foundation provides training in agriculture, supports healthcare, and helps the native peoples hone and market their native crafts as a business.
Since Inmedia ONE employees’ work is to make knowledge accessible, the obvious choice for serving this community was to renovate a facility where children and teenagers could study in a quiet environment. Incentive winners worked together to collect books and stationery, educational toys for the foundation’s preschool, and blankets for the children’s bedrooms, and their safari trip to Namibia was highlighted by a visit to the foundation to present these gifts and meet the community.
They received a warm welcome. As an expression of thanks, the community at Ombili took the initiative to prepare a meal from their own gardens and provide entertainment for the visitors. The Inmedia ONE employees visited the study hall to view the progress painters had made in renovations, and while the children admired their new facility, the company handed over the donated items and a check to cover the costs of building a new entrance to the facility. The participants then visited the classrooms and shared some painting skills with the children.
On this first social project undertaken by Inmedia ONE, the company was amazed at the effects on its staff. The experience left a lasting legacy: Participants saw first-hand the hardships experienced by this community in Namibia, as well as the community’s resilience and ability to move forward together even through tough times. And they saw how just a little effort to support a community can have a long-lasting, positive effect.
Adapting the Luxury Incentive
Inmedia ONE had a strong budget to offer its top winners a luxury incentive program. In deciding to take the winners to Namibia, however, the company chose not to shower the participants with deluxe hotel accommodation and lavish gifts but rather give them the gift of a life-changing experience in an entirely unfamiliar environment. DMC Terra Nova used its creative expertise to encourage the client to be true to this vision and change some traditional program elements into an experience more fitting to the environment, and more cost-effective.
Instead of the original gala dinner in Etosha National Park envisioned with intelligent lighting and huge stage sets, Terra Nova brought in local artisans and materials to create the staging. Instead of bringing in gifts from the city, Terra Nova encouraged Inmedia ONE to purchase gifts produced by the Ombili Foundation. Hand-carved Makalani nuts were personalized by local artisans to be presented as medals to the winners, while locally sourced entertainment showcased the best of Namibian culture, music and dance. By employing local artisans throughout the event, Inmedia ONE demonstrated for its employees continued commitment to the community.
Even as Terra Nova had to overcome its client’s skepticism in replacing luxury with authenticity, it had to work with local artisans to meet luxury standards and incentive expectations. The end result was a meaningful experience for the employees.
A DMC Advocating for Its Community
Terra Nova places special emphasis on the inclusion of social projects in all of its programs, and proposed the corporate social responsibility element of the Inmedia ONE program as well. Through these social projects, Terra Nova aims to create not only a sustainable income for the local communities but also a platform to promote cultural exchange between the communities and participants. “Support for community projects is just starting in Namibia despite Terra Nova’s attempts over the last five years to encourage clients to support and engage with the local people,” says Terra Nova, “and it was an inspiration to see Inmedia ONE taking the lead and giving back.”
Click here to view the article about the Crystal Award winner Terra Nova which published in Business Events Africa.