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Volunteering Design Thinking capabilities to Accelerate Social Transformation

  • Posted on December 14, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

In October, I had the incredible opportunity to facilitate a Design Thinking session for the Accelerate Social Transformation (AST) 2020 program, which was hosted by the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. The four-week program was held virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For those not familiar with AST, it’s a unique social innovation program that brings together individuals and organizations, futuristic thinkers and method-driven change makers that work in the social development space.

The program was led by Akhtar Badshah, a senior lecturer at the University of Washington who also used to be a leader in corporate philanthropy for Microsoft, and there were representatives from Avanade, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Microsoft, Tableau Software and Vulcan Inc. They all shared their vision and insights on bringing about transformational social change, which was inspiring and motivating.

And for me, it was a wonderful opportunity to volunteer, share my passion for orchestrating dynamic visioning and co-creation sessions, and to support Avanade’s purpose to make a genuine human impact. Being able to use my skills and expertise, as a volunteer, to connect with people from all five continents and to spark ideas that make a true difference was amazing.

During the Avanade session, we heard our Global Corporate Citizenship Lead, Heba Ramzy, speak about our Citizenship efforts and how Avanade has responded to the global pandemic and supported the non-profit sector through technology or financial resources and the commitment of our people. During the pandemic, we lifted the cap on volunteering to enable Avanade people to give more of their time to their communities and the social sector. Avanade Executive Katrina Zamets and Junior Achievement (JA) Europe’s CEO Salvatore Nigro also discussed the importance of employee engagement and how Avanade’s relationship with JA has helped them during these challenging times.

Through this mix of inspiration generated by the speakers, we were able to stimulate the participants on the theme of finding their purpose drivers, passions, the mechanisms for engagement and also work on their concepts to find opportunities, leverage resources and make a deep and positive #HumanImpact in their lives, communities and, by consequence, in the world.

Here in Brazil, for example, we have quite a track record. Many of our Avanade people volunteer their skills, time and mentorship to support JA. We’re also proud of the strong technology presence we have at the universities located in the cities of São Paulo and Recife, where several young women are studying technology courses fully funded through our Avanade STEM Program. Avanade makes it easy for us to get involved. I see people happy to support and committed to volunteering to help young people thrive in their careers. It is a thing that warms our hearts.

The AST was also a great opportunity for a number of our Avanade Citizenship Champs (a +1 role undertaken by Avanade employees to gain experience in the Citizenship space and also increase their internal awareness and profile). Five champs—Nathalie du Preez (Australia), Dikasse Zalla (U.S.), Izzy Fernandes (U.K.), Peter Ehrlich (U.K.) and Mina Rabideaux (U.S.)—attended the event, to build their knowledge of the challenges facing the social sector and their capabilities as Champions for Citizenship at Avanade. It was an honor to be able to get to know them through this process and connect with new Avanade colleagues.

This was an amazing opportunity, one to be done again and again. I am grateful for being able to explain and use the Design Thinking concepts, to connect with people from around the world, and to help to spark ideas and connect deeper with new people. And the outcomes are already there to be seen: Inspiration in its pure state.

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