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Global Voices Consider the Future of Pro Bono

To help celebrate Pro Bono Week 2020, PYXERA Global is bringing together our global colleagues to share key takeaways from the 2020 virtual Pro Bono Network’s Regional Summits held in Latin America and the Asia Pacific in partnership with the Global Pro Bono Network and the support of the BMW Foundation in Germany.

Global Pro Bono in the Time of COVID-19

The overarching theme of the APAC Summit highlighted how COVID-19 established the imperative of collaboration and partnership. The three-day summit, co-hosted by Pyxera Global and iVolunteer was structured to spotlight each of the key stakeholders in the pro bono space: corporations, mission-driven organizations, and employees that offer their most intrinsic values—talent, time, and expertise.

The pandemic’s resulting health and economic crisis made clear that businesses and organizations must bring all its stakeholders together and put treat communities as central to their existence. “Fighting the pandemic requires organizations to work with partners across sectors, and where alliances are not struck pro-actively, the costs of mitigating are higher,” said Amit Chandra, Chairman, Bain Capital India, and co-founder A.T.E. Chandra Foundation.

Global Pro Bono holds immense potential to spread the spirit of partnership and several speakers shared inspiring cases. For example, Suchitra Naidu, Communication Manager at AERF, spoke about her experience with a 3M Impact cohort and how the pro bono team significantly helped them design their marketing strategy and gain clarity on the communications approach to strengthening their organization in India.

Corporations look at pro bono not just to support communities but also as an avenue to build leadership skills, particularly soft skills such as critical and creative thinking skills that showed to be fundamental to adapt during the crisis. “In our discussions during the summit, corporate employees recounted their immersive pro bono experiences as life-transforming and spoke of benefits which included broadening horizons and providing a holistic approach to address global and local challenges”, commented Shilpa Ahluwalia, Director Global Pro Bono-India & S.E. Asia at Pyxera Global.

By the end of the Summit and after a total of 25 speakers on stage, there was a unanimous view that innovative virtual models of Global Pro Bono “are here to stay” in marriage with hybrid and immersive models. In a thought-provoking end-note talk, Hemang Desai (former Global Program Director, Social Sabbatical Portfolio & CSR at SAP), spelled out critical success factors for the future of Global Pro Bono saying that corporations need to be ready to play the long-term game and to consider multi-company cohorts to collaboratively address emerging global challenges.

Co-Creating the New World

The second edition of the Latin America (LATAM) Pro Bono Summit was designed to showcase how pro bono is a powerful tool to co-create the new world. Pyxera Global LATAM Leads Carolina Gowland and Fernanda Scur worked in partnership with Atados, Pro Bono Venture, Osmia, Fundación Trascender, and Work for Social to set a compelling agenda that addressed three main themes: Pro Bono as Innovation, Pro Bono as a Catalyst Force, and Pro Bono as an Investment with Purpose.

A panel that had special resonance in the LATAM audience was, “Connecting Pro Bono, Circular Economy, and ESG criteria.” The panel reinforced the great potential that business, government, and civil society collaboration has in accelerating a transition towards a circular economy. Scur shared “the voices of Daniel and José Luis Beltrán (brothers & co-founders of México Recicla) and Rita Spadafora (Sustainability Chief at ANCON Panamá), two organizations that embrace circular economy at their core, offered a genuine testimony of the impact that a pro bono program has on an employee that is then exposed to the theme. One of the consultants became a champion for circular economy when back to her regular work. Pro Bono programs can be intentionally designed to leverage the systematic shift towards a circular economy within a corporation’s ecosystem.”

In another panel, “Pro Bono Change Agents,” Jana L Nieto, 3M Corporate Affairs & Sustainability in Latin America, shared how the 3M Impact local program was adapted in 2020 to a virtual format and is being implemented in six countries around the world including México, Costa Rica, and Brazil. Jana also spoke about the triple impact of Global Programs as she experienced first-hand the impact these programs have when they are designed and executed with a clear methodology and a sustainable and inclusive vision for all stakeholders.

In terms of trends, Pyxera Global and OSMIA shared their perspectives for 2021 related to the Global Pro Bono movement. Carolina Gowland, Pyxera Global Regional Pro Bono Manager, Latin America remarked, “…the COVID survey (conducted by Pyxera Global in May 2020) was really helpful to assess needs, understand the impact of past Global Pro Bono Programs, and design impactful virtual engagements during this unprecedented year. It is interesting to see that 90% of past LATAM host organizations gave a positive response as to how virtual support could help them during these challenging times.” The interest in virtual programs is high for all sectors and it provides a path for companies to engage employees and enable them to deliver value through strategic partnerships.

The Pro Bono Symphony

As a final touch of inspiration, we invited viewers to watch the performance that the Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho Symphony Orchestra from Caracas Venezuela prepared to honor the pro bono movement. There is nothing quite as impressive as experiencing a symphony orchestra performance and as these Summits concluded it was a reminder that together through collaboration (just as in the case of a Symphony Orchestra) we can accomplish something magnificent. Both LATAM and APAC Pro Bono Summits inspired collaboration and connecting with the synchronization that occurs when diverse organizations and their leaders partner with empathy, professionalism, and purpose for the common good.


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