Volunteer perspectives: Co-creating the IBM social impact journey

May 2020 | IBM Volunteer Story

The benefits of digital transformation extend to all aspects of a business, including corporate social responsibility strategies and initiatives.  

In 2019, IBM engaged employees, volunteers and stakeholders to assist in the digital transformation of its corporate social responsibility online presence and employee programs.

The IBM team needed input from end users (volunteers!) at scale and a co-creation exercise was a good way to get it. Many companies that co-create and iterate directly with employees produce stronger business results, a network of change agents and a higher degree of innovation.

The social impact journey on the new IBM volunteer portal was co-created with employees and stakeholders.

As a result of the co-creation exercise and other re-design initiatives, IBM.org and its volunteer portal (login required) were launched in late 2019 with new approaches to engage communities—helping to improve the employee experience through more personalized programs and to identify change agents to advance the strategic vision.

In a whitepaper published by IBM about the experience, the team wrote, “This exercise allowed space for honest conversations about CSR programs, leading to more informed decisions and whether to create, reinvent, or phase out programs.”

Below, you can read some of the input from IBM volunteers.  

The responses covered a diverse population, with representation from over 60 countries and 50 business units—50% of responses came from outside of North America. 

Insights derived from co-creation can continue to be used to inform future programs and design experiences, whether by IBM or other companies and organization.


What some IBM volunteers said

  • Connect with the communities where I live and work. Especially as a traveling consultant this can be a nice way to get to know a new city and not feel as far away from my own neighborhood. 
  • It is rewarding, establishes and cultivates relationships and generates community knowledge, along with being fun.
  • Knowing that I work for a company that embeds this culture makes me very proud.  
  • Volunteering really makes me feel like I am contributing something of great value that reaches far beyond the scope of my daily work. 
  • I give of my time and resources to help people. Pure and simple.

What some IBM volunteers said

  • I would like to receive regularly scheduled local volunteer opportunities. It would be great if there were a specific way to subscribe to monthly or even quarterly communication.
  • Through social media and Slack.
  • I want to receive I formation that is event triggered or relevant to me or my client. 
  • I'd also like to hear what causes are important to my client and what volunteer opportunities they participate in.
  • To be engaged through internal channels rather than through emails (we receive too many of them).
  • Share IBM volunteering on our local news outlets. Shout it to the rooftops!
  • I prefer a monthly newsletter recapping past volunteer activity and announcing future activities. 
  • A tool where IBMers could get push notifications based on postal code.

What some IBM volunteers said

  • I prefer to volunteer in teams with other IBMers. 
  • My favorite part of volunteering is the local impact that you can make with an in-person visit…especially when involving students with STEM, it's very important to have them physically create something. 
  • With in-person volunteering, it’s such a rewarding feeling to see how your involvement is directly correlated with bringing positive change. 
  • I really like focused efforts that show global thinking but allow us to act locally. 
  • In-person and virtually are dependent on the activity. My past volunteer activities were in-person and right now I’m virtually coaching a colleague in Japan to run a volunteer program. 
  • I’d like to see an improvement in the process for getting local charities approved for the IBM matching gifts program—sometimes the process takes longer than I think it should. 
  • When it comes to donating [money], I prefer to make a local impact. However, when it comes to volunteering, I enjoy a mix of both local impact and global impact. I’m particularly passionate about inspiring young girls to pursue STEM careers.

What some IBM volunteers said

  • There’s been a resurgence in creating and revising IBM Activity Kits about STEM topics, but there’s still room for improvement to make them simpler to deploy and more engaging. 
  • Having a dedicated volunteer coordinator at larger IBM locations would go a long way to raising awareness of local opportunities. 
  • Broaden and simplify the use of IBM Cloud for educators and students. 
  • Extend badging so volunteers, students, anyone in the public, can earn social badges, perhaps even teacher-versions of those badges as well. 
  • Evaluate partnering with large national and global STEM programs, in addition to our support of P-TECH. 
  • Continue to help make volunteering be part of the overall employee experience—part of on-boarding, access to volunteer related merchandise and supplies, volunteer efforts during work hours. 
  • Create #IBMVolunteerCulture that embodies and promotes everything we love about volunteering and being IBMers.

Download the whitepaper to learn more about co-creating IBM.org and its volunteer portal.

Join the conversation. Tag your tweets with #IBMvolunteers and follow us @IBMorg.

Join the conversation

Tag your tweets with #IBMVolunteers
and follow us @IBMorg.

Activity Kits

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