An Exploration of Contrasts: My Internship at UniversalGiving

This summer, I joined UniveralGiving as a member of the Marketing Team. I applied for an internship at UniversalGiving after hearing CEO, and Duke alumna, Pamela Hawley speak at an event for women in entrepreneurship at Duke. I was looking for an opportunity to learn and make a genuine impact at a values-based company. At UniversalGiving I experienced how seemingly diverse skills and ideas harmoniously come together to create a successful business. Here are three things I learned:

 

  • Branding:
    Over the course of our weekly marketing meetings, our team developed our company brand. We curated content to promote our values of giving, volunteerism and international interconnectedness. We also branded ourselves as thought leaders on topics of interest to our community, creating dialogue on world issues. By publishing posts designed to spark conversation, showcasing our NGO partners doing meaningful work around the world and contributing to posts on others’ pages, our social media presence was about much more than increasing our business and traffic to our website. 

    Through my work, I learned that the value of a company’s social media extends well beyond self-promotion and provides an opportunity to create a values-aligned brand and authentic engagement and conversation.

 

  • Full Circle Work:
    Because of my quantitative background, my main responsibility on the marketing team was to produce weekly analytics reports for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Analytics. I monitored and tracked changes in likes, comments, shares, followers and user acquisition week after week.I, however, was able to better analyze trends and put them into perspective because I also helped curate the content. I evaluated the numbers within the context of our weekly social media campaign themes and nuances of our specific posts. Because UniversalGiving is a small company, I had a full circle view of our social media strategy; I created the posts, studied how they were received and recommended new strategies. Contributing to both the content and the analysis was immensely helpful allowing me to take on a prominent role in restructuring our social media tactical plan and creating a more effective strategy.

    Through my work on the Marketing Team, I learned the value of having both a quantitative and creative skill set. By blending together these two seemingly disparate areas, I was able to be more effective in both.

 

  • Precision Finance:
    My quantitative background also took me out of the marketing world and into the Office of the CEO preparing financial reports for the CEO and CFO. Not only did I learn how to create professional products, but I got a close-up view into how the finances of a company are managed and the level of detail required for this line of work. My work on the financials involved preparing invoice spreadsheets for analysis, creating expense reports, and working on the three-year budget projection for an upcoming board meeting. 

    By gaining insight into the financial branch of a company, I learned how broad this area can be; it requires both extreme attention to detail and an ability to abstract into the future. Precision and prediction must blend together to create a dependable financial base for a company.

My experience at UniversalGiving demonstrated how diverse skills and ideas align and integrate to create stronger outcomes. This was a fitting lesson to learn as UniversalGiving is a social entrepreneurship venture; with a goal of both promoting values and maintaining financial stability, contrasts are built in its foundation.

 

In Pursuit of 214 Million by Katie Nelson

In 2012, Melinda Gates embarked on a journey dedicated to what may be one of the world’s most controversial and vital parts of women’s rights activism — family planning. Her pledge was simple, a commitment to help 120 million women and girls around the globe access birth control in eight years.

Now approaching five years since its inception, Family Planning 2020, as the initiative is called, has reached 24 million women worldwide and helped them access safe, effective, and affordable birth control. Addressing that staggering number of 120 million, however, does not begin to scratch the surface of the worldwide crisis of unplanned pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of July 2017, 214 million women of reproductive age living in developing communities, and wanting to avoid pregnancy, are not using effective contraception. 214 million women — this is the true number reflecting the global unmet need for contraceptive resources.

The scale is massive. Yet for the sizeable impact, the better part of the discussion surrounding the push for global contraceptive access is kept out of the public sphere. Women worldwide are faced with limited choices in methods, as well as both cultural and religious opposition; the ability to acquire effective methods is rare in poverty-stricken areas, and those that are available often lack quality. Even beyond those restrictions, the discussion is an issue that many women consider a personal, private journey, something Gates empathizes with in her article “Keeping Our Promise to 120 Million Women and Girls” published this week for Family Planning 2020’s five-year milestone.  

For such a taboo subject, however, the inaccessibility of contraceptives has drastically negative consequences for communities. First and foremost, it is a global health issue. Though a natural process, pregnancy has an unambiguous and taxing impact on the health and well-being of a woman and her body. Lack of family planning can increase the risks of health problems surrounding pregnancy, and even the risk of death especially in older women who encounter augmenting complications during childbirth.

Unplanned pregnancies are more likely to lead desperate women to dangerous and unhygienic abortion attempts; poorly timed births from unplanned pregnancies currently contribute to some of the world’s highest infant mortality rates. According to the United Nations Population Fund, if all women in developing areas without access to contraceptives used modern methods, approximately 35 million abortions and 76,000 maternal mortalities would be prevented every year. But it is not just an issue concerning women. Since the outbreak of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, the disease has run devastatingly rampant, especially in places like sub-Saharan Africa with less access to contraceptives.

The mortality and orphaned children rates have skyrocketed, and nearly 40 years later, the epidemic still persists. Among women living with HIV, access to family planning methods mitigates the risk of inadvertent pregnancies and reduces the number of affected babies. Among the greater population, however, contraceptive methods such as male and female condoms (when used properly) safeguard against the spread of the disease between parties. The conclusion? It is a global, rather than a women’s, health issue.

What many around the globe have yet to realize, moreover, is that the debate surrounding contraceptives goes beyond the world of social and moral concerns, and touches the realm of cold, hard figures. For developing countries, and developed countries seeking to leave a positive footprint on this planet, this should be seen as an economic discussion. At the macroeconomic level, studies have shown that reducing exponential population growth helps spur socio-economic development in some countries, the best known example being that of the Asian Economic Miracle.

As the study goes, between 1960 and 1990, the five economies experiencing most rapid growth were all found in East Asia — South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan. Yet simultaneously, there was a decline in the average number of childbirths — an average of six at the beginning of this period to an average of approximately two at the end. When further investigated, analysts agreed that the experience of East Asian countries suggested the downward childbearing trend lessened dependency burdens and supported high savings rates. On the smaller scale, a woman who has access to contraceptives has fewer children; she can devote more resources to each child and improve their respective futures; she has the capability, time, and energy to re-enter the workforce.

Align that hypothetical trajectory with the scale of the problem — 214 million more individuals with the ability to contribute to the local, national, and even global economy — and it is evident why countries, especially developing ones, should have a vested interest in contraceptives. Access to family planning is paramount to lifting both individual families, and in turn nations, out of poverty.

In “Keeping Our Promise to 120 Million Women and Girls,” Gates writes about how she came to grasp the necessity of contraceptives in the global community after growing up in a family where their importance was not emphasized:  

“Everything changed when Bill and I launched our foundation, and I started spending time with women in the world’s poorest places. Everywhere I went, the conversation turned to contraceptives. I met women who were getting pregnant too young, too old, and too often for their bodies to handle. I met women who were desperate not to get pregnant again because they couldn’t afford to feed or care for the children they already had. In Malawi, everyone I met knew someone who had died in pregnancy. In India, I asked a group of women if anyone had lost a child, and every single woman raised her hand.”

Since the 1990s, contraceptive use has increased, albeit marginally — between 1990 and 2015, WHO calculates global usage has risen from 54% to 57.4%. It is a statistic that does not reflect a plateaued need, but an alarming lack of access for a world who claims it exists a hyper-modern age. Gates’ experiences, however, are not statistics.

The stories she has heard and the ones she has shared — they are personal and human. They are the eyes, the words, and the heartbreak of women across the globe; they are the eyes, the words, and the heartbreak of their families. They are 214 million women we should be pursuing with an unfettered tenacity and equipping with brighter futures to create a better, more productive world that is in all of our best interests.

To read Gates’ article, click Family Planning 2020 to find out more or learn about other positives developments associated with family planning like “Keeping Our Promise to 120 Million Women and Girls” and Global Impact of Family Planning.

 

 

NGO Spotlight: BiblioWorks

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BiblioWorks: strengthening communities through literacy and education

BiblioWorks is a nonprofit that promotes literacy and education in Bolivia. Their mission is to provide communities in need with tools and resources to develop sustainable literacy and educational programs through schools, libraries, and cultural institutions.

BiblioWorks was created in 2005 by a former American Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia, Megan Sherar, and her brother. They fell in love with the country and decided to address the inadequate infrastructure interfering with Bolivia’s access to some of the most critical things on earth: literacy and education. Literacy and education are the first steps towards progress for every community in every country around the world.

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Today, this non-profit organization is managed in Bolivia by a team of dedicated Bolivians who understand the needs of both the organization and each individual library. The local team also helps BiblioWorks stay connected with the various communities to make the libraries lively and useful; they work closely with the local authorities to focus on the needs that people express in every community in which they intervene. After more than ten years of dedication, BiblioWorks is proud to run a network of fourteen libraries in the city of Sucre and in the surrounding countryside.

BiblioWorks is convinced that literacy and education are best spread by a fruitful exchange among cultures, identities, and origins; and therefore welcome volunteers from all across the world to work with them in their varying libraries. It is a great way for people to share their differences and learn from one another. When a volunteer comes from another country, their stay in Bolivia is an opportunity to know more about a new culture and learn Spanish as well. It is also an amazing chance for the children to be confronted with diversity.

Volunteers play a great role and make a direct and personal impact on the libraries theyimage.do
work with. For example, if a volunteer has some dance skills, they can set up a dance workshop. Additionally, as most of the volunteers are fluent in English they can provide the kids with basic English lessons. Often, what is considered simple or usual for a volunteer can have a great value for a child and can genuinely impact their lives. When volunteers come from abroad to BiblioWorks’ libraries, everyone benefits from the experience.

The BiblioWorks libraries would not exist without the plurality of actors that participate in the life of their organization; from the board in the United States to the team in Bolivia, from the volunteers coming from across the globe to the kids attending the libraries.

If you are interested in donating to BiblioWorks or participating in a volunteer trip to Bolivia, search for them on UniversalGiving.

Five things that make for satisfying work

Here is a guest blog post by Mallen Baker about the things people need in a job in order to feel satisfied with their work. 

Many years ago, I made the acquaintance of Pete Brown who, I discovered after some time, was the author of a book called ‘Smallcreep’s Day’ published over 50 years ago in 1965.

It was the story of a man who works in a factory. And every day of his long existence he has been stuck in one place making one particular component for some unknown machinery.

One day he decides he wants to actually know what is the final product he’s to which he’s been contributing all these years. So he sets out on a journey into the depths of the factory to find out – a journey which becomes surreal and awful in equal measure.

It must have been one of the earliest reflections in popular culture of something that has become a widely understood truth. We seek meaning in what we do, and achieve much greater satisfaction if we find it.

For me at the time – well before I’d discovered the world of work for myself – it was an early influence that whatever I did needed to have a wider purpose. And that was long before it had become a buzzword in management circles, or even counted as a relevant factor at all.

But we’re now in a significantly changed world – and many people that are coming into the workforce say that they want satisfying, meaningful, work. It’s rather what the millennial generation – rightly or wrongly – has become famous for.

But largely they remain as unfulfilled as Smallcreep himself. The most recent Gallup global survey found that only 13% of workers worldwide are engaged in their work, committed to their jobs and making a positive contribution.

The best bosses give people the autonomy to fix the problems when they see them
So what have we learned in the intervening decades about what makes for meaningful, engaging work? How hard would it be to make it the norm, rather than the exception?

Here are a few things. You can probably think of others.

1. Sufficient challenge and complexity. Many of the jobs such as those carried out by the Smallcreep character that involved the pulling of a lever, over and over again – those jobs have been automated. But mindless work still exists. It may be more efficient to have different workers doing one action over and over, but you get more satisfied and motivated workers if they do a more complex range of actions to create something significant.

It was the movement for quality that created so many awful dreary jobs. Because it was intuitively easier to reduce defects if you got people to do one thing, before passing it on to the next person.

The other way to reduce defects – to make people into skilled craftsmen who take a pride in their work – that was considered to be less efficient. Increasingly, we’re seeing that assumption to have been a mistake on anything but the purely mechanistic level.

2. Growing skill and capacity over time. We always want to feel like we’re making progress. If we have a craft and we know that we’re getting better and better over time, then it gives a sense of momentum and mastery.

Interestingly, there may be some evidence that we’re kidding ourselves. Psychologist and author K. Anders Ericsson suggests that once people in most professions reach “acceptable performance and automaticity” they don’t improve further regardless of how many years they practice. Indeed, it can actually go the other way.

The key to getting better is to engage in proper ‘deliberate practice’ – pushing yourself to do things that are currently outside your comfort zone. Employers – for all that they will push you to do things faster – generally don’t give you work specifically to challenge and develop you. But if they did, the evidence suggests they would see real benefits.

3. The power to make decisions. If you know the mission and the intended end goal, then you’re empowered to make decisions along the way to help achieve that goal. If your job is the equivalent of ‘pull that lever’ then even if it turns out to be the wrong thing to do, you’ll keep doing it because you have no permission to take the initiative.

Good bosses have often found value in “going to the shop floor” to talk to people about how things really are. Because those are the people that see the things that go to waste, the things that aren’t working, the stages where mistakes are made.

The best bosses give people the autonomy to fix the problems when they see them. And to want to do so because they feel like they own the process and the outcome.

4. Recognition and reward. It is most satisfying when you see a direct link between the amount of effort you put in, and the amount of recognition and reward that comes your way as a result. It’s a delicate thing. Praise when you know it’s not been earned can be as demotivating as the absence of recognition when you’ve made a real difference.

And the ultimate killer is when you have ‘free riders’ – people that add to your burden because they don’t pull their weight and yet they share in the credit regardless.

5. Being part of a wider social purpose. Just about any product or service, if it helps real people to solve real problems, can be described in terms of the positive difference it makes to the world. And nothing is more motivating than if the achievement of that social purpose is an explicit part of the process.
On that last one, ‘maverick’ boss Ricardo Semler was once asked how you could identify such purpose for some of the humblest of service workers – such as school dinner ladies.

But you don’t get more important than that, he protested. These people have in their hands the health and wellbeing of some of the great people of tomorrow. And, he might have added, good nutrition has been shown to assist in how well young people are educated.

Smallcreep would surely have settled for that.

Check out the original blog post on Mallan Baker’s respectful business blog.

Seven Ways to Introduce Innovation Into Your Company

This is a guest post by Steven L. Blue about how to effectively make employees comfortable with innovation. 

The reason innovations fail is not because of technology. It’s never about the technology. Innovations fail because of people. The people who might employ a new technology may not be sold on it. Or they might be afraid of it. Or they might feel threatened by. Welcome to the dark side of innovation.

However, the biggest threat to a new innovation your company is trying to develop will be your own people. This threat comes in one of several forms, and sometimes in all of them. First, your people may want to cling to the old tried and true. As false as it is, tried and true gives people comfort. Or they may not want to cannibalize an existing product with a newer technology. Often your people will feel threatened by a new innovation because they think it will outdate their skills and therefore their jobs.

When you are introducing innovation into your company, you have to neutralize these threats. Here is seven ways to introduce innovation into your company:

1. Make innovation a top priority. Don’t let it be an activity that people should pay attention to “after they get the real work done.” Innovation is the real work.

2. Put your money where your mouth is. Promote people who champion your innovation efforts. Incentive people who support the effort. Make innovation a key component of performance evaluations. If people aren’t supporting the effort, make that a reason for possible termination. Create the time and physical space for people to gather and brainstorm ideas. Set key goals for the number of ideas to be generated. Support the best ideas with funding.

3. Be prepared to coach people who are against the effort. Be ready to make organization changes. That means moving people out of the organization or down in the organization if you feel they threaten the effort. Watch out especially for the “not invented here” syndrome.

4. Remember the 3 C’s of effective communications: Clear, compelling, and convincing. Be very clear in communicating your expectations. Paint a compelling picture of what happens to the company if you don’t innovate (read: bad things), and all the good things that will happen when the innovation efforts are successful. And be convincing as to why innovation is so important. You don’t have to look very far to find examples of companies that failed to innovate to use as examples. Just look at the case of Kodak. They knew long before it happened that digital was on the way in and print was on the way out. Kodak didn’t fail because they didn’t know how to innovate to meet that threat. They failed because they didn’t want to. And you can use a great example of an old line company that innovated its way out of death’s door. Encyclopedia Britannica also saw the digital revolution coming. But unlike Kodak they chose to innovate by going entirely digital. Now Britannica’s digital sales are better than their print sales ever were. And where are their print sales? Gone. And so would the company if it hadn’t innovated. You have to paint both sides of the “why are we doing this?” picture. I like to use what I call the El Dorado/El Chapo model. If we innovate we are on the road to El Dorado, if we don’t, we are on the road to El Chapo.

5. Hire or contract the resources needed to innovate. Remember, your own people won’t know what they don’t know. Fresh, new ideas from outside the organization will be needed.

6. Make the commitment to your people that they will be trained in the new innovations the organization chooses to adopt. Don’t let them think your plan is “in with the new and out with the old”; otherwise they are sure to be against it.

7. Regularly review progress in the innovations efforts. This needs to be done by the CEO so the organization knows this is a serious effort. Stay very close to the effort so you will know when it starts to break down. And when it does (not if, because it will from time to time), take action fast.

Always remember innovation never fails because of technology. It fails because of people. People who aren’t convinced it is necessary. People who are threatened by it. People who long for yesterday instead of tomorrow. Follow these seven steps and ensure your company’s innovations don’t fall flat.

Check out the original blog post on CSRwire!