It’s hard to pick one favorite session or speaker, so here’s a rundown of some of my highlights from this year:
• “Some people think the only way to fix education is to fix poverty. But really, the only way to fix poverty is to fix education.” – Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education
During Target’s* plenary session on the state of education in America, Sec. Arne Duncan hit the nail on the head – when we’re able to address the nation’s education crisis and provide a strong educational foundation for every child in the United States, we’ll see positive changes in other critical areas, like poverty and unemployment. Volunteering is not only an important component of the education delivery system; it’s also becoming an important part of education itself. More and more schools are providing volunteer opportunities for students and some schools, including schools in Chicago and Miami, are even starting to make volunteering a requirement for graduation. Now this is a trend to get behind. I can only hope that other school systems start to fall in line.
• A Billion+ Change is gaining momentum.
With more than 100 participating corporations and $1.7 billion pledged thus far, the effort is well on its way to reaching the $2 billion goal. I couldn’t be more thrilled about this one, particularly given the fact that APCO recently joined the effort. HP and Deloitte spoke to their participation in the skills based volunteering movement, and how they marry volunteers’ desire for a hands-on experience, with the desire to generate the impact associated with skills based efforts. For HP, the solution came in the form of Job Train – an organization that offers career counseling and job placement services. Members of HP’s HR team get to leverage their professional skills while meeting with Job Train beneficiaries to help them develop resumes, search for jobs and prepare for interviews. Employees get the hands on experience they’re looking for and beneficiaries get the benefit of an expert’s insight and assistance. Everybody wins.
• Social innovations create economic value. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s great.
While this may not be news to you or me, I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear it said (multiple times!) at the conference. We’ve come such a long way from the days when corporations felt as though they needed to hide or downplay the fact that their community investments and volunteer programs created a tangible, positive impact on their bottom line. Today, corporations and their stakeholders are embracing the business benefits of social investments because it’s clear that is the key to sustainable, long-term investments which lead to more significant community impact. At a session moderated by APCO’s Tara Greco, representatives from Kraft and Starbucks talked about how their volunteer programs have played a role in advancing business objectives and how they learned the importance of telling that story – both inside the company and to external audiences.
Chicago has been great, but I’m excited that next year, the Conference is coming to me. Hope to see you in D.C. in 2013!