Supporting Social Innovation Through Employee Engagement

At the Vodafone Americas Foundation, we bring people together from all sectors to address some of the world’s most pressing social issues. We also know that sometimes the biggest change starts right at home, with our own workforce. As times change, so too do the opportunities for employee engagement. Just a few years ago, employee engagement might refer to volunteering at a local food pantry, or an after-hours mentoring agency. Increasingly, however, the workforce is becoming more diverse, more technologically connected, and more interested in helping their communities in novel and creative ways.

We started to ask ourselves, how can we address the needs of at-home workers and traveling colleagues? At Vodafone, we have discovered new ways to connect our employees to communities in need. From offering online skills-based mentorship to new start-up teams, to digitally participating in networking events and judging panels, members of the Vodafone community are actively lending their expertise to organizations working to educate young women in STEM, promote economic mobility across the country and more. There are several ways Vodafone employees are engaging with the global community to foster social change through technological solutions.

These are some of the organizations we’ve been working with to help engage our employees and help our communities at the same time.

Mentoring the Next Generation of Tech Innovators

Women represent over half of college graduates in the United States, yet they make up only 30 percent of employees at large technology companies. At the same time, there’a a growing need for technology skills across the industry. In fact, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, if current trends continue, by next year, the information technology industry will be able to fill only half the jobs available. Technovation, the world’s largest entrepreneurship program for girls, is working to change that.

Every year, Technovation, a flagship program of nonprofit Iridescent, challenges girls ages 10 to 18 to identify a problem in their community and develop a mobile app that addresses that issue. Girls work in teams to build their apps and create business plans for launch, then present their ideas to a panel of judges. For the past two years, Vodafone employees have participated as judges in this unique challenge, alongside other tech and business leaders.

Technovation made it easy for us to be involved. They participated in our employee Lunch and Learn series to provide an introduction on the organization and explain what was involved to judge, as well as set everything else for us. Our employees have the opportunity to volunteer, no matter where they are. It is both engaging and easy. Not only does the program give young women the chance to learn real-world technical and business skills and build an innovative appfrom the ground up, it also addresses the gender gap in STEM head on. In 2017, nearly 11,000 girls from 99 countries and over 3,500 mentors are participating in Technovation.

The gender gap in technical fields is a top priority for us—in fact, last year, the Foundationintroduced “empowering women and girls through technology” as a core focus for our work. We seek to provide opportunities for women to learn sustainable skills, participate in STEM education and thrive in tech-driven leadership roles. Programs like Technovation speak directly to this mission, and help to bring our values to life. By working with Technovation and engaging in this fun, impactful challenge, Vodafone employees can inspire the next generation of female tech innovators.

Addressing Issues of Financial Health Through Innovation

In the U.S., more than 57 percent of adults (nearly 138 million people) struggle financially, andmany have little to no money saved, according to the Center for Financial Services Information.The Points of Light Civic Accelerator, a start-up accelerator program focused on civic ventures, is addressing ways we can boost the financial health and economic mobility of underserved populations.

The Civic Accelerator recently kicked off its ninth cohort program since 2012, inviting 12 qualifying start-up teams focused on accelerating financial well-being and economic mobility for underserved populations to participate in a 10-week entrepreneur bootcamp program. At the end of the program, the accelerator will grant $50,000 to two promising ventures as selected by their peers.

In addition to participating in the program as a sponsor, Vodafone will also engage in other waysthroughout the bootcamp, including providing mentorship, education and networking opportunities for the entrepreneurs involved. A group of Vodafone employees also served on the application review committee in the initial selection process for the current cohort

Through work with organizations like Technovation and Civic Accelerator, Vodafone employees are contributing to innovative, technology-based solutions that are helping to address social issues around the world. Opportunities like these are particularly special because of their ability to adapt to the changing workforce. Technology is helping bridge the talent of our employees and the needs of the community. I encourage all members of the Vodafone workforce, and all expertsin technology, to lend their support and engage with the global community.