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Integrating Business into the Next Phase of Service and Social Innovation

The private sector can be an important vehicle that mobilizes its employees to serve and help advance key issues, such as education, in communities throughout the country.
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It has been a little more than a year since the passage of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act and already we have seen a marked shift is in the way we think about community: Americans have renewed their commitment to giving back and creating valuable change in society. As budgetary concerns mandate government pullback, nonprofits, businesses and citizens are beginning to look at ways to fill gaps that are created in communities nationwide. In fact, The Corporation for National and Community Service reported that nearly 62 million Americans contributed eight billion hours of volunteer service in 2009, one million more than the previous year.

For the business community, this means redoubling our commitments to create a culture that supports education, service and citizen philanthropy. The private sector can be an important vehicle that mobilizes its employees to serve and help advance key issues -- such as education -- in communities throughout the country. To me this means:

•Offering paid time off -- make it easy for employees to serve. People are our most powerful resource. We need to not only give them the time, but also the resources to "do good." At PwC, we do this by giving our people unlimited time to volunteer as part of firm sponsored activities, such as teaching financial literacy and math skills in schools, as well as providing 10 hours of paid-time off per year for them to volunteer for causes that are personally meaningful.
•Using service as a training and leadership development tool. Service can play a key role in developing future leaders. At PwC, all of our service activities are structured to allow our people to take leadership roles in organizing volunteer efforts, green teams and other activities to help give them greater exposure to their peers, colleagues and the marketplace.
•Tying service to employee recruitment and retention. Employees want to work for companies that provide them with the opportunity to give back to communities where they live and work. According to a recent PwC survey, Millennial at Work: Perspectives from a New Generation, 88% of employees stated that they seek employers with values that reflect their own and 86% said they would consider leaving an employer whose values no longer reflected their own. Offering interns and new hires opportunities to volunteer -- as soon as they start -- can help underscore the culture of service and build morale.
•Collaborating with others. This means working with a range of entities, including other businesses, nonprofits and governments. For example, we are working with Operation Hope to deploy 525 of our intern volunteers to teach youth in 18 cities across the U.S. "the language of money." This is an example of what can be done when businesses and nonprofits marshal their combined expertise towards common causes.

These ideas are simple but at the same time, have a measurable impact and unlock our core competencies to affect positive change. With a solid foundation in place, the rest of 2010 and beyond must be about creating and sustaining impact. We need to continue to mobilize our employees to support--and bring to scale--powerful ideas that address complex challenges, and then put processes in place to ensure our efforts produce a tangible outcome. The momentum we have developed cannot stall once the economy recovers. To truly succeed in making an impact, businesses must be entrenched in the new priorities of integrated philanthropy, education and service. There is no better time than now.

This is the first in a series of blog posts Shannon Schuyler will be penning leading up to the National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the world's largest gathering of volunteer and service leaders from the nonprofit, government and corporate sectors.

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