Thanks to the laudable efforts of our team in Russia, three new ComSol projects are underway in that country. One of them has already gotten lots of media coverage in its region. It’s a WiMAX-based emergency response network that allows ambulances to transmit patient vital signs and other data enroute, in real time. The significant social impact from this project is time saved, lives saved: Emergency room teams can use this network to begin treatments the moment the patient arrives rather than choosing a treatment after the patient arrives.I was casually checking the weather in Russia in anticipation of a 2008 visit to support the team on their other projects. Did you know it is cold most of the time there? I’m not just talking about chilly, I mean C-O-L-D! So when my colleague in Moscow, my manager and I were talking about these three projects the other week, and he invited us for a needed visit to the region, I was hoping my manager wouldn’t volunteer me… Of course I’d go if she did though. Nevertheless, you can imagine my relief when our Russian colleagues confirmed for us that the best time for us to visit would be….you guessed it….summer. Whew. Confirmation was the theme two weeks ago too. I was enjoying a tea at my favorite teahouse here in Portland, Oregon and chatting with a stranger about Community Solutions and Intel’s serious commitment to CSR. I had described a couple of projects my organization is working on and the end of the conversation was quite confirming. Here’s how it went: Her: “Wow, your projects sound very interesting. I’m suddenly feeling very hopeful.” Me: “Hopeful? How’s that?” Her: “Well I never thought a large corporation would be interested in investing in things that make communities stronger and people’s lives better.” Now, I should context this a bit. I’m politically liberal and the tea house where I hang out at ….well, let’s just say it’s a hippie bastion. The majority of the people who come here are decidedly anti-anything-that-has-to-do-with-the-corporate-sector. But I love them anyway…so the fact that this person was shocked that Intel would support projects like the ones we do in ComSol wasn’t too surprising. What was surprising was how much I had become numbed to the impacts CSR programs can have on a person’s perception of a multi-national corporation. I men just two examples completely changed this person’s perception of corporations in general! …I gave a keynote speech last month at a conference in Portland. I was invited to represent Intel and talk about the power of public-private collaborations and their ability to solve world problems. My speech mostly encouraged the attendees to take a hard look at their mental mindset in the context of such collaborations and think about how their mindset could sabotage even the best intentions. Of course, I talked a bit about ComSol too and afterwards those who came to speak to me were surprised at how Intel is making communities stronger and people’s lives better. I should do these kinds of public speaking events more often, because they remind me that CSR work, the actual on-the-ground do-gooding, is an honor and a privilege. Beyond that, I think there’s a reason why many people may share sentiments similar to that stranger at my tea house: We just don’t talk about the good we’re doing enough. And it just goes to show how much work we who work for responsible corporations have before us in creating good works that support the contention that, yes, corporations can be good stewards while still doing well for shareholders.
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