Why Community Involvement Really Matters Now

 
As a former New Yorker and current Arizona resident with most of my family and friends spread along the east coast, I’ve spent much of the last two weeks watching the terrible devastation from Sandy, and the subsequent snowstorm, following my friend’s Facebook posts and tweets about the status of their power, tree limbs, wet basements and impossible commutes. What struck me though were the stories of community and generosity – of communities that suffered immeasurable loss, and of people finding ways to support and help each other. I read about friends who had lost power, who brought the contents of their freezers over to other friends’ houses to make dinner. Of my friend who was supposed to run the marathon, but instead spent the day volunteering to help those most impacted by the storm. And closer to my current home, the some 100 utility workers from Arizona who got on a military transport aircraft (amazingly also with their utility trucks) and headed out to the New York area to help.

This will all be in my mind this week, as I head to New York for an annual workshop on best practices on stakeholder engagement and transparency and also have the opportunity to attend an event to celebrate the launch of The Civic 50, a new ranking of “the top 50 community-minded companies.” The ranking, conducted by the National Conference on Citizenship and Points of Light in partnership with Bloomberg LP, is based on an analysis of S&P 500 corporations that best use their time, talent, and resources to improve the quality of life in the communities where they do business.

I am very proud that Intel was included in the top 20 of the ranking– coming in at #17. When I think about which aspects of Intel’s approach to corporate responsibility and community impact I’m most proud of, it’s the way we work to balance driving impact at the global level through large scalable programs with focused investments in the communities where we operate. This is true not just in the ways in which our employees and the company have supported our local communities in the face of natural disasters, but also for the ongoing “disasters” that confront people in our communities every day. 

Many people think of companies’ contributions and work in the community as just charity work and something that is the right thing to do.  I will say that “the right thing to do” argument is an important component and motivator and shouldn’t be discounted – but increasingly, I think companies are also seeing that there is a real business value created by being strategic and focused in their sustained community engagement efforts.  At Intel, over the years we have seen the benefits of strong relationships with our local communities and have learned valuable lessons where we’ve gotten it wrong. We’ve found that being transparent in our communications, including the launch of new real-time reporting websites called “Exploreintel.com” can help preserve and build trust with our neighbors.

Perhaps most importantly, we are seeing more employees and prospective employees expect their employers to be good corporate citizens, as was discussed in this CNN article earlier this week. Based on surveys of our own employees in the past year, we know that our support and encouragement of volunteering at local schools and nonprofits contributes to their overall job satisfaction. In 2011, our employees volunteered more than 1 million hours in our local communities around the world, raising $8.2 million in much needed funds for local schools and non-profits through our Intel Involved Matching Grants Program. From serving as mentors and judges in local science fairs leading up to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, to our legal team giving back 4,800 hours last year of free legal services to people in need, to our software engineers participating in a “hackathon” to develop solutions for improving technology access and education for girls and women, the commitment and skills of our employees are making a meaningful difference and helping us be the “community-minded” company we strive to be every day.

As I prepare to head to New York to meet with other companies named to the Civic 50 list this year, my interest is in sharing best practices and learning how can we further engage employees in corporate responsibility and community investment. Against the backdrop of Sandy and given the current state of the economy – more than ever before, we need to continue to innovate to find new ways to connect, empower and incentivize individuals and companies to be more community-minded to solve the challenges in front of us.

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