The Exponential Power of Collaboration for STEM Success

While the high-tech industry continues to bloom in Israel – gaining the country international recognition as the “Start-Up Nation” – the number of young people studying high-level math and sciences actually dropped by 30% in the last five years.

This was a serious concern for the Israeli government, which recognized the need for hi-tech professionals, scientists, and researchers to continue building the economy. Likewise, it is a pressing issue for the high-tech industry that need a strong pipeline of qualified engineers to maintain the nation’s competitiveness and innovation.

To paraphrase Israel Minister of Education Naftali Bennett: The drop in mathematics learning is a strategic threat, one which requires a strategic national plan. Such a program will simultaneously strengthen the children’s future and contribute to the growth of Israeli economy.

To this end, I had the opportunity to be a part of the team that led to the formation of the national 5×2 initiative. The goal of this initiative was to double the number of high school students who excel in math and sciences, over the course of five years (2012-2017).

5x2 facts and results

5×2 Initiative in Israel

Intel was one of the leaders in creating this initiative,” said Bella Abrahams, Intel Israel Public Affairs Director. “Our engineers, together with engineers from 25 other companies, volunteered in high schools, speaking to students and parents, sharing their experiences and helping them understand the huge benefits of studying sciences and math for their own future. In addition, non-profit organizations partnered to provide backup tutoring and other essential services, while the Ministry of Education contributed by policy changes where required, budget expansion, national awareness, and more.

Intel reached over 200 schools of the 450 schools that the 5×2 coalition impacted. Close to 25% of these were Arab-speaking schools. As one of the leading high tech employers of the Arab population in Israel, we are proud to say that 25% of the volunteers participating in the 5×2 initiative speak Arabic, enabling us to address the children in their native language.

The program has had a powerful impact on Intel’s volunteers as well as the high school students involved. Sahar Halabi, one of the Intel volunteers who visit schools across Israel and deliver motivational lectures about science and technology, describes her experience: “These children will contribute to developing the field of science and technology, startups and maybe even the next generation of leadership at Intel. They can innovate, invent and be a part of history. I feel like I have a real, positive impact on their lives, and that feeling is amazing.”

Already in its fifth year (2017), the 5×2 initiative has been deemed a success, returning the level of STEM studies nationally to the previous peak level of 2006.

The initiative  inspired a case study by Professor Orit Hazzan and Dr. Ronit Lis-Cohen of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, in collaboration with Bella Abrahams and Mariana Waksman from Intel. This in turn led to the development of a new conceptual model: The Cross Sectorial Collaborative Shared Value Strategy, referred to as (CS)2V.

While Shared Value is a well-known concept, the shift to cross sectorial collective impact, as detailed in the (CS)2V strategy, extends the yielded value of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to include the social dimension, the organization itself, and other participating partners.

With the 5×2 initiative taken as an example, the (CS)2V strategy proposes a variation of Porter and Kramer’s (2006) perspective on CSR by “expanding the shared value concept (beyond the cooperation between the industry and the society), to a whole eco-system benefiting from the collaboration,” therein multiplying its impact.

For maximum effect, the newly developed (CS)2V strategy guides organizations in choosing the social issue(s) on which their CSR division should focuses, by having them consider five basic factors, outlined as:

  1. An external social problem, defined and recognized by the government/authorities
  2. Relatedness to the company’s business value
  3. An ability to contribute added-value to the problem’s solution, that goes beyond budget investment
  4. An opportunity to leverage organizational capabilities
  5. Potential partner organizations, that bring professionalism, and (internally) lacking capabilities

By following this model, organizations of all kinds are able to invest their social and philanthropic budgets in an alternative and more effective way that amplifies the social impact; supports the organization in achieving its financial and operational targets; and ensures the sustainability of the social investments and CSR activities by aligning them organically with the organization’s strategy.

“Our lessons learned from the 5×2 and other initiatives include the importance of connecting the corporation’s core business needs with society’s core needs, from the social and/or government perspective,” added Abrahams, emphasizing that: “This is done by addressing a national social problem that intersects with a business concern.”

In other words, by taking up a collaborative project with shared value, organizations can significantly increase the value of their CSR work, showing that the power of collaboration has indeed exponential impact.

For Intel, the 5×2 initiative showed that working in collaboration is worthwhile for all the partners; and for me personally, it has proven what I already believe – that by working together we can indeed make a significant change!

Comments are closed.