SFR is the #2 telecom operator in France (subsidiary of Vodafone and Vivendi Universal). They announced yesterday that they would allow 50 additional employees every year to spend from 6 to 11 paid days per year working for a non-profit organization. These days are paid and managed as usual working days. SFR limited the authorized non-profits to those working in the fields of childhood protection and people with disabilities. SFR employees have a strong demand for such a program and a jury will have to select the yearly 50 « citizen-employees » based on the quality of their project.
For sure, this must be great news for altruistic SFR employees. But I’d like to make a suggestion to SFR to make this operation even more effective: why aren’t you focusing on your core business and competencies instead of diverting your efforts toward childhood and disabilities topics? I’m quite sure SFR employees could come with substantial socially-savvy innovations in the field of telecommunications if they were challenged to do so. Social entrepreneurship (entrepreneuriat social in French) combines altruistic aspirations with senseful business innovations. In the field of telecommunications, the best example for such activities is probably the Grameen Village Phone (see also here) or, to a lesser extent Alcatel’s Digital Bridge. Many other examples exist in social hightech. Social entrepreneurship projects may be riskier than usual innovation projects corporations sometimes carry. But this citizen-employee kind of operation would be ideal for managing the risks of social entrepreneurship project while contributing to the corporate social responsability of SFR, giving it a nice media coverage and still giving birth to economically viable businesses.
The so-French tradition of tightly containing « charities » away from business sometimes drives me nuts. Take the best of both worlds, please!
Anyway, hurrah for this nice SFR marketing and HR operation! If only my employer did the same thing, I would probably be on the field trying to connect some unconnected families, researching some disruptive knowledge technologies applied to local development (such as social networking software for residential areas), developping semantic web technologies applied to corporate social responsability reports or so.
From my 3 years working for a charity, it became very clear that there is no shortage of people wanting to do social activities – there are tons of volunteers – but there is a shortage of money to fund the projects. SFR would get more outcome from their initiative if they attached money to the selected 50 « citizens » before releasing them for their 50 days.
In this age of Globalisation, when the world has already become a smaller place. Would it not be a good idea if SFR could select three of their best employees for each year and send them overseas to « work » for a non profit/charity?
This would be a rich experience for their employees and would also benefit the host country/organisation with specialised skills for a fixed period each year through which they can build up their own in house expertise.
I think such companies may prefer doing something locally, in France and anyhow related to telecom topics. Maybe it would also make more sense for employees to contribute to local communities before (or instead of) getting overseas and having to face the big learning curve required for being efficient as a volunteer in a Third World Country.
For instance, SFR created the « Passeport Ingénieur Télécoms » initiative which is about mentoring promising French college or license students from needy families so that they extend their studies after college until they get their master/engineer graduation via a mentoring program. Every volunteer employee from SFR (but also from Nokia, Alcatel, Siemens and Motorola) becomes a mentor for a couple of such students and offers some sort of relational/professional support for these would-be engineers.
I personally think doing this kind of thing makes more sense than turning some employees into humanitarian paratroopers to be dropped abroad into situation they can’t grasp.