I love that the company I work for incentivizes us to go the gym. I love that they take us to NYC twice a year. But most of all, I love that they give us the opportunity to be part of something that is positively impacting the world. For Next Jump, Corporate Social Responsibility comes from something deep within. It’s part of our culture – and our ‘WHY’. There are several examples of how this is embedded in our business, but none involve employees on such a personal level as Code for a Cause.
We have incredible business and engineering people, and Code for a Cause allows employees to donate their most precious assets – their time and skills - to a non-profit in need. We give teams of three top employees a 2-week period to focus solely on a non-profit project.
I’ve just worked with two engineers, Henry and Anuj, to wrap up the first 2013 Code for a Cause project working with Shri Service Corps, an organization that provides free yoga outreach programs to people in need in their community.
Why did I apply for Code for a Cause? I come from a very modest background, my parents never had a lot of money, my dad lost his job when I was young and then passed away when I was 14. My mum now works as a cleaner in the local school, and my brother is 26 and unemployed, with a criminal record. So I consider myself lucky that I was able to come up through the system, to have gone to a fantastic university and to have a good job now. One of the benefits of working at Next Jump is access to CEO Talks, and having Wes Moore come in and talk about the crucial moments where people’s paths can go in two directions made me realize that was basically the difference between my life and the rest of my family. For that reason, I have that passion to now want to help others around me who maybe do not have those advantages.
What resonates with me personally are organizations whose aims link to solving the original root causes of the bigger issues – for example, my brother didn’t end up in a court because he was bad person, but he didn’t have as good a relationship with my dad as I did, and therefore often felt as if his younger sister was the more successful, idealistic child. It’s incredible how much psychological development can have on someone’s future.
So, for me, psychological development and early education are the two causes I am always most interested to help with. I chose to work with Shri specifically because I believe they are doing exactly this. Yoga has many physical and emotional benefits that can benefit someone’s wellbeing, which can then go on to impact their lives in other ways.
There are many basic human skills and characteristics that we can take for granted – such as managing anger and collaborating with others – that others do not possess. It’s these basic skills that yoga can help develop, allowing individuals to perform to their fullest potential. Interestingly, over the years, my brother has taken cognitive therapy, seen psychologists and actually attended yoga classes – and in this time, I’ve seen his temper drop and his personal peace improve.
Shri is doing this with every single yoga class they teach and every student they work with. And they are doing it well – they currently issue paper surveys to record results, and they’ve had a strong self-reported impact to date. From their most recent project, working with incarcerated youth, here are the headlines:
-100 percent of students who took part want to participate in another project -88 percent of students want to do so MORE than once a week -88 percent felt more confident and more energized after 8 weeks yoga training -75 percent said they felt more relaxed, stronger and less stressed -88 percent said they quiet their mind with their breathing
Those are incredible results. However, as Shri expands, their paper surveys and other manual processes are not a scalable solution.
In order to grow, Shri needs to be able to train more teachers, approach more partners and then create a model that can be adopted by other organizations across the country. The stepping stones to this are: 1) fine tune their curriculum, 2) tell their story and 3) raise funding. Currently, they are unable to effectively do this because they don’t have the resources to evaluate projects by hand. Currently teachers cannot even take attendance, because it would take too much time and there is nowhere to record this data. Shri instructors have no idea how many students they are currently serving or the full impact they are having.
We collaborated with Shri to automate a number of their processes, not only reducing the amount of time spent on administrative activities, but also allowing them a completely flexible and configurable insight into the results of their projects.
It’s difficult to build a stunning product. It’s incredibly difficult to build a stunning product in 2 weeks. But it’s one of the most gratifying things when you actually do it – and for a good cause. It was incredibly rewarding to hear Shri’s excited responses as we showed them the product, and even more so when they began to input their project and class information into the system – it suddenly became a lot more real. These are real people we will be impacting.
On a skills side, we all learnt so much – myself in terms of project management skills, product scoping and building, understanding a product from a technical viewpoint and presentation skills. I think similarly, working so closely to a client’s needs has helped Anuj and Henry see a project from a different perspective, as well as them picking up new technical skills. It was the first time both of them had really worked on responsive layouts for different mobile and tablet resolutions, and Henry did a lot of awesome stuff on the survey tool and report builder.
Nothing is more fulfilling than when you go to work and it feels like you’re fulfilling your own personal purpose. The Shri project for me did that for us, and I only hope other organizations will take inspiration and be willing to see such projects as an investment in their culture, not taking away from their bottom line.