I have long maintained that professional development organizations and associations that have a focus of expertise must establish a connection to global issues and develop platforms for action and partnership. Not doing so is to contribute to siloism and further separates business from the problems in our world. We must become forces for good.
When GPM was first established in 2009, we set out to break the mold. We are part association, part professional development organization, with one hand in sustainability and the other in project management. We even bucked the non-profit approach and chose a social enterprise model. All of our revenue is reinvested into programming. To us, value creation is the objective, and while profitability is important, it isn’t to create a massive bottom line, but rather a lasting and positive impact.
Two years ago we made a commitment to the United Nations to support sustainable development in Africa. At the 2013 UN Global Compact Leaders Summit, I led a panel discussion with former UK Prime Minster Gordon Brown on the educational needs of Africa. Full disclosure — I was a bit perplexed as I am not African, have not lived in an African country and aside from some personal relationships, had no personal frame of reference. Being as a sustainability professional, I knew the issues from a high-level perspective and was able to hold my own on the panel but wasn’t able to share from a personal context. What’s more, it doesn’t matter what I think and to the audience at a stuffy dinner, it wouldn’t matter anyway. Positive change comes from action, not words.
When Bridgit Africa came online that year as a training partner, it gave us the opportunity to make a difference. Our partner model allows us to create immediate impact by infusing local organizations with sustainable practices and while gaining insight to further develop ourselves to be of greater value. That being said, the key to our success is a solid platform for action and partnership. Bridgit brought that. They are a great group of individuals who give back to the community and then some. This photo is of Tyrone Int’ Veld carrying a GPM flag up to the Summit of Kilimanjaro doing a mountain cleanup trip.
We have put an important focus on supporting sustainable development in Africa. From training organizations, providing consults to NGOs and governments, support for the Niger Delta Remediation (Hyprep) Project, and PSM3 assessments to companies we have kept to our commitment.
Last week, Vice President Peter Milsom and I had the opportunity to provide training in South Africa. We worked together to deliver PRiSM Practitioner and developed some outlines for future GPM tools with our partners at Bridgit. (the tools will be awesome. More to come on that!)
One of the neatest thing we were able to do was to support some local students. SGodiphola Secondary School, located in Cosmo City South Africa is a public school in an area where the majority of students lack the resources to make the leap out of poverty. Bridgit has supported the school for a long time and when we had the chance to contribute, we jumped at it.
For us, CSR has to be done right. Building a school to offset business activity is the wrong approach. Setting strong organizational sustainability targets (in our case achieving carbon neutrality) and supporting students because it is the right thing to do, is the correct approach.
The only paper that we use as an organization is business cards. We usually offset them but this time, we didn’t plant a tree. Three students from the school came in designed business cards for us and were compensated well for their time and effort. It also directly contributes to SDGs 1, 4, 12, and 17.
Each card has our logo (pre-printed) with a unique design and the student’s name on the back. This is more than a card. Each time we hand one out, it is a chance to tell a story of how to make a difference. If you would like to have your cards made, contact Kevin In’t Veld directly and he will help make the connection.
This blog post outlines is just a small example of how we walk the talk. The important thing I hope you as a reader takes away is to find ways to make a difference, no matter how small it may seem.
Next month, I will attend the 2016 UN Global Compact Leader Summit in New York and will be able to share some GPM accomplishments, not as part of a panel, but through one on one dialogues with some great new conversation starters.
I urge every professional association and development organization to make public declarations to contribute to the SDGs or at the least map your activities to ensure your alignment. We simply can’t stand by and expect business to take on the challenge towards 2030 when we are the ones who they look to for best practice and standards.