At AnswerLab, our mission is to improve the digital world. Central to that mission is delivering outstanding user experience research to our clients, but another way we work towards it is to actively seek out digital (and non-digital!) opportunities to have a positive impact on our community. Our Giving Back approach is multi-pronged, including team building service activities, direct financial support to charitable organizations, and pro bono service to groups like Taproot, that “lead, mobilize, and engage professionals in pro bono service to drive social change.” People are often surprised to hear that we have a formal program to give back to the community, given the size of our company. As the season of giving is upon us, I wanted to share what we have done at AnswerLab in hopes that other small companies that may be daunted by establishing a giving back program will see that they too can make a big difference.
Taking root: Know your audience to foster participation
Our Giving Back activities for 2012 got off to a strong start! Since we are researchers through and through, we started with…yes, research. To ensure strong company-wide support, we surveyed our colleagues about their interests and preferred causes. We heard that team members were most excited to work with our hands, promoting elementary education or sustainability issues. Our spring quarterly meeting took place close to Earth Day, so we partnered with Hands On Bay Area to get our hands dirty for a good cause. Hands On Bay Area linked us up with César Chávez Elementary School in San Francisco where we worked to help transform an overgrown space in the front of the school into a beautiful and functional outdoor classroom. While half of us weeded, raked, and mulched outdoors, the rest painted colorful signs for the space. Now, the space is taken care of by a collaborative group including parents, as well as science and health teachers (who will incorporate the garden into classes).
Then, over the summer, a group of AnswerLabbers braved 100-degree weather in San Jose to spend a day installing a photovoltaic array (solar panels!) on a two story house as part of GRID Alternatives’ 2012 Bay Area Solarthon. We, along with groups from Google, Wells Fargo, SalesForce, Sungevity, SunPower, and Yingli Solar, helped to install 262 solar panels that will provide clean, inexpensive energy for the neighborhood’s low-income residents. That’s the equivalent of taking 300 cars off the road for one year! We were especially excited to partner with GRID because they provide a coherent solution to energy for residents in need, including working to find in-kind donations of solar panels and energy efficient appliances, as well as educating recipients about sustainability and energy use. See GRID’s great photos as well as our photo stream on Facebook.
AnswerLab is committed to supporting worthy causes with financial support. Recently, we supported the GRID alternatives Solarthon at the Kilowatt Level. We also partnered with Genentech and the Family Reach Foundation for the third year in a row to support the foundation’s annual Golf Classic, which provides financial support to families battling cancer.
We are also passionate about sparking students’ interest in becoming involved in technical fields. As part of this work, AnswerLab encourages team members to mentor students through programs such as the Technovation Challenge, an organization that encourages high school girls to embrace technology and entrepreneurship.
Finally, we are excited to partner with Taproot to expand our reach to more nonprofits. During the summer, we worked with them to revamp their internal project site to help project managers form and manage pro bono groups more easily. They are a proud sponsor of National Pro Bono Week – happening this week – and we look forward to collaborating with upcoming projects in 2013.
We’re very excited about these efforts and others. As the season of giving approaches, we look forward to more and more team members — in coordinated company efforts or as individuals — taking time out to give back. We will report back on our efforts for 2013, and hope you can share yours then too!
— Jessica Weber & Elizabeth Shelly, Giving Back Team Co-Chairs