Meet the Digital Opportunity Trust

The job of facilitating the deployment of the IBM Corporate Service Corps each year is a daunting one.  Apart from the selection process, which I’ve already described, there are other major undertakings required to pull this off, such as

  • Training.  Many of the CSC participants do not have extensive world travel experience.  And while most of us have done some volunteer work on our own, community support is quite different from global development work.  So prior to our deployment we need to be trained and briefed on what to expect, how to behave, and on what will be asked of us.
  • Logistics.  Moving hundreds of people around the globe to a precise schedule is a non-trivial task.  Securing housing and living arrangements, dealing with visas and cross-country reporting and compliance rules are likewise significant tasks.
  • Local facilitation.  Once we arrive, we will be largely reliant on local support and knowledge for our day-to-day existence, for such basics as where to eat, laundry, medical care as needed, and also cultural guidance on the best way to engage with the people we are helping.
  • Most important of all, we are dependent on local service expertise to contact and build bridges with the communities and organizations we will be helping.

To help will all of these tasks, IBM works with a small number of NGO’s (non-government organizations) who specialize in programs like this.  The Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT), is one of the main NGO’s that IBM works with, and will be the facilitator for Team China 18’s deployment in Kunming.  To help ensure that I am successful in working with them, I went and did a little research on DOT.  Here are some of the things I found out…

  • DOT is based in Canada and was launched in 2002.
  • They are a major player. In addition to working with IBM, they help a number of other major enterprises with programs very similar to the Corporate Service Corps.  Some of their other clients include Cisco, Mastercard, and USAID.  They also work with Americorps, a domestic service organization in the USA, modeled on the Peace Corps.
  • As well as China, DOT have programs running in Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, UAE, and Turkey.
  • Facilitating corporate service is only part of what DOT does.  Their main operation is working with recent university graduates and providing the same sort of training, facilitation and logistical support to enable those students to serve internships in which they teach IT, business, and entrepreneurship skills to communities around  the world.

This is a very well-thought-out business model; I’m really impressed.  By using the revenue they earn from their corporate clients to fund internships and teaching programs, they are effectively taking the investments that IBM and similar companies are making in their own employees, and leveraging those investments across a far greater community of both teachers and students.

By combining their efforts this way, both programs are able to reach and positively impact the lives of far more people than either would do on its own.  Businesses need to evolve at an ever more rapid pace to stay competitive.  In the same fashion, service organizations need to evolve as the needs of the of the communities they support change and intensify.  This kind of integrated program design is exactly what we need.

I am really looking forward to meeting Frank, Marianne, Leslie, and the rest of the DOT China team.

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