Developing Leadership Skills Through Volunteering

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Give2Get offers a variety of volunteer programs that serve diverse clients.

When companies want to rebuild their corporate social responsibility strategy, we work with executives from multiple departments. When human resource professionals want to improve company culture, we design and execute events that allow employees from different teams to work together to contribute to their local community. If a DMC needs a feel-good networking event for a large conference, we can ask attendees to assemble donations for national partners like Operation Gratitude or Feeding America. More than likely, these organizations will have local chapters that attendees can work with when they return home.

But we also can also create programs that answer a company's specific needs.

Last year, an international electronics corporation which hosts regular training programs for individuals it determines could be future company leaders had a request: Launch a program that helps individuals put the soft skills they learn during their training into practice.

The program would also have to be able to be duplicated around the world and benefit a local nonprofit.

Our project team spent a bit of time discussing the ask and ideating around it. Some programs were vetoed because they wouldn't be culturally relevant to all. Others, like outdoor activities, weren't feasible in cold months or if there was rain. Still others took too much time or wouldn't be quite right for the company.

Eventually, we settled on a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program that would push future corporate leaders out of their comfort zones by asking them to partner with students from local nonprofits like Girl Scouts, Girls Inc., and Boy & Girls Clubs. 

Working together in small teams, the students and future corporate leaders would build and code robots that could be programmed to complete numerous tasks. The groups were then asked how these robots could be used to transform their communities. Each group would then be responsible for completing a short presentation — through skits, songs, or any other method of their choice — on their robot's potential impact on the world. 

It's not an easy task, especially for the future corporate leaders.

Instead, volunteers must be outgoing so that they can pull shy "teammates" out of their shells. They must also be able to breakdown complex subjects without making students feel inadequate if they don't immediately understand them. They must help students follow directions — without becoming overly demanding or critical (often a problem that first-time leaders have) – and help them harness their still-developing critical thinking skills. To be successful, they must also listen. 

Students often choose to solve problems like security risks at schools, but have also taken on climate change or the refugee crisis. 

"This event is life-changing for these girls," said Girls, Inc., program leader Rosa Alvarado, a chaperone for a similar robotics program Give2Get designed and facilitated in San Diego. "Some of them have never seen adults doing this type of work and don't know any women that work in this field. It inspires them. They think they can do something like this."

From what we've heard, it inspires their teammates, too.