‘It’s Fantastic to See Young People Make Something of Their Lives’
November 28, 2017
‘Shaping multi-million dollar corporate programs, while simultaneously running initiatives that give back creates the perfect mindset balance for me personally,’ says Hans Boxem, Senior Account Lead and Global Manager of the Accenture-Plan partnership.
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‘It’s what we call the 1+1=3 effect,’ says Heleen Keijer, Global Account Manager at Plan Netherlands. ‘When two separate entities that both excel in their fields or expertise join forces, their impact can be enormous.’ Accenture’s vast digital expertise works in perfect harmony with Plan’s grassroots network, expertise on girls and youth employment, entrepreneurship and empowerment (YEE).
Change is much needed across the globe. There are millions of young people in the world who are lacking skills and education and, ultimately, a fair chance in life. ‘Equipping the youth with the necessary skills to form part of the workforce of the future and offering them and their families the opportunity to live a dignified life are the primary drivers of this partnership,’ explains Hans Boxem.
Hans: ‘By empowering youth with the “Skills to Succeed”, we wish to truly contribute to reducing youth unemployment in developing countries. It’s the transformation of the partnership that is responsible for its success: it’s a mutually beneficial and strengthening cooperation. Of course, it is sometimes challenging to collaborate with two parties that have a different DNA, and it is true that NGOs speak a different language than corporates. But above all, it’s a fact that lives are changed through the partnerships, projects and initiatives.’
Meet Deborah, a 25-year-old single mom from Tacloban, the Philippines. In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan washed away the house she lived in with her parents and brother. Even worse, her brother - the breadwinner of the family - has been missing ever since. Suddenly, Deborah had to become the breadwinner of her family, but due to her lack of education, that wasn't a viable option. When Deborah was told about Plan International and its mission to assist women with getting an education, she connected with Plan, and was sent to school for a two-month vocational course.
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‘It changed my life completely,’ says Deborah. ‘The course taught me a lot. Upon completion, I found a job in a famous fine dining restaurant, which I would have never got without the skills I acquired during the course. While I originally was hired as a host and receptionist, I moved my way up to cashier, and was later promoted to crew manager. Today, I manage the bartenders and supervise the waitrons. I love my job; it allows me to learn a lot and further explore my skills.’
Deborah is now the breadwinner of her family, which includes her parents and a 3-year-old daughter. ‘As a single mom, life can be tough, but I intend to give my daughter a good upbringing and education; I will do anything to make sure she finishes school,’ asserts Deborah. ‘If anything, Plan has taught me to hang on, even in the most difficult situation, and to never stop dreaming. The fact that they gave me this opportunity has been life-changing.’
‘This is what it is all about,’ says Heleen. ‘Meeting Deborah is incredibly inspiring for me, and it makes it all so very tangible. The fact that this partnership can have such a profound impact is fantastic. Like Deborah, there are hundreds of millions of lives we can - and need to - change just as fundamentally.’
The Accenture-Plan partnership operates on various levels; global and local. Hans: ‘Ultimately, all projects should have a global impact, regardless of scale. On an international level, there are various grants that are allocated to projects in countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Latin America and Southeast Asia that have an enormous impact.’
‘Over the past seven years, the Accenture-Plan partnership has equipped more than 15,000 vulnerable young people in Asia and Latin America with the skills to get a job or start a business. And our work doesn’t stop there. Together, we are expanding our partnership to equip tens of thousands more young people throughout Indonesia and the Philippines with critical employability skills over the next three years. Additionally, we’re building a new AI-enabled chatbot to help these young people identify and articulate their career ambitions,’ explains Hans.
Locally, there are plenty of exciting initiatives as well. We have teams of Accenture employees that cycle hundreds of miles in Zambia to raise funds for Plan. Meanwhile, techie groups from the Accenture Netherlands office are designing a new, more effective website for Plan Netherlands and helping them with newsletter distribution in a joint project aiming to improve Plan’s online fundraising strategy. Additionally, Accenture and Plan are engaging with Accenture’s clients to scale the impact the partnership has on empowering young people around the world.’
Heleen: ‘By collaborating with Accenture’s clients as well, we can accelerate the realization of the aforementioned impacts. It’s the perfect triangle: the industry knowledge that a client brings to the table; the (digital) operation facilitated by Accenture; and the implementation power that Plan can offer to those that need it most.’
What defines the success of the partnership? Its transformative character was already mentioned: the fact that Accenture and Plan truly complement one another. ‘Moreover, the fact that Plan really gets things moving and genuinely has an impact in the field is vital,‘ says Hans. Plan’s attitude towards technology and innovation is inextricably linked to achieving results ensures a genuinely result-driven and innovative mindset.’
Heleen: ‘That innovative mindset is definitely one of our key motivators. We firmly believe innovation and technology can enhance reach and have a massive global impact. Like any other organization, having that effect is only feasible for Plan when we acquire knowledge from outside of our organization, too. Teaming up with Accenture has proven to be pivotal in this context.’
Over the last few years, Hans visited some Plan-Accenture projects around the world. ‘These field visits are always a real reality check. It’s fantastic to see young people who, through our projects, have managed to take the next step in their careers and lives. Some opened their own shops in the slums, others found jobs in respectable companies and those with an entrepreneurial edge run businesses from the back of their houses.’
‘During these field visits, it’s my humble role to evaluate the programs; capture lessons learned, and ensure challenges are dealt with effectively. Above all, it helps me keep things in perspective and realize this is what it’s also really about: helping the countless Deborahs of the world to succeed in life.’
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The partnership with Plan is part of the Corporate Social Responsibility program at Accenture Netherlands. We will share a number of articles that highlight our social ambitions. Read here the previous one on CodeMasters 4 Refugee talent. Next up: Empowering people with disabilities in collaboration with De Normaalste Zaak.