What is the Accenture Learning Journey?

Each year, we organize the Learning  Journey, giving employees from all levels and professional backgrounds the opportunity to work on a two-week consulting project for an NGO in a developing country. Last November, ten Accenture consultants took this opportunity and traveled to Beijing, China to work on a public welfare project.

Two of the team members were Roel Nous and Martijn Verleisdonk. According to Roel and Martijn, the Learning Journey was a highly unique experience. A chance to make an impact for an NGO and intensively work together with colleagues while learning and reflecting on their personal learning goals. In this article, they reflect on their exciting and rewarding Journey.

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Corporate citizenship program without a business incentive 

The purpose of the Learning Journey is to transfer our knowledge and experience to NGO members. Through the program, Accenture participants are also able to experiment with and reflect on their personal learning objectives. A Leadership Coach guides their individual progress, and team development and cooperation. 

Because participation is rather popular among our employees, the two consultants applied with the most appealing and convincing motivation letters possible, in which they could show both their skills and personality. Roel was already charmed by the idea of a pro bono public welfare project that encourages colleagues to develop their personal skills. Not by following a workshop but by supporting a non-profit organization in a developing country and solving real-life social problems.

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Martijn: "I learned a lot from the Chinese mentality as they continuously question the purpose of the things they do."

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"The program mainly focuses on international cooperation as part of a corporate citizenship program without a business incentive. But it also includes many opportunities for my personal development," Roel said, adding that supporting partners in other countries is a natural outcome of the responsibility we take. At Accenture, we believe that with our deep understanding of technology and business, we should take the responsibility to help create more-inclusive societies that offer more opportunities to more people. 

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Every year, a different country is chosen for the Learning Journey. When the two consultants applied, the program's destination was still a mystery to them. What really appealed to Martijn was the prospect of adventure, seeing how an NGO in an unknown country is run, and learning what he could add as a consultant educated in the Netherlands. Martijn: "I am fascinated by China—where I lived seven years ago—and was curious about the changes that had taken place in the past few years."

The two consultants explained that during their projects in the Netherlands, time usually slips away without any moments for reflection. One of their drives to apply for the Learning Journey was the expectation that there would be ample opportunity to experiment with leadership competencies while receiving feedback from nine colleagues, the customer, and an external team coach. 

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Responsible citizenship at Accenture the Netherlands

At the heart of our organization is the belief that ideas in action can change the world. The ideas we have, the innovations we create, and the partnerships we develop have a ripple effect that changes the lives of millions for the better. We are making a difference, one beautiful idea at a time.

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Concern for ‘forgotten people’ in China’s countryside 

The partner in this Learning Journey was the YouChange China Entrepreneur Foundation (hereafter YouChange), a nationwide charitable organization that aims to promote social justice and harmonious development in rural areas.

YouChange's main focus is on ‘forgotten people’ in the countryside. People who stay in rural areas after the brain drain of both knowledge and young people, who have left the region for urban areas.

During their stay, the group worked on three important projects:

  1. The Longtang Village revitalization project, which aims to raise rural villages above the established poverty range by rebuilding the village while maintaining the culture. They do this by supporting the local government with proper training to strategically govern the village. 
  2. The Women Up program, a training program for female entrepreneurs (to be) that helps them build their own business, both online and offline. YouChange provides training around personal leadership and general business topics. 
  3. The Green Pepper Project, an online platform to support (aspiring) teachers to teach in rural areas. The platform is meant to refrain them from moving to the cities, by teaching them online on how to be a good teacher. Both content and professional support are provided by university professors. 

"Just being there and working together gave so much energy"

According to Martijn and Roel, YouChange had prepared the objectives for the two-week project very well.

"The purpose was to make an impact together. We started with teaching the Chinese team members our European methods, like design thinking and working agile," Martijn remarked. It wasn't like they had envisioned beforehand. Roel observed that the impact was different than when they left for the trip because just being there and working together gave so much energy.

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The Chinese continuously question the purpose of the things they do

Both participants agree that it was very interesting to experience working with people from a completely different culture and language, especially while collaborating intensively. In their opinion, working in a purely purpose-driven organization was inspiring. Roel stated: "Working for an NGO makes you think about your daily job in profit organizations, for example, because the focus here was not only on profit but also on happiness and welfare."

What particularly impressed Roel and Martijn was the engagement of the Chinese participants and their collective way of working. Martijn: "I learned a lot from the Chinese mentality as they continuously question the purpose of the things they do." Roel added that "in the culture of YouChange, one can feel that their reason for existence is purpose. In all they do, they ask themselves: 'What wakes you up in the morning?'"

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"Your ordinary can be someone else's extraordinary."

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New friendships have been made, new lessons have been learned

Both Dutchmen see the Learning Journey as one great—Chinese—adventure. They both acknowledge that reflecting on past tasks with the leadership coach and the team helped them grow as professionals. The Learning Journey has been a tremendous path, one to remember and be very pleased with, as the Accenture colleagues truly became a collective group during their stay.  

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Though they didn't know each other before flying to China, they've developed a personal bond during the journey since they spent a lot of time together and shared comparable experiences, Martijn highlighted. Now they keep in touch and sometimes have a coffee break together at their Amsterdam office.

As their trip has been a huge success and an experience never to forget, Roel is looking forward to seeing the next group leave when the 10th Learning Journey will be taking place. Another group of Accenture consultants will get the opportunity to experience the advantages of leaving their comfort zone.

For both Martijn and Roel, the most important take-away from their experience is to take nothing for granted: "Your ordinary can be someone else's extraordinary."

Martijn Verleisdonk

Management Consultant – Accenture Strategy & Consulting, Supply Chain & Operations


Roel Nous

Utilities & Energies Consultant – Accenture Strategy & Consulting, Technology Strategy & Advisory

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