Since 2015, BOOKBRIDGE and Swiss Re have been partnering in developing purpose-driven leaders at Swiss Re while creating tangible social enterprises in disadvantaged communities around the world. In this interview, Sandra Weinstock, Senior Manager Corporate Volunteering at Swiss Re Foundation, shares her view on the key achievements and learnings out of our partnership.
How did the collaboration between Swiss Re and BOOKBRIDGE start in 2015?
I had just started working at Swiss Re Foundation when I learnt that a colleague of mine had done his civil service with BOOKBRIDGE. At that time, we had been looking for a skills-based volunteering program for our employees. This is how we met for the first time and decided to run a pilot program. I talked to HR to define selection criteria for employees and recruited internal sponsors. The program had been introduced very professionally within Swiss Re and I had been excited right from the start.
At the beginning, we started with a small team of selected participants who still act as our ambassadors today. We asked a film team to accompany the first group of participants so that employees better understand what the program is about. In the following years, all participants had been coming back from the program with exclusively positive feedback. This is why we have been offering the program every year since then.
What has developed out of the collaboration since then?
Sending candidates to our Global Entrepreneur Program with BOOKBRIDGE marked only the start. 48 employees from Swiss Re have been participating in 10 programs since 2015. In addition, we discovered the program as a great way to engage our employees in supporting the finalists of our own ReSource Award in scaling their social enterprises.
Furthermore, one of our program alumni discovered the program as a great way to implement skills-based volunteering programs at a local level. Our first regional program started in 2018 with a team of professionals from Swiss Re Bangalore and a social entrepreneur from Bangalore. They have just started the third program run and there are more regions interested in adapting the program to foster skills-based volunteering at a local level.
Our programs also supported BOOKBRIDGE in moving to new countries like Tanzania, Guatemala and India. At the same time, we had been able to test the learning approach with our existing partners in the sectors like water and housing.
What motivates you to work together with us?
The engagement, passion and the positive feedback of the program alumni is what motivates me the most. In addition, we create impact in disadvantaged communities around the world. To me, this is a unique combination which makes me love the job I am doing. We make our employees leave their corporate comfort zone and we bring them together with dedicated social entrepreneurs to create a tangible business. Finally, I really enjoy the collaboration with the team, coaches and all other stakeholders at BOOKBRIDGE. We develop new ideas together, test them and learn from each other.
Internally, the development goals of the Capability Program match very well with our leadership imperatives around being courageous, adapt at speed and create a joint movement. Our employees are asked to take risks as social entrepreneurs in their own projects. They are asked to step up and take responsibility for something which is bigger than themselves. This makes them win new perspectives which they can also use at work. By that way, we also shape the culture at Swiss Re and help to develop the next generation of responsible leaders.
What have we learnt by collaborating together?
If there is a will, there is a way. This is what I have learnt in collaborating with you over the past five years. We have not always been of the same opinion but we listened to each other and decided what is best for the quality of our programs. I value the flexibility of the team at BOOKBRIDGE as well as the passion and energy with which we tackle challenges together. You never say "no" to an idea. Instead, you take it up to try it out.
Which vision do you have for the future?
I imagine that we continue to grow together. I envision motivated candidates who are willing to develop themselves while creating impact. I wish for committed line managers who support their team members on their learning journeys. And I believe that we will foster entrepreneurial thinking and acting in disadvantaged communities, thereby creating jobs where they are needed the most. Our community has been growing constantly over the past years and we would like to continue to offer the program globally and expand it to other regions.
Thank you Sandra for sharing your experience and your learnings with us. We are proud that you are part of our BOOKBRIDGE Family!