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A Future for 500: Softchoice Cares 2012 Mission

Culture | Posted on January 27, 2012 by Eric Gardiner

When the idea of heading to Bali on a philanthropy mission first came up, most of us balked. As members of the Softchoice Cares Board, we represent Softchoice employees in every decision we make. Telling the company we were going to spend two weeks ‘giving back’ in a tropical paradise sounded like a PR nightmare.

So we did what any other responsible board would do, we looked at other projects in other places – in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Kenya. To be truly scientific, we created criteria and weightings and put every option through a formal review process. We looked at the relevance of the mission to our purpose of bridging the digital divide, charitable impact, safety and, yes, the optics of the location.  And when all the analysis was done, there it was again: Bali.

Even the most clinical process imaginable can’t remove the emotion inherent in a decision like this. But the more we talked and the more research we did, the more confident we were that Bali was the right mission for Softchoice Cares.

Here’s why.

At an emotional level, we came to appreciate that Bali really is a victim of its own image. Beyond the resorts and the glossy brochures, what most people don’t know is that 60 percent of the population lives in poverty. Getting an education – the one sure way to break the cycle – requires tuition fees which forces poor families with more than one child to make a decision most of us can’t imagine: choosing which child to send to school. As we learned, if you’re a girl, odds are it won’t be you. In the worst case scenarios, girls as young as 12 end up being sold off as second or third wives or even more tragically, into the sex trade.

But the biggest reason for choosing Bali was impact. The Widhya Asih Foundation (WAF) – the focus of our efforts – is an organization that supports roughly 500 orphaned children across seven different locations. They manage their operations, including all government-mandated reporting and record keeping, without any IT infrastructure whatsoever. We saw the potential to drive transformative change by providing a server and database software that will allow WAF to centralize their records management processes. Beyond the efficiencies this will create, it will also serve as a valuable training ground as local staff acquaint themselves with the basics of data entry.

The second project will be to set up a new computer training facility to enrich the educational experience for the 500 children WAF supports. The impact here is significant. High school graduates who are computer literate can earn good salaries, or go on to higher education. That’s how you break the cycle of poverty. And that’s the goal of this mission: to use technology to create a better future for 500 children.

With so much need in the world, choosing a mission like this or even which charity to support can be a political and emotional mine-field. But more than any QFD, RFP or voting process you might put in place, being clear on your purpose and how you can make the biggest impact possible is the most important thing. For Softchoice that’s all about technology. And for our 2012 mission, Bali is the place where we’ll make the biggest difference.

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