I am coming up for one year in my new position as Project Coordinator for Corporate Social Responsibility for the Taylor’s Education Group, a large educational provider that owns a university, two colleges and five schools in Kuala Lumpur. I have been working in one program, the Canadian Pre-University Program, at one of those colleges for six of the last seven years. A year ago I stepped into this position hoping to do some good in a larger context than just one program in just one college.
To say that this has been a stretching experience is accurate, provided you envision a medieval rack along the lines of the one used in The Princess Bride. Don’t let the fancy title fool you. I spent the first four months in this role at the end of a crowded bench normally reserved for student interns only slightly older than my grandchildren. Not to worry. Asian workers are nothing if not mobile, and of the four of us sitting on that bench, only I lasted longer than six months. There were plenty of offices available shortly as well. I simply moved into one of them, squatter-like, and dared them to evict me. The jury is still out on whether I will ever get my name on the door.
I spent those first four months largely on the move myself, leveraging my impressive title into meetings with the high and lowly, connecting social entrepreneurs with CSR-inclined businesses, finding out which staff were helping the community and which ones to avoid. After this initial phase and after a few meetings with the CEO to get his take on the whole matter, I began to formulate a website in my head. In my thoughts I saw a place where all those lowly staff, toiling away in the forgotten bowels of the enormous company could meet with each other across the internet. I would compose pages of the projects they were involved in and write up profiles of the staff and students involved. I would provide links to the community partners and post upcoming events they could participate in. It would celebrate community service and affirm those who cared about the larger community.
By now I had an office where I could meet and begin to compile and compose all of the information I needed. I called together some of the team in Marketing and gathered their advice and ensured their commitment. I pulled in the ICT department and enlisted their aid for what was going to become a detailed and complex website. I began to learn the software, a steep learning curve whose intricacies had been facilitated by our own blogsite which you are presently reading. I gathered more information more widely from other colleges and schools. As the database of all this information grew I began to transfer it to the pages I was developing, learning compositional tricks as I progressed. By the time I left for our break in May, the site had begun to take shape.
When I got back at the beginning of June I had managed to convince my CEO to hire an assistant. Amelia knew some things about graphics from previous positions and has been very helpful in the last push to get the site complete enough to publish. I worked with some graphic designers to get the whole CSR package branded, and after a dozen prototypes arrived at IMPACT!; a name that seems to have met with widespread approval. I secured permission for its inclusion on the staff and student portals and on 19 July 2014 it got a ‘soft’ launch with a letter of introduction from the CEO to all staff. You can see a screenshot of the result above, but only staff and students can login to view the site.
This journey is not over. On Friday I met with the ICT team once again, this time to find a vendor to retool the content beyond the limits of its Sharepoint template, to something more approaching the kind of look and feel that you would expect from an institution of this clout. Next week the team and I will meet with three vendors to outline the specifics of the projected revamped CSR site and allow them to work out some proposals. This process is expected to take three months, by which time Amelia and I have to finish all the content for the site so it can be migrated to the revamped format.
My days are long. I get here at 7 in the morning to get in a full day by 3 so I can get to my ‘other’ job over at Taylor’s College so I can keep my work visa which says ‘lecturer.’ On busy days at the College I get home after 6. Aside from our time in Canada, I haven’t taken a day off since I began this job a year ago, although I did take a couple of half-days when Liz and Greg and Matt and Kate were here. Outside of the people I work with on a daily basis, not ten people out there know what I am doing or why I think it is important. But some day, maybe before Christmas if all goes well, this site will go public, and then this institution will become identified by the sacrificial staff and students who are doing all they can to help those who need their help in the communities around us. And then I will have done some good.