This week I had the chance to talk to Yoann, President and Co-Founder of the Pro Bono Lab in France. He shared a great example of how professional pro bono services can be implemented in other countries. Drawing on Taproot and the Hands on Network for inspiration, Yoann and Antoine (also a Co-Founder) started the Pro Bono Lab in 2011. After an initial learning phase in the US they introduced pro bono services in France by holding an innovation workshop. The workshop helped them figure out which of the things they had learned in the US could translate to the French pro bono environment. They came up with some surprising innovations. Not only did they choose to focus on the marathon model, but they also shortened the Service Grant cycle to 3 months – a more realistic time span for pro bono consultants in France.
The most interesting innovation though, is their “Diagnostic Pro Bono” method. In short, a pro bono consultant discovers a nonprofit and analyzes the organization’s mission and vision, finances and competitive environment. This assessment is then used to develop a strategy and list out potential projects that match the organization’s particular needs. The analysis and the proposal are then discussed with staff members as well as at least one board member of the nonprofit, a Pro Bono Lab representative, and a group of pro bono consultants. In the end they come up with a customized tool box to address the nonprofit’s challenges.
Another great experience this week was attending the project manager orientation session, which is yet another step in the Service Grant cycle. Project Managers (PMs) together with Account Directors (ADs) manage the projects, the pro bono consultants and their interaction with the grantee. The session showed keys to make a pro bono project a success like ownership, frank and frequent communication among all stakeholders and a clear definition of roles. The latter actually helped me to understand the difference between PMs and ADs. While the ADs take a more strategic position during the project, the PMs get involved with the day to day business.
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Armin Pialek is the first Fellow in a pilot joint venture between Taproot and the BMW Foundation. He is working to first bring pro bono to Germany, and then to replicate the model to engage Fellows to develop pro bono with Taproot and the BMW Foundation around the globe.