It wasn’t hung for the attendees of the 2018 Global Pro Bono Summit, but there on the wall of ISDI-ACE in Mumbai, India—the site of the 6th annual global cross-sector gathering—was a sign: “If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It.” As intermediaries, corporate practitioners, and NGOs from locations around the world—Minneapolis, Hong Kong, London, Budapest, San Francisco, Berlin, Paris—poured into the room ready to continue the hard work of movement building, the sign represented a good omen. It reminded each of us how far we’d already come.
Forty-eight hours earlier, I’d been working in a room overflowing with global intermediaries committed to bringing corporate pro bono resources to their countries’ NGO community. Members of the Global Pro Bono Network were charted the course of the movement using paper, pens, playdough, plastic figurines, stickers, and anything else we could find.
The official story of the Network began in 2013 with the first Global Pro Bono Summit held fittingly at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. The room at that Summit was far too big for the number of attendees. In an effort to take up space and create positive energy, Taproot staff filled the room with huge clear plastic beach balls of the globe! But in truth, the unofficial beginning of the Network was in 2012, when Taproot’s founder Aaron Hurst handed Armin Pialek, of the BMW Foundation, an excel file of names and told him to pick up the phone and get in touch with these possible pro bono intermediaries. What had once been an idea just six years go is now a thriving, self-sustaining Network. There was power in the visual of the paper—then and now—and inspiration in knowing that the work we’re doing is making it possible for NGOs worldwide to access high-quality capacity building resources via pro bono.
Corporate giving is the law in India. All companies earning more than 10 billion rupees ($153 million U.S. dollars) must give away 2% of their net profit to charity. While there are ongoing questions of whether or not the law truly makes a difference for the NGO community, one thing is certain. The dialog around civic engagement and giving back is now front and center. It was against this backdrop that attendees at the Global Summit listened to Dr. Mukund Rajan, Chief Ethics Officer of the Tata Group and Chair of Tata’s Global Sustainability Council, as he shared his fundamental belief in the power of pro bono to build leaders, organizations, and communities. It was inspiring to consider what could be, but the moment when the room sparked with energy was when he made it clear that beyond his belief this was PRACTICE at Tata. Giving back, leveraging corporate talent to build NGO capacity, developing leaders through pro bono service – this wasn’t just where he wanted his dream to go. It was happening today; it was a stake in the ground for everyone in the room as to where we could go as part of our global pro bono movement.
The closing circle of the Summit brought attendees together, sharing their key word and/or takeaways from the three days spent innovating, challenging, and reveling in the energy of each other’s obvious passion for pro bono. I heard words like “inspired,” “energized,” “determined,” “and “connected.” When it was my turn, I chose my word carefully. “READY.”
Here at Taproot we’re “ready” to lead the pro bono movement forward, “ready” to host the 2019 Global Pro Bono Summit in New York, “ready” to learn from our global partners, and “ready” to meet the increasing needs from our NGO partners with the right pro bono resource. Let’s go!
By Elizabeth Schwan-Rosenwald, Chief External Relations Officer