Foster purpose with BMW: Driving social impact and innovation

A program to connect BMW employees as mentors to social entrepreneurs from the Changemakerxchange community to develop new purpose-driven startups.

Fostering purpose within your organization is no longer just a matter of increasing profit and staying market competitive, but a matter of hiring and retaining good talent.

Today 90% of executives recognize the importance of having “an aspirational reason for being which inspires and provides a call to action for an organization…and provides benefit to society,”according to an EY / Harvard Business Review Analytic Services survey.

Employees with a purpose

We understand the importance of having purpose beyond the balance sheet and the effects it has on many variables like loyalty and productivity, just to name a few, but if we are being completely honest, real impact must be driven by the need to foster change in and out an organization. In order for purpose-driven initiatives to really stick they must be connected with employees growth, motivations and overall their purpose.

That’s how BMW’s Corporate Volunteering Program started, a group of intrapreneurs who wanted to have a positive impact in society and connect their day-to-day with the common good of the world. 

It was a lovely day in Bogota back in 2017 where a few BMW employees attended the famous summit for young leaders from all over the world, One Young World, with the aim of tackling some of the most pressing issues of our time, such as poverty alleviation, climate change, and access to education.

At the Summit, one can find prominent global figures and agents of change members of the international community, including Kofi Annan, Tawakkol Karman, Salil Shetty, and Professor Muhammad Yunus. 

Inspired by social entrepreneurship and surrounded by people promoting business for good, BMW employees met the ChangemakerXchange (CXC) community, another key player of the entrepreneurship ecosystem, a community providing a safe and empowering space for young changemakers that fosters profound and lasting connections, nurtures wellbeing, and enables peer-learning and meaningful collaborations.

BMW Employees returned to their headquarters having re-connected with their purpose and thinking that within their organization there were many more people filled with talent, amazing skills and that naturally wanted to do good in the world. The question was: 

How can we activate the talent and skills of other BMW employees while we promote a culture of collaborative work for positive change?

How was the BMW Corporate Volunteering program built?

Good thing, we’ve always been close allies with ChangemakerXchange so they added us to the mix and we became the bridge between BMW Employees and global Changemakers. BMW wanted to create and run an entrepreneurship program for global changemakers while leveraging the skills & expertise of top BMW employees. 

BMW formed a team of employees from Germany, the U.S.A and France that had a shared interest in making things happen, they treated the program itself as an intrapreneurship activity and with all hands on deck we started co-creating our perfect Corporate Volunteering Program to support social entrepreneurs in the development of their purpose-driven businesses.  

The goals of the program were to give social entrepreneurs from the global ChangemakerXchange community a chance to get quality mentorship and to allow employees in their role as mentors and entrepreneurs to develop new innovation skills and a more agile mindset in order to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

In the first edition of the program, 10 BMW employees mentored 10 entrepreneurs following the Bridge for Billions structured online program. The mentor-entrepreneur teams not only got all of our remote collaboration benefits like a shared online workspace, the ability to leave comments on the business tools, and a private video room to meet weekly, we also organized specialized calls for the mentors and entrepreneurs with tailored content for each in order to enhance their mentorship experience as they developed new purpose-driven bussinesses. 

We ran an initial mentors training call for the BMW employees, weekly group check-ins throughout the 4 months, and a closing session, all of which allowed the BMW employees to get to know new coworkers of theirs from other seniority levels and offices around the world. Both entrepreneurs and employees worked together while being guided by the step-by-step methodology and attended regular check-ins with the Bridge for Billions and CXC teams to ensure that the experience was smooth, efficient, and productive for all participants. 

What did BMW Employees think of the program?

“Bridge for Billions should be the backbone of any mentoring program. Without the well-structured platform and its guiding role, the program would not have been a success! What differs Bridge from any other program is the human aspect; the support received from Bridge staff throughout the program was outstanding.”
Jonas Nipkow
ChangemakerXchange Program Manager
“Using Bridge for Billions was very important; the program would not have been successful without it.… It makes sure both the mentor and the mentee get the best out of the program and the final result is a ready to use business case.”
George Bogey, Mentor for A Cry for Help
BMW Group, Marketing Service Specialist

What were the program challenges? 

Like many organizations, BMW had the question of what would costs look like for a program with the intent of global reach. In-person mentoring and entrepreneurship programs can add up quickly due to the dispersed network of people involved, event and transportation costs, and all of the required planning.

At the same time, BMW was facing other questions like:

1. What core methodology would the participants follow? What would their day-to-day look like during the program? 

2. How would they make sure their employees were ready to mentor and had the right tools to make the best out of the mentorship experience? 

3. How would they coordinate meaningful collaboration across many countries?

Our entrepreneurship program matches perfectly the needs of a Corporate Volunteering Program that wants to connect employees with their purpose and personal interests while upskilling their teams. Our mentoring experience fits perfectly with busy schedules as it only requires an average of 1.5 hours per week, it adapts to every employee’s interests as they choose the entrepreneur and project they want to work with and the easy-to-use online platform eliminates physical constraints and time limitations for any international group of employees, as they get to choose the time and place they connect with their matched entrepreneur. 

What were the results of the program?

Not only mentors were able to further develop their leadership and management abilities and take pride in their work by giving back in a meaningful way but founders got access to a step-by-step structure, support and personalized mentorship from talented BMW employees, and a sense of belonging into a community of like-minded people as they developed their social impact startups. Here are a few of the founders who went through the program:

Gloria Hortence Muyziere, Founder of "African Pregnant Women", providing information to pregnant women in rural areas regarding their health in Rwanda
Akira Sakano, Founder of "Zero Waste Academy", working on waste reduction in Japan
Pritish Bhavnani, founder of “A cry for help”, reducing mental health issues among teenagers in India

Employees stated that with the guidance of Bridge for Billions they gained more confidence in their work and took pride in working for BMW while learning how to become more flexible and open-minded. Meanwhile, the entrepreneurs were able to develop a validated business plan and new skills as founders. Thanks to the volunteer employees, they developed the confidence and structure needed to move their ventures forward.

"Just completed the program! New tools for my toolbox! I wouldn't have done this without my superhero and mentor from BMW Marcus Leser. Give this man at least a medal!”
Constantina Tsiplakis
Founder of Mangfold Forlag
Woman founders
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BMW employees as mentors
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Different sectors of innovation

If you’re an organization with amazing talent and you’re looking to increase your brand value, foster a culture of change from within, increase employee engagement, retention, morale, and/or productivity, attract new hires, create new relationships within your community or develop specific skills in your team or you’re an employee who wants to promote change from within, this is a clear example of how a few committed employees can ignite change. In both cases, you can contact us below to create your new Corporate Volunteering Program in less than a month.

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