IBM: Where Corporate Responsibility is Not a Trend, but a Lifestyle

Latinitas Austin and El Paso chapters together at last for our strategic planning session with IBM. Coffee and pink cake helped with the process.

If you looked at just the business pages in American newspapers, you’d think corporations working with nonprofits and delivering global responsibility was a new trend. However, global companies like IBM have been modeling social impact for decades now and Latinitas can attest to their commitment.

Last month, Latinitas had the pleasure and benefit of a donated strategic planning session from IBM. It was one of the most personalized and well-tailored in-kind experiences of the agency’s history, and this was just one of the many generous contributions IBM has bestowed upon Latinitas over the years.

Let’s circle back to Latinitas’ first interaction with IBM, back to our start in 2002. Thanks to a partnership with the United Way and IBM’s former Lenovo production department, Latinitas received its first laptop and was able to launch the first and only magazine made for and by young Latinas online and an accompanying media and tech education program in East Austin schools and community centers. We literally wrote dozens of grants, requests, and articles for on that laptop, which allowed us to serve 20,000 readers a month and hundreds of girls in our after-school programs.

IBM donated again in the following years and our virtual newsroom had legs! In 2012, IBM graciously provided a $6,500 super server to connect our two program bases in Austin and El Paso.

Over the past few years, IBM’s Latina and female engineers from every background have lent their skills, robots, and even family members to serve girls in Latinitas with lessons in coding and career presentations that covered jobs from computer science to physics. We thank IBM Customer Architect and Master Inventor Janani Janakiraman, Software Engineer Karen Siles (now a Latinitas board member!), and others they brought to help. As you can see, IBM has been no stranger to Latinitas, and their recent provision of strategic planning support is a real culmination of all these parts.

This year, Latinitas turns 15 years old; we have reached our “quinceanera” — we are a teenager, burgeoning on adulthood. We have served thousands, explored topics that cover digital media to robotics to coding to maker culture. If there’s a new technology out there, we are presenting, demonstrating, and exhibiting it to Hispanic and other girls of color in our clubs, camps, workshops, and conferences. We are the only organization of our kind in public housing and have been the only agency in Austin providing bilingual tech education for as long as we have, and just one of a handful nationwide.

The timing couldn’t have been better when IBM sent a consultancy team this past January to our grassroots office in the Mariposa Centro Cultural in East Austin to take our young staff to a new level of professionalism and growth. Consultants Arlinda Lott and Natalie Rubin shared the task of evaluating and then stewarding Latinitas towards our next phase — replication and continued sustainability. The service they provided is something they present to multinational companies, Fortune 500 teams — it’s an elite experience with a value equal to a quarter of Latinitas’ overall budget.

IBM Consultants Arlinda Lott, Sandy Dochen, and Natalie Rubin

Lott and Rubin, along with Sandy Dochen, IBM’s Manager of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs for Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, provided the guidance and stewardship that produced a strategic growth plan for Latinitas that will define future chapter models for the agency, improve and complete agency systems, and leverage those systems for new revenue generation and partnerships.

It’s an amazing thing when a multinational company can make you feel like you are their most important client that day and we are equally excited at IBM’s efforts to prioritize culture, identity, and girl empowerment in technology.

Written by Latinitas Founder and CEO Laura Donnelly

IBM: Where Corporate Responsibility is Not a Trend, but a Lifestyle was originally published in Austin Startups on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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