What an education can do

Charlotte Otter’s post tells a great story of triumph over adversity in South Africa, one woman’s struggle to beat the odds, secure an education and then go on to pass the baton and share her skills with the next generation. I highly recommend you read Charlotte’s post.

The woman Charlotte only identifies as ‘A’ now gives some of her time as a volunteer with the First Lego League (FLL) competitions where she mentors school children as they prepare in teams for a robotics competition. I happen to know something about FLL as my good colleague Stephanie Raabe leads this initiative at SAP world wide. Stephanie has done a great job developing this programme with steady growth in participation each year with now more than 90 separate SAP mentored and sponsored teams world wide. The idea is that an SAP employee volunteers to coach the team through a ten week period as they prepare for competition. Each year a new problem is set based on current global scientific challenges such as nanotechnology and energy. The students learn how to work together as a team and must demonstrate they understand the problem in it’s broader social context not just as a scientific problem. They then proceed to competition where the robot they have built and programmed is put to task on a timed problem. As one SAP coach once told me:

‘there is no way to win as an individual, they can only win as a team and that is an important lesson’ 

I went to the world finals this year in Oslo and last year in Eindhoven. I must admit I was unsure about the concept at first but you can’t help but get swept up in the enthusiasm. What I like about FLL as a corporate volunteering initiative is it’s endurance and sustainability. I like the fact that the employee commitment is sustained over a significant period of time, it is not a one off thing. Here are some flickr photos that some of our colleagues have posted. It seems right that big tech should find ways like this to share strategic capability.  

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