Volunteering for Malatya

01 Nov 2010


On October 9th 2010, 14 IBMers from 8 different countries came to Malatya to voluntarily undertake four strategic projects for the province’s socio-economic development in cooperation with the Fırat Development Agency.

New Horizons - For the 5th Term of the Corporate Service Corps Programme (CSC), the projects will work on improving Malatya’s tourism and textile sectors.

Though the name Corporate Service Corps may have some military connotations, the CSC is actually a global IBM employee leadership initiative based on international corporate volunteerism. Three of the CSC team members Canadian client advocate Caroline Fiset, Australian technical support manager Rob Barker and American communications expert Tom Burke answered questions for New Horizons to explain who they are, and what they are doing in Malatya. As Tom puts it, “The overall goal is to create global awareness and generating revenue for Malatya.”

New Horizons (NH): Who is a CSC volunteer? What assets should you have to be a volunteer?

Tom Burke: A CSC volunteer is an IBMer who wants to leverage his/her unique expertise and life experiences to help make a small part of the world better. A CSC volunteer is a team player, who cares more about others than self and who is open to learning and expanding his/her horizons in an environment that may be psychologically, physically and intellectually challenging.

NH: How long have you been volunteering under the CSC programme? Can you define the nature of the work you do in 1-2 sentences?

Caroline Fiset: I have been volunteering in the CSC program for 9 days. I am assigned to the project called Strategic Planning for Development of a Sustainable Tourism Sector in Malatya. The objective is to analyze the current structure of Malatya’s tourism and to develop and action plan/road map that will develop and promote tourism for Malatya.

NH: What brings you to Malatya? Have you worked anywhere else as a volunteer before?

Tom Burke: As part of IBM’s Corporate Service Corps program I am on a team of 14 IBMers from around the world who are in Malatya working through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with the Malatya Provincial Governor and Fırat Development Agency. My three-person sub-team is focusing on developing a sustainable tourism strategy for Malatya.

NH: Can you give some information about your project, what is it that you do? What do you hope to achieve? How will you go about achieving it, etc.?

Rob Barker: I’m working in the agri-foods sector. We are helping guide a couple of organizations with their strategic planning and marketing. We are following a well defined and well used consulting practice (called Issue Based Consulting) and global best practices for defining a Strategic Framework. At the moment we are gathering as much information as possible through interview with the many key stakeholders in the two institutions.

NH: Can you talk a bit about what changes you have noticed in the people you work with, since you first started to work in Malatya?

Rob Barker: We are a large team (14 members) and as the work progresses, smaller groups, more tightly knit then the larger group, are forming. This is perfectly normal team dynamics however, something really interesting happened on a weekend extrusion. We were hiking around Mount Nemrut and the team has started to separate. As it became clear that a few members were struggling with the mountain climb at high altitude, the team quickly banded together to help – with fitter members pressing on to get a vehicle too double back and pick up the rest. No one left behind! Cliques or no cliques it’s clear that this team will succeed given any challenge.

NH: What are some of the challenges you have faced during your time in Malatya?

Tom Burke: Blending into a new culture is challenging in itself. Just about everything is new, so while you are expending time and energy learning, about your surroundings, you also are expending time and energy accomplishing the work that is the purpose of your trip. You also must cope with trying to communicate with people who speak a different language and you have to learn to work in constant and close contact with the other members of your Corporate Service Corps team. It also is challenging to disengage from your regular IBM work and your normal life. Being away from home for an extended period of time is challenging, too. UNDP, Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) and IBM leadership have made the assignment as easy, enjoyable and beneficial as possible.

NH: What expectations do you have from the project? What difference do you expect to make in people’s lives?

Tom Burke: I realize that not all of our recommendations will be accepted and implemented, but I hope our work opens eyes to greater possibilities. Perhaps our work will inspire somebody to dream and through those dreams great things will take place. I also hope that the people in Malatya in the area of tourism, and in the areas the other sub-teams are working in, realize that they have a lot to be proud of and they can make an impact on people’s lives through their work and efforts.

NH: How do you ensure that the project is sustainable?

Caroline Fiset: By providing short term and long term objectives and helping them in identifying tools that can be used to implement them. Of course, I will stay available for them in the future if needed… Coming up with a monitoring phase; that would be even better.

NH: Will you continue to work as a volunteer elsewhere?

Rob Barker: Absolutely!

The fifth term of the CSC program in Turkey, implemented in Malatya in coordination with the Governorate supervision of Governor Ulvi Saran. The team will work for the development of the province until 7th November.

Launched by IBM in partnership with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), State Planning Organization (DPT), Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) and Corporate Volunteer Association (OSGD), the CSC programme in Turkey brings together global expertise and local knowledge to find solutions for local challenges. Beginning in 2009, two CSC teams were deployed to Mersin, two teams were deployed to Gaziantep in the first half of 2010 and one team is currently working in Malatya. As of now a total of 53 IBM volunteer experts came to Turkey to work on development projects and each provided a month of voluntary service in country.