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The art of giving is turning into a movement at Allianz. As the recently concluded World Run showed, Allianzers are always ready to take a step (or even thousands!) to do their bit for society.
To encourage them and promote our focus on “social inclusion”, we invited our group companies and divisions across the world to participate in a competition. But there's a difference this time around. To the victors do not belong the spoils – but to underprivileged children and youth. After all, what better way to build a resilient society than to empower its future generations? Under our 'Encouraging Future Generation' program, we launched a competition-based project, the Allianz Social Innovation Fund, to encourage teams from group companies and divisions to win funding for impact-oriented social projects.
The competition met with enthusiastic response. As many as 31 applications were received from all over the world - from Asia-Pacific to Africa and the Americas, from group companies to global lines of various sizes. Applications were invited for plans that involve sustainable corporate support to a social project that works for children and youth development. The entries reflected the diverse challenges that local communities face - from inclusion of refugees and disable children to supporting the victims of child kidnapping and empowering indigenous rural communities, to name a few.
Five stood out for their uniqueness, their potential long-term impact to society and suitability to Allianz's business and corporate responsibility strategy. These were Allianz Thailand Ayudhaya, Allianz Malaysia, AGCS South Africa, Allianz Zagreb and Allianz Australia.
Each of these teams won a grant of 50,000 euros from Allianz SE, the holding company of the Allianz Group, for supporting their chosen project with their social organization partner.
Judging 31 projects, each worthy of attention, is no easy task. Internal and external experts in social innovation and impact sifted through the applications, intensely scrutinizing them on pre-defined criteria. “I was impressed by the quality and impact orientation of the proposals,” says Young-Jin Choi, an external expert from PHINEO, a Germany-based organization that offers consultancy for social investments.
Katharina Latif, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Allianz SE, believes that such competitions help a global company like Allianz to make an impact on the local level too. “Such local initiatives complement our global initiatives well and also involve our employees in the larger corporate strategy. They bring us together across geographies and cultures as a single corporate citizen,” she says.
Funds that aim to solve problems at the intersection between business and society are very important, says Joscha Lautner, a jury member and the founder of Impact Hub Munich – the Munich chapter of a global network of social impact innovation labs. Some participants lauded the flexibility that the competition gave them to choose their own projects, partners and engagement opportunities. They also welcomed the opportunity to foster collaboration across different parts of Allianz and to learn from each other.
Participant Laura Juergens, who is the Community Relations Manager at Allianz Life Insurance of North America, is looking forward to learning about the other projects that were submitted. “Maybe there are ideas we can share and collaborate on some initiatives,” she says. The winners will be awarded the grant at a ceremony in October. For us at Allianz, this is also a platform to share internal best practices.
Here's looking at the winners.
Music can heal. This project aims to provide psychological help and future employment prospects to child victims of human trafficking. Allianz Thailand Ayudhaya, in cooperation with a home shelter and local musicians’ group “Music Sharing”, is supporting a three-year program that encourages children and youth to participate in music workshops.
These workshops allow the victims to process their trauma, interact in a group and rebuild trust in themselves and in others. Some of the victims can also learn to be musicians and earn a livelihood in the tourism industry. Employees of Allianz Thailand Ayudhya will engage with the project through donation of music instruments, training, financing of local music teachers and also teaching music classes.
The initiative has a long-term approach and serves one of the most vulnerable groups in Thailand. “These children need sustainable support, something to heal and to make them feel better, make them realize that life can go on,” says Patchara Taveechaiwattana, chief market management officer and office services at Allianz Thailand Ayudhaya.
Allianz Malaysia presented a project with SOLS Academy of Innovation, which provides education to Malaysian indigenous youth in English, information technology, personal development, mathematics, solar energy, project management and coding, over a one-year period. Placements for a six-month internship follow the training. The project addresses two social challenges in Malaysia - social exclusion and lack of education of indigenous youth and lack of English-language skills and technical training in the country's labor force.
The project also aims to empower young girls by making them 'community educators'. Other than funding, mentoring and potential internship opportunities are Allianz's contribution to the project. “I didn’t finish my studies and started working when I was 14 years old. When I was 20, I came to SOLS Academy and learnt English. Now I am a teacher,” says Miri Adek, a former student of SOLS Academy who is now a teacher there.
Education is incomplete without science and math. This project, together with the SAME Foundation in South Africa, aims to provide a local school with the necessary equipment and training to foster high-quality math and science education. AGCS South Africa already has strong ties to the school and the children. Volunteering events, such as painting the school building, have already contributed to the maintenance of the school. AGCS employees fund, train and mentor the children of the school.
“I come from a background very similar to those of the children in that school. With the support of organizations such as Allianz, we can enable children from underprivileged background to dream big and avail opportunities,” says Thusang Mahlangu, the Chief Executive Officer of AGCS South Africa.
Allianz Zagreb has long-term ties with the Croatian Paralympics Committee. Through their cooperation, they have established sport schools and trained 39 coaches. Yet, differently-abled children face difficulties in engaging in sports.
This project aims at establishing an orientation camp for training differently-abled children. It plans to bring together different stakeholders such as athletes, children, coaches, experts and even Allianz employees to develop a common strategy to improve the inclusion of children with disabilities and create awareness against prejudice through regular two-three workshops. On the agenda is a digital solution to the social challenge, perhaps the development of an application that could enhance communication between children, coaches and parents.
Allianz Australia’s Allianz Ladder program looks to help young refugees from war-torn regions increase their employability by sharpening their existing skills and learning basic leadership. The project builds on the company’s 'Sustainable Employment Program', which has a long-term partner in Australia’s Settlement Service International (SSI), a community-based not-for-profit organization providing a range of services in areas including refugee settlement, migrant support services, asylum seeker assistance, employment
services and youth support.
Allianz Australia also aims to familiarize the chosen candidates with the workings of the insurance industry and offer internship opportunities to a select few. With this, the company hopes to create a potential model for countries with a large number of refugees to tap into their talent with help from local organisations with experience in supporting refugee employment
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