Global Sourcing Council Announces its 2015 Sustainable & Socially Responsible 3S Awards

NEW YORK, Feb. 1, 2015 – Global Sourcing Council announces its 2015 Sustainable and Socially Responsible Awards Program honors individuals and organizations that have demonstrated exceptional social and economic leadership in innovating, improving and implementing Sustainable and Socially Responsible (3S) practices.

The GSC 3S Awards categories inspire leaders in building a sustainable world to propose innovative ideas about 3S practices. The GSC plays a key role in furthering business interests by promoting an open environment for the many participants in the sourcing world. It is a chance to shape the world we want

The judging panel of independent executives and business decision makers will evaluate nominations for the GSC 3S in each of the following four categories.

  • 3S Community Engagement Award
  • 3S Employee Engagement Award
  • 3S Empowered Women Award
  • 3S Innovative Sourcing Award

The fifth category, 3s People’s Choice Award will be a voting system when each and everyone can get involved.

“We encourage individuals and organizations, which have stories to tell about their 3S programs, to share these stories in a format of 3-5 min video, and submit the application to 3SAwards Program, so others can learn from, and get inspired when implementing their own 3s programs” says Dr. Wanda Lopuch, Chair of the Board of the Global Sourcing Council. “Our goal is to showcase those, who truly walk their talk when it comes to implementing socially responsible business practices. Because it pays off to be socially responsible!”

Individuals and companies can submit their application online: http://gsc3sawards.com/2015-application.html; there are no costs of submission.

All applicants are invited to participate in 2015 GSC 3S Awards Gala that will take place on September 14, 2015 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

The deadline for submission for the GSC 3S Awards is July 30, 2015. For more information related instructions “how to apply”, please visit our website: http://gsc3sawards.com/instuctions.html

To learn more about GSC 3S Awards , contact our Coordinator: dominika.gsc3sawards@gscouncil.org or visit our website: http://gsc3sawards.com/

A Two-Tiered Approach to Impact Investment Strategies

Essley Jay100x100
By: Jay Essley,
Director of Global Client Engagement, Sutherland Global Services

 

 


Impact Sourcing and Social Investment

At first glance the word “investment” typically invokes thoughts of fiscal capital spent in order to receive future financial gain, whether in profitable returns, as interest, income, or appreciation in value. However, equally as important in the definition is the expenditure of time, effort, and resources in order to effectuate the desired outcome or goal. For Sutherland, it is the marriage of both concepts that ultimately defines our impact sourcing and social investment strategy.

It is no secret that every dollar of investment in a charitable or social mission is only as good as the effort behind the cause. The question, “what will we get for our dollar,” is almost more relevant when discussing social programs. At least with monetary investments for financial gain the goal is simple: increase above and beyond from the principle amount you put in. However, with charitable and social investments the goals are often subjective and vary depending on the cause. Forcing a definitive roadmap for where each dollar goes, and what each dollar accomplishes in the world of social impact is the key to a successful return on investment.

Prudence dictates that an analysis of the force multiplier on an impact investment is of paramount importance. Will the investment be spent in the right places? How many lives will be impacted? What will the impact be? What result will be generated from each dollar given? From a corporate standpoint, these are the types of questions that we must ask ourselves prior to deciding on which social causes and programs to financially support.

Without proper execution by motivated and competent resources,
an investment for social impact slips into the muddy waters and
can become mired in risk and potential failure.

As most of you reading this have probably experienced, simply funding a charitable cause or giving money to benefit a social program does not necessarily guarantee a positive outcome. Just like financial investments for profit, social ones are not immune to risk or failure, even if the intentions are all coming from the right place. With that said there are ways to manage associated risks and increase the odds that the investment reaches its full potential and impact.

Increasing the Odds for Success

Sutherland takes a two-tiered approach when analyzing potential impact sourcing investments. First, capital expenditures may be required to initially fund a project or program but the crucial investment is the human element that follows. Without proper execution by motivated and competent resources, an investment for social impact slips into the muddy waters and can become mired in risk and potential failure.

One solution to increase the chances of impact sourcing investment success is to maintain control, or at least oversight, on the entire project with input or assistance from strategic partners if necessary. This is by no means a criticism of the hundreds, if not thousands, of amazing social programs and sourcing projects in existence but merely an observation based on past experience. Sutherland certainly does not advocate the abandonment of regular charitable and social giving but rather a divestiture of your CSR portfolio to also include some home-grown efforts.

Allow me to provide a real time example. Over the past few months Sutherland made the decision to expand our hallmark CSR project from its existing locations in India and the Philippines to Jamaica. The Community Technology Center program, CTC as it’s called, provides free digital literacy training and certification to the community at large, focusing on vulnerable and underserved areas. The first step was to assemble a team of individuals whose experience and motivation could provide the necessary “effort investment”. This was followed by the capital investment through corporate funds for the required facility space and related assets needed to offer the program.

CTC Jamaica

The Community Technology Center in Jamaica

After the initial set-up was completed, we next leveraged our strategic partnerships. Microsoft generously provides the software needed and the certification curriculum and local NGOs and community groups provide access to a student pool. With all that in place the local team of Sutherland human capital was able to take over and get up and running. We are proud to say that as of right now a soft launch has already begun and Sutherland is now impacting the lives of many people in Kingston by empowering them with a free, basic digital education.

The Sutherland strategy is only one answer of many when it comes to social impact investments but it is one that we have found to be effective, especially when talking about the CTC program. Our success with the CTC program was borne out of trial by error and years of tweaking the model. While we are proud to highlight this program and the awards it has generated, the real reward is the impact it has had on tens of thousands of lives.

In closing, Sutherland invites you to join the worthy cause of worldwide digital literacy. Imagine the number of lives that would be impacted if hundreds or thousands of other socially responsible companies of all sizes invested their time, effort, and capital into this program as well. To that end we have created a “cookbook” of sorts with a recipe that outlines the steps to create your own CTC center and operate autonomously. We encourage you to leverage our experience, successes, and most importantly the roadblocks we faced. Excuse the financial pun but this is an impact investment that is sure to produce a return and we have the prospectus to get you there. Please feel free to reach out and we would be more than happy to assist in your jumpstart.

About the Author: Jay Essley is the Director of Global Client Engagement at Sutherland Global Services where his day to day responsibilities focus on the negotiation of commercial contracts. In addition, Mr. Essley is General Counsel to SGS’ Corporate Social Responsibility Board. In that capacity he has taken a lead in promoting SGS’ efforts to codify comprehensive CSR policies and engage partners in continued CSR efforts.  Prior to joining Sutherland Jay was a commercial trial attorney in New York City and remains a member of the NYS Bar Association and the American Bar Association.

Contact Jay at: JasonM.Essley@sutherlandglobal.com

Sutherland Global Services presently maintains relationships with over 150 multinational corporations, healthcare providers, governments and universities around the globe.

Investing in Inclusion

Schlein M100x100
By: Michael Schlein
, President and CEO of Accion

Modern financial markets exclude billions of the world’s poor. That’s a failure of those markets—and a failure of imagination. A more financially inclusive world would give billions of people living in poverty access to a full range of important financial services, yielding a high rate of return by economic, social, and societal measures. The challenge is how to achieve this in a responsible, sustainable way that provides the greatest number of people with the financial tools they need to improve their lives in the shortest amount of time.

That is precisely the mission of Accion, a global nonprofit dedicated to creating a financially inclusive world. We operate in poor communities throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the U.S. and see firsthand how these services help transform lives, create opportunities, and build stronger, more resilient communities.

As nonprofits, Accion and our peers can take chances that the private sector cannot. Over our 50-year history, we have helped build 66 microfinance institutions in 34 countries that today serve millions. In the last few years alone, we have supported institutions in rural communities such as Myanmar and Inner Mongolia and expanded the array of financial services for the poor beyond credit to savings, insurance, and payments.

One point is clear: philanthropy, though critically important, is insufficient to achieve full financial inclusion. We need to harness the capital markets and create institutions that deliver both social and financial returns. Though we are a nonprofit, we work to build sustainable, scalable, for-profit companies dedicated to serving the financial needs of society’s most vulnerable members: those living in poverty.

ACCION Manaus_Environment_AMBR_2012_(43)

Accion in Manuas, Brazil

Today, traditional lending institutions largely ignore the poor. And some nonprofit organizations discount the for-profit motives of the private sector, seeing them as exploitative and off-mission. Neither view is accurate. In fact, for-profit microfinance is sustainable, scalable, and socially progressive—complementing nonprofit services and creating an entire industry of institutions that can compete for clients, expand access, and accelerate innovation.

Twenty years ago, Accion helped create Bolivia’s BancoSol, which today is one of the world’s best-known microfinance institutions. Its creation as a commercial institution dedicated solely to serving the poor was controversial, unprecedented—and a rousing triumph. As the world’s first for-profit bank dedicated to serving the poor, BancoSol tapped the debt and equity markets, attracting both foreign investment and expertise. It focused on strong management and operations, better governance, innovation, and improved responsiveness to clients. To date, BancoSol has loaned more than $3.3 billion, and has an 89 percent client-retention rate and a 99 percent repayment rate.

Accion in Bolivia working with BancoSol

Accion in Bolivia is working with BancoSol

Mexico’s Compartamos Banco, in which Accion was a major founding investor, is equally impressive. Its operations grew so quickly and efficiently that, in 2007, it launched an initial public offering with a monumental response. Thousands of other microfinance institutions were inspired by Compartamos’ success, which in turn creates more competition and better services for the poor.

Accion is proud to have helped launch and grow these pioneering institutions, which are models for the world and whose collective outreach has brought financial services to millions who would otherwise be left out.

But the future of financial inclusion goes beyond traditional microfinance. We embrace this change, investing venture capital and technical assistance via two vehicles – Frontier Investment Group, which invests early and growth stage funding, and Venture Lab, which provides seed-stage funding to pre-revenue firms – into start-ups with bold, disruptive business models aimed at helping those living in poverty.

For example, Accion is investing in companies such as DemystData, which leverages big data—huge sources of information that can be analyzed to help financial institutions broaden their outreach to poorer clients. Others, like Tiaxa, use mobile technology to make small “nano” loans over the phone, which can help reach people living in remote communities. Tiaxa facilitates over 2 million mobile-loans every day across 15 countries – making it one of the most successful big data companies serving the poor. Still others are pushing the boundaries of inclusion, offering financial products such as life insurance to South Africans living with HIV/AIDS—an idea that was unthinkable just a few years ago.

This new dimension of our work is promising for investors: we expect that a major Wall Street firm will approve one of our funds as the first impact product offered to their clients very soon. And we believe that others will follow.

Accion working with Mexico’s Compartamos Banco

Accion is working with Mexico’s Compartamos Banco

Although it is still too early to determine the impact of these brand-new companies, they have the potential to have a significant impact on the lives of our clients. We need to invest in more fast-moving, innovative ideas like these. Although the financial inclusion movement is rapidly evolving, it remains young and has much to learn. Growing pains are normal, but they must be addressed head on to strengthen the industry and inspire the next generation of institutions that will create greater opportunities for the poor.

Accion’s Center for Financial Inclusion is a good start. It brings together industry players to tackle common challenges and create the conditions to achieve full financial inclusion on a global scale. For example, the center’s Smart Campaign promotes the protection of clients through greater transparency, prevention from over-indebtedness, and the provision of means to address concerns. It’s been endorsed by nearly 1,500 microfinance institutions in 130 countries and represents more than 75 million clients.

By building competitive, commercially viable financial institutions that provide a healthy return on capital and by taking bold risks and investing in innovative ways to expand financial services to the poor, Accion and our partners are spurring new opportunities and sustainable progress throughout the developing world, and helping to bring billions more into the global economy. That is how change happens!

About the Author: Michael Schlein is the President and CEO of Accion, a global nonprofit dedicated to building a financially inclusive world. Mr. Schlein brings nearly 30 years of extensive international banking, management and public service experience to his role as President and CEO of Accion, having previously worked as President of Citigroup’s International Franchise Management, and Chief of Staff at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in the Clinton Administration.

In 2014, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Mr. Schlein to serve as the Chairman of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, which encourages economic growth throughout New York’s five boroughs and facilitates investments that build capacity, generate prosperity, and catalyze the economic vibrancy of city life as a whole.

Accion is a world pioneer in microfinance and has helped build 66 microfinance institutions in 34 countries which currently reach millions of clients providing them with the financial tools that can help improve their lives.

 

 

United Nations

The UNDESA Division for Sustainable Development – Providing Leadership on Implementing Sustainable Development

By: Patricia Chaves, Senior Sustainable Development Officer, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs — Division for Sustainable Development

Sustainable development has been of fundamental importance to the international community for over 20 years. Agreements on the implementation of this concept or guiding principle has been reflected in work programmes, United Nationsnational policies, development cooperation frameworks, outcome documents, regional strategies, Secretary-General’s reports and resolutions of the UN General Assembly agreed at various intergovernmental processes and summits of Heads of State and Government under the auspices of the United Nations.

The concept has evolved internationally from the time of the publication of the Brundtland Report in 1987, the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED – Brazil – 1992), to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD – South Africa – 2002) and the recent UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20 – Brazil – 2012).

The three dimensions of sustainable development: Economic Growth, Social Equity and Environmental Protection.

Sustainable development benefited from broad based discussions among Member States, civil society, including the private sector, regional organizations and the UN system through the UN Commission on Sustainable Development which offered a platform for engagement and dialogue during the 20 years of its existence (1993 – 2013). The Commission was abolished in September 2013 to be replaced by the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

During a time of high expectations, hopes, enthusiasm and attentive interest on sustainable development after UNCED, the Division for Sustainable Development (DSD) was established in 1993. It aimed to give operational meaning to the concept of sustainable development by providing leadership in promoting and coordinating the implementation of the sustainable development agenda of the United Nations at the global, regional and national level.

The Division translates its responsibility as the primary UN office in support of intergovernmental sustainable development processes into five core functions:

  1. Support to UN intergovernmental processes on sustainable development;
  2. Analysis and policy development;
  3. Capacity development at the country level;
  4. Inter-agency coordination; and
  5. Knowledge management, communication and outreach.

In addition, the Division houses the Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) Unit mandated to support the implementation of the Mauritius Strategy of Implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action for Small Island Developing States. The Division also extends its work through overseas offices in Republic of Korea, Japan, Colombia, Kenya and Zaragoza, Spain. 

Support for the UN Intergovernmental processes includes preparing all substantive and organizational aspects of meetings of the General Assembly and ECOSOC, the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development as well as several processes launched at the Rio+20 Conference considered one of the largest conferences in the history of the United Nations. In particular, the Division is tasked with supporting member states’ deliberations of the open working group on the sustainable development goals, discussions at the intergovernmental committee on sustainable development finance, dialogues on the possible options for the establishment of a technology facilitation mechanism and the preparatory process of the 2014 Third International Conference of Small Island Developing States.

The Division also supports related regional processes and follows Member States’ implementation of commitments on sustainable development since the 1992 Earth Summit.

Through the Division’s analysis and policy development work, it provides an analytical and scientific basis for intergovernmental deliberations on sustainable development. It undertakes assessments of long-term sustainable development challenges, both new and intensifying ones.

The Division supports member states in translating decisions of UN intergovernmental bodies related to sustainable development.

Through its capacity development work, the Division supports member states in translating decisions of UN intergovernmental bodies related to sustainable development, specially agreements reached at Rio+20, into actual policies and actions at the country level. In particular, the Division endeavours to assist member states to develop policies that integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development, i.e. economic growth, social equity and environmental protection. These activities in turn allow the Division to inform intergovernmental bodies on the relevance and impact of normative and analytical efforts at the country level.

Through its interagency coordination responsibilities, the Division mobilizes the UN system and other relevant organizations to support sustainable development strategies. In particular, the Division houses Secretariats for key inter-agency mechanisms namely UN-Water and UN-Energy, and contributes closely to the inter-agency process on Oceans. It also chairs an informal mechanism called the Inter-Agency Consultative Group on SIDS.

Through the Division’s knowledge management, communication and outreach efforts, it aims to support the effective participation of Major Groups or civil society in the UN political processes and its analytical and capacity development work. It also provides wide access to information and knowledge on sustainable development, through its online Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform and social media: http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.html

The Post 2015 Development Agenda
A
new, universal development agenda centered on sustainable development.

At present the Division is concentrating its efforts in supporting the follow up of the intergovernmental processes launched at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20 – Brazil – 2012) as enumerated previously. Most of these processes will have a direct bearing in the definition and shaping of a new, universal development agenda centered on sustainable development, known as the Post 2015 Development Agenda. Member States have agreed to launch a process of intergovernmental negotiations on this new development agenda in September 2014 which will last for a year and will culminate in the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda by a summit of Heads of State and Government in September 2015.

The year 2015 will mark an extraordinary moment in history for the international community in which challenging agreements must be reached on (a) a single framework for sustainable development supported by a new set of sustainable development goals as well as (b) on a meaningful legal agreement on climate change. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) framework launched in 2000 extended its life until 2015 and thus a new development framework needs to be agreed to continue the important gains achieved in 15 years of the implementation of the MDGs and envision emerging challenges for the next 15 years.

 

Changing Perspectives, Changing Lives – A Unique Partnership Between Project Prayas and SAP

By: Kavita Sharma, Founding Director, Project Prayas: A Computer and iPad Training Center for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Bangalore, India
Introduction By: Richard Billson, Guest Contributor and Member of the Global Sourcing Council Women’s Empowerment Committee

Introduction

As the father of a teenage boy with autism, my perspective has evolved over the years since his diagnosis at the age of 2. I witnessed a baby developing in a typical way become, almost overnight, a boy with severe challenges, both physical and mental. I struggled for a long time to cope with the dramatic changes that impacted both my son and my family as a whole. What has helped me above all is the support that he has received from many individuals and organizations dedicated to changing his life for the better: seeing possibilities not obstacles, including him as a valued and valuable member of society, honoring his differences.

The work described in this article by Kavita Sharma, Founding Director of Project Prayas is a shining example of the innovative ways in which resources can be harnessed to enable individuals with Autistic Spectrum Disorders to maximize their skills, enrich their lives and make a productive contribution to society.

The Global Sourcing Council is proud to spotlight her insights and commentary regarding German software company SAP’s initiative to recruit people with autism as programmers and program testers. Working with the Danish start-up company Specialisterne to help find, train and manage employees with Autism Spectrum Disorders, SAP is aiming to populate its workforce of 65,000 by the same proportion of people diagnosed as autistic in society. This would represent about 1% of its workforce.

This article also holds significance as World Autism Awareness Day was celebrated on April 2. The United Nations General Assembly adopted by resolution World Autism Awareness Day in 2007. On this day, people around the world celebrate the unique talents and skills of persons with autism. In many countries the entire month is devoted to Autism Awareness and by way of support we invite our readers to learn more about this very unique approach to sourcing.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Changing Perspectives, Changing Lives

This article will describe how technology equates itself beautifully with the exceptional skills of persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) and how simple adaptations and communication approaches bring in success and add value to a business.

Leveraging the unique abilities of people with (ASDs) and to convert a disability into a special talent has been the main innovation for Project Prayas, an initiative of Autism Society of India together with SAP labs India Pvt. Ltd. Bangalore, India. How to bring in systemic changes while dealing with individuals who face social challenges was the uphill task that has been accomplished.

The Project Prayas Lab in Bangalore, India was visited by Ms. Anka Wittenberg, Head Diversity and Inclusion at SAP Germany, in July 2013. The Project Prayas team is shown with SAP volunteers.

The Project Prayas Lab in Bangalore, India was visited by Ms. Anka Wittenberg, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at SAP Germany, in July 2013. The Project Prayas team is shown with SAP volunteers.

SAP’s global mission is to reinforce and unfold the potential of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders towards a quality education and livelihood-inspired by Project Prayas, Autism Society of India, Bangalore, India. 

Testing software may be an activity with much repetition but it is a high-end skill and one that also needs precision. Since 2011, six individuals with ASDs have been employed at SAP Labs India Pvt. Ltd. Bangalore in this task, in a completely “open” employment situation. This means they work with no support from peers or anyone with respect to commuting, working, meeting deadlines, attending meetings, going for lunches and other similar activities.

“Be the change you want to see” – Mahatma Gandhi

ASDs are little understood in terms of their etiology as they are highly heterogeneous in nature, which leads most of society to look at them only from the therapeutic perspective. Mahatma Ghandi said: “Be the change you want to see” and this quote has inspired some parents of individuals with ASDs to bring about changes in the way autism has been depicted so far.

In the recent past, technology has brought hope for individuals with ASDs. Computers, iPads, iPhones, iPods and some other assistive technology-based devices like Alpha Smart and Go Talk together with some software, have made life easier for individuals with ASDs and their families. This is especially important because these solutions seem to be the non-threatening tools for individuals with ASDs where “Sensory- Defensiveness” issues need to be considered.

These tools, if used meaningfully during the earlier stages of intervention, help enhance cognition, communication and thus social skills. These technology-based solutions also open-up various avenues of employment, such as Internet-based activities, data entry, validation of software, development of teaching-aids like PECS, social stories and development of symbols/ clip art through appropriate animation software.

The condition of ASDs has been associated with a jigsaw puzzle. SAP along with Prayas and the Autism Society of India has made an attempt to solve the puzzle.

March 12, 2011 marked the beginning of the process of change that I was involved in, beginning with a series of iPad workshops which took place in a computer lab followed by iPad intervention in June 2011. The focus early-on was on skill development and was named ‘’Reinforcing Potentials through Computer and iPad Interventions’’.

As a mother of two sons on the spectrum I could see the need to address the sensory issues exhibited by individuals with ASDs, the need to teach in smaller groups, the importance of audio- visual media, empowering and involving parents in everyday training and providing them the additional knowledge related to the approach. I adopted all these in our work at the Prayas Center.

We sought to implement a continuous and consistent daily training where we prevented all those stimuli which would cause the behaviors described as sensory defensiveness to erupt. While the training was an evidence-based approach, it was clearly obvious that all individuals showed a keen interest and an ability to pay attention to detail along with an unerring focus.

We changed our modality from being concrete to abstract, increased the degree of difficulty, and we were happily surprised when we continued to obtain good results. We could see that the following abilities were very easy to equate with technology:

  • —Attention to detail
  • Photographic memory
  • Association of events to facts etc.
  • A Love of following order or structure
  • Learning in real-life situations
  • Use of repetition in achieving perfection
  • Unerring focus
  • Pattern recognition

An example of attention to detail exhibited by persons with ASD is shown below. The two drawings were done by my son Ujjwal Sharma, who is now a young 18 year old boy diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome. He drew the first picture when he was 10 yrs. old, never using a ruler. The second picture was drawn when he was 12 years old; it is a production of his visual photographic memory.

Sharma Graphic 1

Sharma Graphic 2Being socially challenged, many individuals with ASDs have a preference for computer activities as they do not then need to interact with other individuals, such as colleagues in the workplace. This characteristic inspired SAP to look at the employment prospects for these individuals.

Prayas was approached by SAP’s Test Center Team to explore the opportunities of employing persons with ASDs. Prayas, in turn, contacted a handful of individuals with ASDs. After an initial screening process conducted using a checklist developed at Prayas, they were invited for an interview along with their parents. This happened.

An on-site training started for four individuals was given by four “buddy” testers for a period of 6 weeks. By January 2012, all four trainees were on board and continued to work with their four buddies for the next six months. During this period, parents were also involved on a regular basis. While training continued, I facilitated the process by orienting the staff of the Test Center through seminars.

Various experiments were conducted with a view to helping these individuals to be productive, an approach that had never been tried by any other organization in India.

What is outstanding about this initiative is that it is being done
in a completely OPEN employment situation!

What is outstanding about this initiative is that it is being done in a completely open employment situation! All we needed to do was to adopt the ‘’Social Adaptations’’ through a systematic change. These social adaptations do not cost money; they are attitudinal changes – the way that the condition of autism is viewed.

  • Understanding individuals with ASDs as being orderly instead of being rigid
  • Understanding them as being truthful and straightforward instead of being rude
  • Understanding their sensory needs instead of associating them with negative behavioral issues.

Many individuals with ASDs have a constant desire to engage in repetitive activity. For a neurotypical person, testing software can be a boring task whereas an individual with ASD can use their ability and enthusiasm to work on scheduled tasks in an orderly and productive manner. Finally what worked was Changing Perspectives by looking at ‘’Ability in Disability’’.

Currently, SAP now has five individuals working in open employment who have been in the company for more than two years and have been of great value to the business. This has encouraged SAP to take a global decision that 1% of their workforce will be persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders by 2020.

By the year 2020, persons with ASDs will represent 1% of SAP’s workforce.

SAP has taken further steps to mobilize this initiative across the globe and is collaborating with Mr. Thorkil Sonne from Specialist People Foundation of Denmark and the USA. SAP is also collaborating with the University of Cambridge, in particular with Dr. Simon Baron Cohen who will provide advice and assistance in enabling employment.

In India, while the initial work has been done with respect to employment, there are still several gaps in the education system. ASDs are still not considered to be a disability under the Persons with Disability Act of 1995. This prevents the individual from exercising their rights of education and participation. There has been significant work done by numerous advocates to amend the Act, with the consequence that ASDs will likely be recognized by law. The Act has now been renamed as “Rights of Persons with Disability Act of 2012” and is due to be passed by the Indian government soon.

While this happens, parents and many like-minded professionals and corporations continue their own efforts to reinforce and unfold the potential of individuals with ASDs to enhance their educational and work opportunities.

While creating appropriate employment was the focus of our efforts, we also worked on the technology-based early intervention approach to teaching. To enable this, an online free resource called www.learn4autism.com was developed with the help of SAP volunteers from the department of Custom Development.The prime focus of this resource is to develop skills related to computers.

We aim to have this resource as the largest repository of computer-based education for persons with ASDs. We have developed the content on a user-friendly platform and encourage parents and educators to contribute. This resource also addresses the need of those families who cannot afford Internet access but have been given laptops and desktops. All one needs to do is download and copy the entire content onto a CD and give it to the family in need.

SAP volunteers have also helped Prayas in developing an iPad app called Bol which addresses the communication needs of non-verbal children with ASDs. It also addresses the diversity needs of Indian culture by giving an option of customization.

The association of Prayas /Autism Society of India with SAP has been very objectively oriented and has enabled us to address issues related to awareness, accessibility and affordability.

At a personal level, it has been a very satisfying journey for me to see these individuals beaming with confidence and bringing hope to many parents.

About the Author: Kavita Sharma is Founding Director- Project Prayas an initiative of Autism Society of India. Ms. Sharma is also Founder Member, Responsible for Advocacy Issues related to Autism, at Autism Society of India. For more information about her inspiring work, you may contact her at:

60, Vittal Mallya Road, Bangalore- 560001 India
Telephone +91 (8826654911)

About our Guest Contributor: Richard Billson is on the board of The Hawthorne Foundation, Gallup NYC, and an advisor/fundraiser for Special Needs Activity Center for Kids (SNACK), in NYC.