One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for July 2019

Corporate Social Responsibility at West Monroe Partners – Part Two

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(Earlier this week, we spoke with Doug Armstrong about West Monroe Partners’ efforts in corporate social responsibility. Although implementing such programs, we thought it might be beneficial to highlight employee experiences in corporate social responsibility. So today’s entry focuses on how one West Monroe Partners staff member found personal – and professional – success through such programs)

Our next interview is Tory Loebig, Senior Consultant at West Monroe Partners’ Customer Experience practice. Tor, can you please share how you became involved with West Monroe Partners’ corporate social responsibility program?

I first learned about the Fischer Global Services Fellowship as an intern at a quarterly meeting in 2011, when the program was first announced. After watching the video of the first two fellows explaining the fellowships they were about to embark on I knew I had to participate when I was a full-time employee. So, as I was approaching my two year anniversary as a full-time employee, I started preparing my proof of concept for the selection committee.

How did you select the site where you worked?

At the beginning of the application process, I knew I wanted to dedicate my time to helping a non-profit cause, but I didn’t have a specific organization in mind. I started narrowing down my search by considering: 1) what I was interested in and 2) what I was good at. My interests turned me towards health and wellness, and my strengths turned me towards business given my undergraduate business degree and the two years I had spent ramping up my consulting career. I started searching for opportunities but initially struggled to find organizations that shared my objective of making a sustainable impact. Knowing that many people at West Monroe have their own philanthropic associations, I began to share my journey with my internal network, which pointed me in the direction of Social Entrepreneur Corps, an organization that a friend had worked with in college. Upon further research, I learned about Social Entrepreneur Corps vision, team, and proven results, and knew they were exactly what I had been looking for. Social Entrepreneur Corps is a social venture that brings university students, young professionals and corporate teams on consultancies to Guatemala, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic to work side by side with in-country partners and their community enterprise teams to create systemic change.

Please talk about one or two personal or professional moments during your experience that are memorable and that you are especially proud?

I’m most proud of my resourcefulness in ambiguous situations or uncharted territory. I was able to provide support and expertise to the Guatemalans I worked with and answer their needs, even if I didn’t always have the answer right away.

  • For example, I was asked by the principal of a school that served working children to teach their teachers about techniques of Montessori education and budgeting and savings. Even though I wasn’t an expert in either of those things, I knew how to use the resources available to me to put together valuable information and relay it to them in an interactive workshop.
  • I also worked with the women of Soluciones Communitarias, who are community representatives charged with raising awareness of health issues and selling the products that help address those issues (i.e., clean-burning stoves, water filters, eyeglasses, etc.). They had access to a new app to track sales that students at a university in the States built for them, but they weren’t adopting it consistently. So, I designed a workshop to take a couple of steps backward, understand why they decided to become these resources for their community. Then, I helped them align the use of the app to their objectives and determine the best, most tactical ways they could start using it to support their campaigns.  
  • Lastly, El Centro Explorativo, a school that provided additional education and meals for children in a town with extremely high poverty rates, was losing access to their primary source of funding. So, I worked with them to understand different fundraising opportunities and connect them to GlobalGiving, which is a highly-selective crowdfunding website for non-profits around the world that not only increase non-profits exposure to sources of funding, but also provides education about effective fundraising to leaders of organizations that are using their site. Because of that effort, they ended up raising almost $8,000, which funds them for about half a year.
  • Personally, I was most proud of the relationships I developed with the Guatemalans who hosted me. My fondest memories of those three months were sitting around the dinner table with my homestay family talking for hours about what we did that day, what my life in the States was like, and struggling through translation barriers. We laughed for the entire three months until we shared tears as we parted.

Did you find that your experience has an impact on your work at West Monroe Partners? If so, how had it impacted?

Upon returning from the fellowship, I felt I had grown in the following ways:

  • Confidence to challenge myself and remain confident in high-stress and highly ambiguous situations
  • Ability to understand that different doesn’t mean wrong. Life in Guatemala is so different than life in the United States but is obviously effective for millions of people.
  • Ability to apply a more mature perspective on what is important in life – I have an appreciation for everything that “corporate America” affords us, but also feel like I have an “outside-in” point of view on the weaknesses that the more sterile corporate environment fosters
  • Satisfaction that the skills I’ve gained through years of education could be applied to better the lives of others, and a clearer sense of philanthropic organizations and causes I’d like to support

What are the top lessons you have learned and/or things you have gained from your experience? 

  • Comfort in growth
  • Gratefulness for everything that is afforded to us (one day I wrote down in my notebook, “Remember that everything in the States is easy.” For example, I have reliable and safe transportation to commute to work, and I have all the resources at work I need to do my job.)
  • The importance of human connection, even with strangers
  • The importance of disconnecting from work and the internet to allow yourself time to reflect and discover new thoughts – there isn’t quite as much time for this in my day-to-day life in the States.

(Thanks again to Tory Loebig and Doug Armstrong of West Monroe Partners for their time and insight. Please feel free to comment below, or join the conversation via our Facebook page. And as always, thanks for reading!)


Corporate Social Responsibility at West Monroe Partners – Part One

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(In an effort to drive social change and social impact, many companies are adopting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs. These programs not only result in direct community impact but can also drive many benefits including increased job performance. West Monroe Partners, a business consulting firm in Chicago, serves as a great example of how companies can succeed in driving profit and social change. In the first of a two-part series of interviews, we will provide insight into how to implement corporate social responsibility programs and what benefits they can bring to an organization)

Our first interviewee is Doug Armstrong, Chief Operating Officer at West Monroe Partners – Doug, please tell me  how you became involved with corporate social responsibility?

I’m responsible for promoting collaboration and operational consistency across all our offices. I’m also the leader of our Chicago office and Central Region. I joined West Monroe Partners in 2004 to lead its Customer Experience practice, and prior to that, I was a partner with Arthur Andersen’s Business Consulting practice.

West Monroe’s mission is to develop the next generation of leaders. That means creating opportunities for our people to not only be leaders at our firm and for our clients, but in our communities as partners with nonprofits working to solve tough challenges. As COO I play a large role in administering our CSR program and initiatives. For me, I’ve always felt that it’s important to have a positive impact where we live.

Why is it important for companies to engage the greater community and drive social good?

We know the success of our firm, and of any other company, ultimately depends on the health and viability of the people, communities, and environment around us and we believe companies have an obligation to give back to those communities. We know the today’s workforce wants to work somewhere where they feel empowered to make an impact, and as a people-first firm we want to provide opportunities to do so—it’s deeply important to our people. Companies have a tremendous amount of resources to give—not only financially, but also as expertise. Some of our most impactful work is through providing our skills and experience to help extend the scale and capabilities of nonprofits on the front-line of tackling our communities’ toughest challenges.

What was the process that led West Monroe Partners to develop and implement a CSR policy?

We have always been dedicated to corporate giving, but it started very grassroots, in line with our entrepreneurial culture. As we grew, we knew we needed to put more structure around our giving back policy and help guide our people who were looking for opportunities to give back. In 2010, at the urging of our people and our leadership, the firm made the first—and so far, only—change to the core values that the firm was founded on by adding “social responsibility” as a value. Then, in 2011 we established our “1+1+1 program,” through which we donate one percent of our time, one percent of our treasure (profit) and one percent of our talent (pro bono work) each year to organizations in our communities. Although we like to think of ourselves as policy light, formalizing our CSR policy allowed us to establish greater focus and coordination for our already robust corporate giving initiatives – enabling us to manage and track efforts better across the growing organization while setting very aggressive goals that will increase the company’s overall contributions and impact.

As we continue to grow, the program has evolved. This year we are working to sharpen our focus even more on the issues that impact our local markets most significantly so we can make a bigger impact. To have more of an employee voice around social issues, we surveyed our Chicago office asking them to select two social issues that are important to them and where they felt they could have a direct and positive impact. The top issues were education and job training. This will inform the direction of our strategic giving moving forward.

How have your employees engaged with (and within) your corporate social responsibility program?

CSR is embedded into our DNA and our employees feel a deep sense of ownership and responsibility to shepherd our CSR program forward. Of course, we have a standard employee giving matching program, but we also offer many other opportunities for employees to get involved in our CSR efforts. Our charitable efforts are driven by “Chief Charity Officers” who manage Charity Committees in each of our offices – these are employees at a range of levels who volunteer to manage the execution of our CSR program. Each office is empowered to choose organizations in their own communities to support, and employees are invited to nominate organizations they work with for pro-bono opportunities. Our National Day of Service, a day where our employees step away from client offices and volunteer in one united effort, is almost entirely managed by our employees, with support from leadership. Our leaders are encouraged to join nonprofit boards in their communities, and our executive team provides mentorship to our people with respect to community leadership, helping them identify and engage with organizations and seek opportunities to serve on boards.

We also offer a program called the Fischer Global Service Fellowship Program, which provides West Monroe employees with a three- to six-month leave to support a philanthropic and humanitarian issue of interest, anywhere in the world. Employees must apply for the Fellowship by identifying an organization or cause they want to support, and then presenting a proof-of-concept to executive leadership to demonstrate how they will use their expertise to support the work of the organization. Our 2019 class is our largest ever, with eight fellows working both at home and abroad on causes they care deeply about.

What have been your most notable results/outcomes?

For our 2019 National Day of Service, which just took place on June 14, nearly 1,100 employees gave a total of 6,264 hours of their time to 38 organizations in nine cities. Last year, we donated $2.6M in pro-bono consulting work. I’m also proud of some of the long-term relationships we’ve built with nonprofit organizations. For example, we’ve partnered with CommunityHealth since 2009, helping to create a reliable technology infrastructure that has allowed their team to gain efficiency and focus on what they do best: providing high-quality care to those in need. William Hinde, managing director of West Monroe’s Healthcare and Life Sciences practice, joined CommunityHealth’s board of directors in 2013 to help serve the organization and community in an even larger capacity. We were honored this year to receive the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award for our work with CommunityHealth, presented by the Serve Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service. Last year we were also named one of PEOPLE’s 50 Companies That Care, which spotlights 50 U.S. companies that have succeeded in business while also demonstrating respect, compassion, and concern for their communities, their employees, and the environment. While we don’t do this work for the awards, third-party recognition helps validate we are on the right track.

For any other companies looking to implement a corporate social responsibility program, do you have any recommendations and/or “best practices” to follow? 

Seek to amplify what nonprofit organizations in your community are already doing – they are the experts on the issues facing your city. We want to use our expertise and resources to help nonprofits scale their efforts, versus coming in and creating work or pretending like we know best.

Also, find ways for your people to having meaningful involvement in a structured way. There’s a business benefit to that – it leads to improved employee engagement and loyalty, which is a differentiator in today’s tight talent market. We’ve adopted both a bottom-up and top-down approach – it’s important for employees to have just as much of a voice in directing time and funds for organizations they care about, but to have the most impact, like any program, it must be managed cohesively.

Third, stay focused – that might mean focused on a specific location, or a few issues that are most meaningful to your business and people. That will keep you from spreading your efforts too thinly, and allow you to create a greater impact overall.

And finally, find ways for everyone to be involved, and for leadership to be involved side-by-side with your employees—there’s a lot of power in leadership modeling community service and working alongside employees.

(Special thanks to Doug Armstrong of West Monroe Partners for his time and insight. Please join us on Wednesday for part two of our special series of interviews with West Monroe Partners. Until then, please leave comments below or reach out to us via Facebook, LinkedIn or email. Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out our next installment)

July 12th Raks Geek Fundraiser at Newport Theater

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As I follow the news around immigration and the treatment of people in migrant detention camps, I am reminded of last year’s interview with Dawn Xiana Moon of Raks Geek. One of Dawn’s remarks strikes a deep chord in light of recent events:

In the case of the family separation and detention issue, many of those coming are literally fleeing for their lives. You’re not allowed to apply for refugee status until you’re on US soil, so they’re selling everything they have, running to the US, and hoping that we’ll let them in because the alternative in many cases is death. This is a human rights issue, and we have a moral responsibility to help.

This Friday, July 12th at Newport Theater located at 956 N Newport), Raks Geek is holding a fundraiser for RAICES, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees. Raks Geek specializes in bellydancing, fire spinning, and other performance arts in geek culture cosplay, and they have a strong philosophy of community responsibility, social justice, and positive action.

There are numerous accounts of the inhumane conditions within the migrant detention camps along the southern border (although, in all honesty, they should be considered concentration camps on American soil). But there are a few key principles in play with how the current administration is treating mishandling immigration rights.

Immigrants who arrive at our border are human beings who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and have some basic human rights.

Actions have repercussions – when the United Nations chief of human rights expresses concern, that demonstrates a lack of understanding.

This is an issue that transcends simple legal rights and policy issues and moves into our national character. With Chicago opting not to cooperate with recent ICE efforts, immigration rights issues are no longer an abstract issue. This is no longer about discussing hypotheticals but dealing with real-life issues that impact our community.

Raks Geek is reinforcing their stance on inclusion, community-building, and compassion. I was proud to be part of their efforts last year, even if it was through blogging; I am just as proud to support their efforts this year. Art can be a powerful way to express “resistance”, and I am more than happy to assist in local charitable efforts.

(Note – Raks Geek has also found some donors to match what they raise; if you or your organization are interested in helping, contact me by email and I will forward your note to Dawn.)

Tickets are available via

Please leave any comments below (they will be moderated) or follow us on Facebook.

Thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

July 10, 2019 at 7:49 am

July 3rd SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME Charity Screening

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(Special thanks to Daniel Jun Kim of Pop Mythology for his time and insight!)

On July 3rd, Pop Mythology and Third Coast Comics are partnering to hold a screening of Spider-Man: Far From Home at the Evanston Cinemark Theater to benefit Children’s Home and Aid. For many comic fans and members of the geek/nerd community, this is a chance to enjoy a beloved character: for Daniel Jun Kim of Pop Mythology, it’s an empowering step for the geek/nerd community to live the theme “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.” 

Inspired by last year’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Daniel was motivated to create a “Spider Army” who would adopt the philosophy that no good deed is too small to drive social change. Engaging with people in Spider-Man cosplay at various conventions, Daniel encouraged them to perform a small yet meaningful task to help foster a sense of community. This was not a new idea (Daniel acted as a D & D Cleric at a Families Belong Together March), but it served as a way to engage fans of a highly popular – and influential – character towards the greater good.

Wanting to reflect Spider-Man’s nature as an “orphan” character archetype, Daniel decided to raise money Children’s Home and Aid, a nonprofit that works with at-risk youth who have experienced abandonment, trauma, and abuse. (They also run the Rice Child and Family Center in Evanston). After running a brief crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for 35 children and 15 staff members/chaperones, Pop Mythology partnered with Third Coast Comics (who I’ve worked with as part of Chicago Doctor Who Meetup). Citing the example of Black Panther screenings, Third Coast Comics partnered with Pop Mythology to provide an opportunity for both fundraising and showing kids that they can be heroes regardless of their background.

Daniel Jung Kim/Pop Mythology

Daniel Jun Kim/Pop Mythology

For Daniel Jun Kim, this Spider-Man movie screening is more than just a great idea; it’s the expression of an overall philosophy about geek/nerd culture and social good. With a greater move towards geek culture interfacing with social benefit (like a recent Star Wars-themed vigil and Chicago TARDIS’ charity auction), Pop Mythology is not only embracing current trends, but has a more inclusive, broader focus.

In Pop Mythology, Daniel Jun Kim focuses on how myths and mythology resonate within geek/nerd culture. At its core, Pop Mythology and the “Spider Army” both advocate for the idea about how geek/nerd culture can interface with real life issues and drive social good and social change. Interested in finding larger answers to complex social/individual problems, Daniel Jun Kim uses Pop Mythology to explore how themes from myth and mythology resonate in our popular culture. Seeing how individuals and societal structures impact on each other, Daniel Jun Kim’s work on Pop Mythology hopes to motivate geek culture on collectively alleviating indvidual and societal suffering…and make the process less intimidating, sustainable, and more fun.

Driving social change through small acts is a radical idea: these acts can have ripple effects and enable people to make huge change via small actions. As a long-time Doctor Who fan, I work to integrate the show’s values of respect, kindness, and fairness into my actions. Through his work on Pop Mythology, as well as arranging this special screening of Spider Man: Far From Home to benefit Children’s Home and Aid, Daniel Jun Kim is proving that social change is within everyone’s power…and with that power comes responsibility.

Here is ticketing information for Spider-Man: Far From Home via Third Coast Comics’ website. Hope to see you there!

If you know of any great Chicago-based community events, please let us know in the comments below. If you want to check out our past work or engage in further conversation, join us via our Facebook page. If you need further contact information, you can find it via our About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

July 1, 2019 at 3:50 pm