In 2018, three employees from DB joined the social enterprise sector as part of a unique volunteering programme called social sabbatical. Sharing their skills in strategic planning, marketing and organisational development, the volunteers helped two social enterprises solve strategic challenges and plan, develop and implement priority programmes.

The structured pro bono initiative is the brain child of software company SAP and Akina Foundation, an organisation that supports the development of social enterprises in New Zealand. It pairs employees with social enterprises or non-profits to dedicate their skills, expertise and know-how in a unique, short-term assignment. It’s an opportunity to reward high-achieving employees and to support them in developing key skills and competencies relevant to their work.

SHEQ Manager Beth Park and Trade Activation Manager Tash Velkou spent time with Lifewise helping develop the Urban Hikoi, a walking tour run by people with an experience of homelessness. Beth describes her exposure to the realities of homelessness as an emotional journey and a special opportunity to see the world through their lens and from their perspective.

DB’s legal counsel, James Maxwell, teamed up with Fresh Desk, the only New Zealand cleaning company committed to paying its workers a living wage. The brief was to help Fresh Desk respond more effectively to RFPs by helping them determine and articulate their value proposition.

The programme was successful for both our people and the social enterprises involved. Our people found that it boosted their skills and confidence in their own work and gave them new ideas and ways of working to bring back to their roles at DB. They have also maintained the close relationships that they built through the programme and continue to provide support where they can.

Since the social sabbatical, the team at Fresh Desk has gone on to successfully bid for large contracts, including Sanford’s new Auckland fish market, which has meant they can build their team and has allowed some staff to transition off welfare benefits. One of the key challenges identified by the Lifewise team around their Urban Hikoi was that a welfare earnings limit was deterring homeless people from moving into long term sustainable employment. Since the sabbatical, the team explored the issue further and have developed a campaign to get this issue reviewed by the government.