Agents of Purpose, from Detroit and Around the World, Headline Conference Sessions

Jun 29, 2016
Points of Light CEO Tracy Hoover and Detroit's youngest entrepreneur Asia Newson (aka Super Business Woman) on stage at the Business Track opening session.

“Consumers want the companies, the brands they are loyal to, to be agents of purpose,” said Points of Light CEO, Tracy Hoover, as she opened the Business Track at the 2016 Conference on Volunteering and Service. Celebrating corporate changemakers who are inspiring the next generation of purpose-driven organizations, the session “What’s New? Leading with Spirit and Innovation” featured an impressive group of speakers who both inspired and challenged attendees to think about the role they play in collaborating with community and civic leaders.

In a TED-talk style format, speakers shared lessons of success grounded in the theme of “My Detroit, Our World.” Detroit’s youngest entrepreneur, 13-year-old Asia Newson (aka Super Business Girl), shared her winning strategy: teamwork. “You can’t do it all by yourself. You can try, but you need a team. And you need support from the community. It makes you stronger.” Attendees heard stories of triumph and change from citizen leaders, including, Damien Rocchi, CEO and cofounder of Grand Circus Detroit;  Dan Carmody, president of Detroit Eastern Market Corporation; and Dennis Archer Jr., CEO of Ignition Media Group and president of ACS. Mark Davidoff, Michigan managing partner of Deloitte, moderated a discussion focused on making financial literacy a priority for the future of Detroit with panelists Sandy K. Baruah, president and CEO of Detroit Regional Chamber, and Kathleen Hatke Aro, president of the Accounting Aid Society.

“Innovation is the only path to sustainable growth,” said Jennifer Silberman, vice president of corporate social responsibility for Target, sponsor of the Business Track. She underscored the importance of leveraging the creativity and innovation of intrapreneurs—those who work within a company to accelerate change—saying “at the end of the day, agility isn’t just for startups anymore.”

Panelists (from left to right) Malik Yakini, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network; Naomi Camper, JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Heidi Magyar, General Motors and General Motors Foundation; and Michael Gordon, University of Michigan’s Center for Social Impact discuss corporate and community leaders uniting in service to revitalize Detroit.

Looking towards Detroit as a “Comeback City,” Professor Michael Gordon of the University of Michigan’s Center for Social Impact moderated a conversation about corporate and community leaders uniting in service to revitalize the city. Naomi Camper, head of the Office of Nonprofit Engagement at JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Heidi Magyar, director of community outreach programs for General Motors and president of General Motors Foundation, joined Malik Yakini, executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, to discuss the importance of investing in citizen leaders who are addressing community needs, and how to make decisions about how and where those investments are made. “There is no room for competition when it comes to doing good,” Magyar said.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan explained that business, coupled with the power of employees as volunteers and leaders in the community, is an essential partner in the growth of Detroit and an economic driver of jobs and capital investment.

The 2016 Civic 50 honorees were announced during the Business Track Luncheon & Awards Ceremony, celebrating the accomplishments of the 50 most community-minded companies in the nation. Sponsored by Target, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Deloitte, the luncheon explored insights and trends from the 2016 Civic 50 survey and honored the Civic 50 leaders that are providing a roadmap for how companies can use their time, skills, and other resources to improve the quality of life in the communities where they do business.

Leading advocates of military caregivers came together to discuss strategies for leveraging the power of volunteerism in support of our country’s “hidden heroes.” The forum, sponsored by the Bob Woodruff Foundation, included facilitated group discussions and a panel of experts from government and nonprofit organizations that are focused on the needs of military family caregivers who face many challenges and often struggle to find support. Joey Caswell, wife of a wounded veteran and a Dole Fellow-Michigan with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, shared an emotional testimonial about the challenges she faced and her commitment to helping others in her position. “We want you to know, to love and appreciate, that behind every wounded vet is a caregiver who is helping to keep the vet alive,” said Caswell. “It is my goal that not one veteran or caregiver have to go through what we did.”

Larkin O’Hern, with the Bob Woodruff Foundation and a wounded veteran himself, added: “We want to take volunteering, which is good, to well executed volunteering, which can be life changing.”

The current challenges posed by the refugee crisis and the innovative solutions meeting them were in the spotlight at the Global Track’s “Harnessing the Power of Volunteering to Support Refugees.” Andre Cervi, co-founder of Atados and Abraco Cultural, laid out his organization’s work around hiring refugees to teach language and culture to local Brazilians. Joining him at this session, sponsored by Disney, were Celina de Sola, who grew Glasswing International from a three-person Salvadoran nonprofit into a network of 14 countries in Latin America; Lorrie Foster from IAVE (International Association for Volunteer Effort); and Lena Panagiotarea, general manager for Volunteer4Greece.

Volunteers building relationships—with causes, organizations and corporations, and each other—that is what forms the volunteer experience. At “Beyond the Volunteer Event,” sponsored by UPS, Maurice Hogan from Rock Ventures and Julia Sartor from The Greening of Detroit shared practical advice and insights on how they have successfully partnered to co-create volunteer events for employees. Sartor cites both customer service and providing a consistently positive experience as the most important factors in building volunteer connections—making sure that the experience is safe, directions are clear, and accommodations, such as bathrooms, are comfortable. A positive volunteer experience, said Maurice, is where “folks are honored and their time is honored.”

Robert Montgomery