Event Solutions Magazine – September 2006
"Dances with Bees; Teambuilding Innovation: Planners Help Participants Help Others" by LaRita Heet (link to article online)
When you think of Citigroup, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind? Credit cards? Citigroup’s ranking on the Fortune 500 list? Waggle dances?
If it’s the last one, you’re right on target. Waggle dancing is a form of “bee dance” recently performed by more than 150 Citigroup employees and guests at a Citigroup Commercial Business Group event in Jamaica. Don’t worry – the “powers that bee” at Citigroup haven’t flipped their wings, or lost their corporate focus. In fact, quite the opposite. Citigroup is among the hundreds of companies that have made corporate social responsibility a top priority. In today’s world, they’ve decided, it’s vital for companies to give back to the community, and give a helping hand to those in need.
The social responsibility factor means that many companies have shifted their focus away from the adventure-centric team-building activities of just a few years ago, such as ropes courses. Instead, team-building activities are being designed with the community in mind. In this new type of corporate team building, community service-focused activities benefit the community, employee morale and loyalty, and the company itself. Accordingly, planners across the country are brushing up on their altruism.
What does all of this have to do with waggle dancing? This unusual activity was simply one part of the Citigroup team-building activity that benefited the Jamaican bee farmers of the All Island Bee Farmers Association (AIBFA).
After the Citigroup employees learned about the AIBFA’s plight, the employees performed a fun scavenger hunt to find the beehive components and constructed the hives, using waggle dancing instead of verbal communication, as do bees. The 30 beehives constructed as a result of this event were sent to the AIBFA members.
“While 2005 was a successful business year for Citi,” says Barbara Blumhof, manager of events for the Commercial Business Group, “it was also a year of unprecedented global humanitarian effort by Citigroup and its employees. It is in this spirit of commitment to the global community that we chose an activity that allowed us to give back, rather than take back from our visit to the island.”
The event was designed by Impact 4 Good, an organization that works with socially responsible companies by providing team-building activities that help achieve business objectives while giving back to the community.
A Cultural Shift
There has been a distinct shift toward social responsibility in today’s corporate culture, according to a recent survey on corporate community involvement by Deloitte & Touche USA LLP. This study showed that 92 percent of Americans think it is important for companies to make charitable contributions, and/or donate products and/or services to nonprofit organizations in the community, while 87 percent of Americans think that it is important for companies to offer their employees volunteering opportunities.
This is no surprise to Alan Ranzer, the executive director of Impact 4 Good. For the last eight of its 10 years in business, Impact 4 Good has facilitated such team-building events at the request of its corporate clients.
The civic-minded organization continues to develop new activities that allow corporate employees to participate in team-building exercises to benefit needy communities, as well. For example, Impact 4 Good united with the nonprofit Solar Cookers International on a project in which corporate employees build and send solar cookers to developing areas in Africa. Through its partnership with the nonprofit Los Niños, corporate employees build beehives for a women’s cooperative in the U.S.-Mexico border community of Mexicali. Through bee-farming, the women in the cooperative produce and sell lotions, beeswax candles and healing salves while working toward financial sustainability.
Impact 4 Good’s latest collaboration is with an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity, St. Tammany West, near New Orleans. Since Impact 4 Good works with businesses that can only spare employees for a short time, it has designed shorter activities to accommodate such schedules. Employees involved in this type of activity spend their time building mailboxes or birdhouses to donate to the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate, which sends them on to the beneficiaries, says Ranzer.
“In all of our activities, what we’re trying to do is to create a community service possibility for a company that might not have time to go to the community…This allows people to give back in their own way. We bring the community services activity to the conference room,” says Ranzer.