The Cognizant Outreach program mobilizes our associates’ expertise and enthusiasm through volunteer work.
To make an impact in the areas that are strategically aligned to our business, we focus on:
- Supporting inclusion in tech. We support community projects that help advance technology education, training and inclusion.
- Increasing the use of technology for good. We utilize technology to deliver improved social, economic and environmental outcomes.
Tech for community
Challenging students to innovate
Students at the Build On, ASEAN 2021 hackathon built unique solutions to give back to communities.
Shaping communities with cloud
We helped mentor more than 150 students from Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines as they stretched their AWS cloud, design thinking and agile project methodology skills and aimed to build sustainable solutions for communities. It was amazing to see the passion and purpose that students demonstrated through the solutions they created for healthcare as they worked to build an inclusive society and, as we like to put it, engineered impact. 63 students won prizes and gained recognition for building innovative solutions.
The Singapore Institute Champions were students from NTU School of Computing and Computer Engineering who developed their winning idea called “Localish”, aimed at fostering community ties among neighbourhood residents. Localish matched people who needed help with those who could offer a helping hand. Users can make new friends with similar interests, read news, receive updates about upcoming events from their residents’ committee and connect with neighbours who are sharing or selling items or services.
“This was a truly exciting experience for us as we worked collaboratively. Through this journey, we took a deep dive into the ways we can use technology to shape the society we live in, and we will continue to use our innovation for future projects.”
—Singapore Institute Champions
Honing digital skills
We collaborated with Daughters Of Tomorrow to bring one-on-one mentoring sessions to women seeking professional skills.
Tools for digital success
In support of Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore’s (IMDA) Digital for Life movement, Cognizant Outreach collaborated with Daughters Of Tomorrow to help women improve their professional skills. This included two runs of eight-week one-on-one digital skill mentoring sessions for women from low-income backgrounds to improve employability and career readiness. Volunteers from Cognizant were matched with mentees interested in improving or acquiring such skills.
The program was unique because of its one-on-one mentoring, which was customised to meet each mentee’s specific mentoring and skill needs. The program aimed to build confidence in using digital tools over an eight-week period. The end goal was for mentees to gain employment or get gainful employment.
35 women benefitted from the program, and 14 women graduated successfully in September 2021. A couple of the mentees received multiple job offers and many were successful in finding jobs. Those who were already employed reported better job performance. Almost 100% of the mentees reported improved digital skills on Microsoft and Google applications and collaboration platforms. They also noticed improved communication and productivity skills.
Our experience suggests that for working adults in low-wage sectors, one-on-one digital skill mentoring is the most effective learning opportunity for prospective employees. It’s also a great way to bring a human element to digitalisation.
Inclusion in the workplace
Shaping better employee experiences for all
Our panel discussion highlighted key lessons for companies to help people with disabilities thrive in the workplace.
Creating a diverse work environment
The APAC region is home to 70% of the global population of people with disabilities. Disability increases the risk of poverty, lower wages and increased cost of living. An inclusive and diverse workforce brings multiple economic and social benefits, yet people with disabilities still face significant barriers to access employment opportunities and ways to hone their skills.
In collaboration with Microsoft’s APAC Enabler Program, we helped unpack the opportunities and barriers present in the workforce to increase inclusion of people with disabilities. A diverse audience of around 135 participants attended the webinar. Joining Microsoft, SG Enable, Virtualahan and Global Disability Innovation Hub, we discussed the experiences and challenges of different stakeholders committed to increasing opportunities for people with disabilities. We also explored the role digital technologies can have in improving access to quality jobs for people with disabilities.
Pratibha Kurnool, our head of Outreach for APAC, led the session for Cognizant. She highlighted the opportunities of building a corporate culture committed to diverse and inclusive practices and shared practical insights about overcoming the possible challenges and mindset barriers that management might face. Her discussion drew from Cognizant’s overall social responsibility commitment to ‘Inclusion in Technology’, and Pratibha shared our company investments in education and employability of underrepresented groups.
Through our webinar, we helped others see the value of adopting leading practices that equip people with disabilities to benefit from future opportunities in the digital economy. The unprecedented pace of innovation is reshaping the needs of the whole workforce, and it is vital that people with disabilities have equal access to the skills and new employment opportunities that will dominate the future of work. Together, we can create a culture of inclusion enabled by advanced technologies.
Training the trainers
Empowering teachers with digital skills
With communities in lockdown, Cognizant’s digital enrichment program enables teachers to effectively use online tools to teach children during the pandemic.
Hands on with digital tools
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted access to education for millions of students across the globe. With technology aids increasingly available to help children continue learning remotely, we recognized the need to equip teachers to effectively handle online tools. That’s why our volunteers launched the “Digital Enrichment of Teachers” initiative in April 2020 in Outreach-supported schools across India.
The program’s intent is to help teachers get hands-on experience in the use of technology. It has three levels of skilling initiatives:
Level 1, Digital mastery: Equip teachers to use a smartphone or computer effectively and strengthen their English communication.
Level 2, Digital teaching: Equip teachers with tools and techniques to teach and interact with students using technology.
Level 3, Digital Disha by Adobe: Equip teachers with the latest tools for creating learning resources and ensuring high student engagement in online classes.
To ensure individual attention, volunteers maintain a 1:10 trainer-to-teacher ratio. In addition to training teachers, our associates help resolve the technical issues teachers face. The hands-on training is followed by an assignment segment, which helps teachers implement their learnings seamlessly.
“I am now able to create educative videos and worksheets using apps in my mobile phone. These have made my online classes more interactive. It is a joy to see my students enjoying the new resources I have created,” says one of the teachers from Chennai.
As of August 2020, Cognizant volunteers have trained more than 8,000 grade school and college teachers across eight cities in India.
Managing waste effectively
From gardens to reading hubs, our volunteers in the Philippines are building new structures in schools—all with recycled plastic bottles packed with sand.
Local recycling in action
Volunteers for Outreach Philippines launched the “Ecobrick Project” to help minimize plastic waste, augment public school refurbishment projects and influence the local community’s recycling efforts. An ecobrick is a plastic bottle packed with sand to create a reusable building block. These blocks can be used to make modular furniture, garden spaces or small structures.
As part of this project, volunteers organized a collection drive in our offices to gather used plastic bottles. They then separated them according to size and filled them with silt. These bricks were used to build several attractive structures in schools.
At a school in Cebu, for example, volunteers used the building blocks to assemble a botanical garden. Shortly after the garden was completed, the school replicated the project and converted a dumpsite area on its campus into a botanical park where students can eat, play and study under the shade of trees.
“The most rewarding impact was when we saw everyone—from the pupils, teachers, parents, community councils, to their district leaders—working hand in hand toward one common goal,” says Jan Lumapas, a volunteer in the Philippines.
At yet another school, the bottles were used to build a mini library. Working with the school coordinator and engineers from the Cognizant Workplace Services team, volunteers created a reading hub with empty plastic bottles.
The Ecobrick Project has instilled in students a sense of responsibility to care for and protect their environment. More importantly, recycling has empowered the community to solve the waste management problem innovatively.
Supporting communities and livelihoods
To help build a more inclusive society with better quality of life, Outreach supports people with disabilities and provides vocational training to women and youth.
Help for those in need
Cognizant Outreach volunteers believe in community potential. To help build an inclusive society, volunteers support people with disabilities and provide livelihood and vocational training to marginalized communities, women and youth. Working in multiple settings they help those most in need have a better quality of life, increase their confidence, connect with others and push harder to challenge themselves.
Volunteering during the COVID-19 crisis: Thanks to virtual technologies, the COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped Outreach volunteers from helping communities in India, the Philippines, Singapore, the U.K., the U.S. and elsewhere.
Food packaging and distribution: Outreach volunteers in the U.S. actively support large-scale food packaging and distribution initiatives, using nutritious food to help tackle malnutrition across the country. Thousands of families have received food packed by Cognizant associates.
Leveling the playing field: Outreach volunteers help the disabled excel in their chosen sport—wheelchair basketball or tennis, Paralympic swimming, boccia, cricket, football and chess for the visually challenged. Volunteers frequently partner with nonprofits to organize large-scale parasport tournaments.
Animal welfare: Outreach partners with animal shelters to raise awareness for the protection of animals as well as provide safe and healthy living environments for them. Various initiatives are underway, from cleaning pet shelters to caring for injured animals.
Senior digital literacy: Digital Clinics are designed to help senior citizens thrive in an increasingly digital world. During these sessions, Outreach volunteers help seniors gain familiarity with digital devices and everyday apps that can help make their lives better.
Livelihood support: Our rural initiatives encompass schools, institutions and marginalized communities grappling with livelihood challenges. From teaching vocational skills to spreading awareness, volunteers help community members lead dignified lives.
Blood donation: Regular camps enable associates to donate blood. In 2019, associates in 27 cities across the globe donated 6,371 units of blood.
Military to civilian: In Denmark and India, volunteers support employability programs designed to help military veterans transition into civilian careers. They educate veterans on the different job opportunities available, mentoring them on how to achieve their corporate aspirations.
Leveling the field
Parasports in India and Singapore
From wheelchair basketball to paralympic swimming, Cognizant's involvement with parasports enables a level playing field for those with disabilities.
Support for tomorrow's champions
Our involvement with parasports began in 2013, when Cognizant employees volunteered to support a state-level cricket tournament for the visually challenged held in Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu, India. Since then, Outreach volunteers have extended their support to seven parasports—wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis, Paralympic swimming, boccia, cricket, football and chess for the visually challenged. Partnering with different NGOs, associates have helped organize large-scale parasport tournaments, including the T20 Blind Cricket World Cup, state-level swimming and volleyball tournaments for the visually challenged, and athletic meets for thousands of children.
Wheelchair basketball: One of our most significant partnerships is with the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India (WBFI). Working with the group, our volunteers have helped organize six editions of the National Championships as well as several training camps and regional tournaments across India. Four volunteers have gone on to train in the tough wheelchair variant of the sport. Their roles today include coach of the Indian national team, player in the state team, manager of the state team and city coordinator.
Boccia: In partnership with a Chennai-based NGO, volunteers reach out to people with developmental disabilities to coach them in the game of boccia. Volunteers undergo a certified training program to prepare to serve as coaches at four special schools in Chennai.
Grooming para-athletes in soft skills: Recognizing the need to groom para-athletes for opportunities apart from sport, our volunteers conduct soft-skill training. Volunteers recently trained male and female cricketers from the Blind Cricket Association of Tamil Nadu, India, on teamwork, decision-making, adaptability and leadership, among other skills. Every week, volunteers in Mumbai, India, conduct spoken English sessions for players on the state wheelchair basketball team. These sessions have been immensely beneficial for the players in their personal, professional and sports careers.
Supporting special athletes in Singapore: Outreach volunteers in Singapore regularly coach athletes from the Special Olympics in weekly badminton training.
Quality of life
Digital literacy for seniors
How Cognizant volunteers are helping hundreds of seniors worldwide to use smart devices more effectively—and to find their way in a digital world.
Crossing the digital divide
To increase the digital inclusion of senior citizens and provide them with a better quality of life as they age, volunteers organize “Digital Clinics” that provide one-on-one digital literacy coaching on smartphone usage. Participating seniors learn security best practices and how to use key accessibility features, such as text size magnifiers and voice-to-text, as well as how to connect securely to Wi-Fi hotspots.
Pioneered in Singapore under the “Smart Nation” program, the initiative drives digital inclusion and ensures that everyone is able to access, adopt and engage with digital tools and services. Today, the program empowers hundreds of seniors from Singapore, the U.K., Hong Kong, the Philippines and India, enabling them to use smartphones more effectively for transactions, information, communication, collaboration, entertainment and other needs.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, volunteers in Singapore doubled down on senior citizen digital literacy efforts due to this population’s much higher risk of social isolation and trouble adapting to the digital lifestyle the crisis demanded. Partnering with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Singapore, volunteers participated in Virtual Digital Clinics to help seniors with online collaboration platforms, smartphone storage issues and using the “Trace Together” application for faster COVID-19 contact tracing.
Volunteers in Singapore have constantly pushed the envelope in improving digital competencies of seniors. They have trained seniors in advanced digital skills like programming chatbots and drones. They have also enabled senior citizens to pick up coding skills and volunteer along with them in STEM workshops for students.
For these efforts and more, Cognizant received the “Top SG:Digital Friend” award in the corporate category by the IMDA.
Accelerating digital adoption
Digital enablement for charities
Well versed in office productivity, Cognizant volunteers are focusing their attention on improving the digital skills of nonprofit workers hard at work in their communities.
Nonprofits improve digital skills
A survey of our social impact partners revealed that one reason for low digital adoption in the sector was the lack of adequate digital skills among staff. Recognizing the need for a customized intervention to improve digital competencies, volunteers designed specific programs to help nonprofits improve their data and program management practices.
Microsoft excel for non-profits: Volunteers conduct basic, intermediate and advanced Excel training to enable NGO staff to learn the most critical functions to improve productivity. In 2020, volunteers in India, the Philippines and Singapore reached out to more than 190 participants from 60 organizations. Over 90% of the participants shared that the workshops helped them significantly improve their skills.
Agile forn non-profits: Cognizant’s subject-matter experts help introduce non-profits to agile methodologies and tools. This knowledge helps our social impact partners be more flexible, fast and efficient. As NGOs globally struggle to adjust to the disruption caused by COVID-19, workshops such as these provide timely guidance on how agile/scrum methods can help improve crisis response. In 2020, volunteers assisted 28 non-profits from India and Singapore.
Data management best practices: Non-profits often need help understanding what data to capture, where to capture it from and how to use it effectively for decision-making. Volunteers from Cognizant provide data consulting services to NGO partners. The sessions have helped the non-profits build better dashboards, reduce time on data management, better engage volunteers and donors, and measure and improve program outcomes.
Advanced presentation skills: These sessions, anchored by presentation skills experts from Cognizant, help non-profit leadership teams refine their fundraising pitches with stakeholders. In 2020, we helped improve the skills of more than 340 NGO staff members from 94 social impact partners. Across the globe, we continue to reach out to non-profits to help them through customized sessions on digital content, cloud, web design and mobile apps.