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.
To help build a more inclusive society with better quality of life, Outreach supports people with disabilities, implements community-building activities and provides vocational training to women, youth and older people.
Motivated to act after visiting a village in need, Outreach volunteers returned every week to address the main issue: help the community find ways to make a living.
Scaling community networks
In times of crisis, three groups always emerge—those in need, those who want to help and organizations that act as force multipliers of assistance. Since the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelmed the London Borough of Havering, which covers 18 wards and is home to 260,000 residents, we’ve seen this scenario play out.
Getting and giving help to those in need. Over the past year, infrastructure has been severely stretched by the pandemic. Individuals across the borough need emergency support in the form of food shopping, wellness checks, financial help, prescription pickups and transport to doctors’ visits or vaccination centers. And individuals who want to volunteer and show their good will, either part- or full-time, seek ways to help. Then there are the organizations that can exponentially increase levels of support but need to be brought into the effort.
Joining forces to fill the gap. Without a central registry point, a sense of inertia illuminated a clear gap between the needs of Havering and the available options to mobilize care—but not for long. Wanting to help the community, Cognizant devised Cognizant Assist, a platform that links volunteers to people and organizations who need help.
The open-source technology platform, developed pro bono over a period of 2,516 hours by Cognizant’s digitally skilled volunteers, integrates seamlessly with Havering’s existing community hub. The new platform helps coordinate the rollout of vaccines to residents and connect care, chat buddy, dog walking and transportation volunteers. To date, more than 450 blood pressure testing devices have been dispersed to 30 different surgeries thanks to the newly implemented system, and more than 2,500 individuals and organizations are registered.
Making connections with Cognizant Assist. The Havering Community Hub, powered by Cognizant Assist, mobilizes and deploys community members based on what they need or can offer others, so the journey to get or provide help can begin.
“Cognizant Outreach is an employee volunteering platform that brings together skilled, passionate community-minded associates to drive digital inclusion across multiple sectors of society. Cognizant Assist is the perfect example of everything Outreach stands for, and I am grateful to all the volunteers who came together for the timely innovation and successful efforts in bringing the community together for a humanitarian cause.”
—Padmasini Dayananda, Global Head of ESG, Cognizant Outreach
Going forward, Havering Council plans to roll out the platform to support other organizations in the borough, building a resilient community fabric that benefits the people, organizations and societies in which we live and work.
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.
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.
Living in the outskirts of the Indian village of Irumbai were 22 impoverished families. Referred by a social worker family member, a Cognizant employee and his friends visited the area and were appalled by what they found—rudimentary huts lacking basic facilities and few jobs for many community members. This motivated the Outreach volunteers to act.
Volunteers soon realized that the greatest need was a sustainable livelihood for the villagers. Because the community had little exposure to ways of earning a living, many continued to rely on charity.
On their weekly visits, volunteers began to address the issue. They guided the men of the community to begin their own small businesses or find employment at the construction sites nearby. The women were taught by skilled volunteers to make handicrafts like flowers and bouquets using paper and nylon, and earrings and key chains from quilled paper.
It wasn’t long before the women were making beautiful and intricate handicrafts on their own. These crafts are now sold in the market, and many are presented as corporate gifts to Cognizant customers who visit our software development centers.
“It is more than just a bunch of nylon flowers. It is my first income ever,” says Selvi, a member of the Irumbai community.
Our workforce of diverse knowledge professionals is impacting the holistic development of students and the digital empowerment of teachers.
Online classes operating under our Virtu(e)al Teacher program open new avenues for interactions among our global volunteers—and for students residing in isolated areas.
Volunteers, who assessed student skills and followed up with personalized coaching, are now seeing tangible increase in student learning levels.
Making a difference
We believe that education is the most critical sustainability issue of our time, and Cognizant’s diverse workforce can make a huge difference in students’ lives. Boosting STEM knowledge and interest among youths globally is a major component of our employee’s volunteer efforts.
Be a teacher (BAT): Outreach volunteers in India act as adjunct faculty in government/NGO-run schools catering to children from low-income communities. They complement classroom lessons with hands-on activities to make learning interactive and engaging.
Promoting STEM: Volunteers encourage and mentor young learners taking part in STEM activities. Classes are designed to spark a passion for digital and technology by keeping it fun, engaging and relevant to everyday life.
Virtu(e)al teacher: Cognizant volunteers from India and the U.S. interact with students over Skype, leveraging technology to make global learning available to students in rural areas. More than 100 volunteers regularly teach over 5,000 students in 69 schools across India.
Project 100 schools: Our flagship program rehabilitated 100+ government schools impacted by the 2015 floods in the Chennai, Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur districts in Tamil Nadu, India. This initiative helped restore critical infrastructure, enabling nearly 50,000 students to fulfill their educational and extra-curricular objectives.
Scholarship program: Volunteers who spent years coaching and mentoring children realized their efforts would be in vain if these students did not pursue their studies due to financial hardship. The Outreach Scholarship program addresses this gap. Between 2012 and 2020, more than 32,420 associates—contributing through a payroll deduction program—have funded scholarships for over 2,100 meritorious students. Over 90% of the recipients are first-generation graduates and 72% of them are girls.
Cognizant® e-teacher: Volunteers started this digital enrichment program to upskill teachers across India following the outbreak of COVID-19 as they recognized the need to equip teachers to use online tools effectively.
When studies go uninterrupted: Children across Outreach-supported schools continued their studies despite school shutdowns caused by COVID-19. For example, volunteers in Pune, India, conducted coaching sessions and mock tests remotely through WebEx to train children for state scholarship exams.
Outreach launched the “Virtu(e)al Teacher” initiative with the aim of leveraging technology to provide supplementary coaching sessions to government school students in India. The initiative opened up a new avenue for employees from multiple geographies to interact with students in remote villages of India via Skype sessions.
“This platform has given me the opportunity to teach children belonging to my hometown of Virudhunagar in Tamil Nadu, India,” says Kavitha Pandian, an Outreach volunteer from the U.S. “Technology has helped bridge geographic distances and helped me give back to my community. I notice that these sessions motivate the children to learn more and open their minds to new possibilities and opportunities. The entire purpose of the program is to ensure that children are motivated enough to attend school and make the interaction memorable and fascinating for them.”
In 2019, Outreach collaborated with “eVidyaloka,” a nonprofit specializing in helping remote classrooms use technology with the support of volunteers. Volunteers from across the globe now connect to schools in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal and NCR. They are making a difference. Students are better able to converse in English and understand the basics of computer science, and they are developing an interest in extra-curricular activities such as chess.
In 2019/2020, 5,000 students have benefitted across 69 schools in India, with nearly 2,000 volunteer hours invested. Besides bringing global knowledge to rural schools, the technology has enabled better access, improved the quality of learning and provided effective channels for volunteers to share their wisdom and experiences with these children.
“The volunteers who teach us spoken English have helped us overcome our fear of the language. Thanks to these classes, I can now converse fluently in English,” says Abinaya, a student of a government school in Tamil Nadu.
Challenge to teach
According to an NGO survey conducted in rural schools in India, about two-thirds of children in grade 7 are unable to read simple English sentences and close to half of fourth graders are unable to perform subtraction. To help address these learning gaps, the “Challenge to Teach” initiative was launched in 2018 as a five-week Outreach campaign to improve the math and English learning standards of students in these grades.
Volunteers began by conducting preassessments of the English-reading and basic arithmetic skills of the student population. Based on the results, they drew up individual learning goals for each student to achieve by the end of the five-week program. Following focused coaching, 75% of the students cleared their post assessments with a score of 80% or above, indicating a sharp increase in learning levels.
In 2018-2019, three editions of the campaign were completed. In all, nearly 13,000 students across 164 schools and community homes were assessed, 7,200 of whom were taught by volunteers. Volunteers infused ingenuity and enthusiasm into every session, from teaching English through popular children’s songs to using pebbles to help students count, to make learning easy, fun and interactive.
Train the trainer
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.
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.
STEM and career readiness
Instilling excitement in students about STEM careers worldwide and creating job-ready talent for the future of work is urgent.
We encourage students to explore the challenges they face every day and to devise creative, scientific solutions on their own to solve them.
Ultimately, 1,200 deserving students in India can pursue a college education, thanks to the Cognizant associates who coach and volunteer each year.
Making STEM fun
We believe creativity and innovation, coupled with STEM, are essential to producing the products, services and solutions we will need in the future.
In the U.S., we partner with several organizations to encourage STEM learning for middle school students between the ages of 8 and 13. Our associates teach skills such as website development and design. “Code Camp” volunteers provide coding instruction on a weekly basis. Cognizant associates also conduct webinars to inspire children to learn about interesting jobs related to careers they may want to pursue in the future.
Outreach U.K.’s primary objective is to create an inclusive, level playing field for every person, irrespective of age, gender, race, socio-economic background or ability. The council’s “Social Digital Empowerment Program” aims to drive digital inclusion strategically. One of its objectives is inspiring younger generations to embrace careers and futures in STEM disciplines. Volunteers conduct “Exploring and Experimental Learning Gyms” to encourage young minds to grow from being users of technology to innovators of the future. In 2019-2020, our U.K. council influenced over 250 students in the United Kingdom and Ireland using curiosity programs such as hands-on digital labs, micro-bit programming, design thinking workshops and digital art.
Under the “Smart Nation” program in Singapore, volunteers organize STEM workshops to make technologies such as artificial intelligence, analytics and internet of things interesting and fun. Children learn how they can leverage the digital technologies that our volunteers know well to pursue their passions in the arts, science and humanities.
Between 2016 and 2020, volunteers reached out to thousands of students in Singapore, teaching them to code drones, design and develop mobile apps, and build their own chatbots. The outcomes have been very encouraging, with more than 80%* of students expressing a greater interest in pursuing STEM subjects and improved confidence in applying STEM concepts.
Across the globe, volunteers take a hands-on approach to STEM teaching, encouraging children to address socio-economic challenges innovatively.
*Data from select STEM programs
Nurturing scientific thinking
“Einstein Hunt” is a global science and innovation contest that Cognizant Outreach conducts to foster scientific thinking among students. Our volunteers in India, Singapore, the Philippines, and the U.K. help children build science projects. Winning students from India are given a one-of-a-kind opportunity to incubate and test their ideas at the Agastya International Foundation’s innovation hub in Kuppam, Andhra Pradesh, India. The incubation period involves five rigorous days of ideation, critical thinking and concept building—and learning all it takes to refine their ideas into working prototypes.
The idea behind Einstein Hunt is to encourage students to think more about the challenges they face and then brainstorm creative solutions using the scientific method. Frequently, the problems students tackle involve issues they face at home, such as waste segregation, fluctuating power and unclean water. Discovering cost-effective farming techniques that use organic pesticides, brainstorming gesture-controlled cars that run on sound waves and creating low-cost projectors that help low-income schools are some of the recent Einstein Hunt contest findings.
“Participating in Einstein Hunt has been an enriching experience for me. It has given me a rare opportunity to get hands-on training for my science project which I personally feel passionate about,” says Smita Maity, student and one of the Einstein Hunt 2018 National Winners.
Helping youngsters get career ready
In 2019, Cognizant’s Talent Acquisition Group (TAG) in the United Arab Emirates organized a “Career Readiness Workshop” in Dubai. The team led a workshop for a group of young female scholars on the employability skills needed to enter the workforce. Sharing recruitment tips and tricks, volunteers ensured all participants left the workshop with not only professional LinkedIn profiles but also aspirations for a successful career. The team has continued these sessions, collaborating with different partner organizations and universities to reach out to students.
During COVID-19, TAG piloted its first virtual career readiness session with 16 university students. The team ran interactive, hour-long virtual sessions, training students on resume writing and personal branding through social media. The response from students has been very encouraging.
Lead volunteer Nidhi Srivastava says, “It is a very humbling and enriching experience to be part of these initiatives. Interacting with the new age students helps me realize the importance of upskilling ourselves continuously before I reach the ‘plateau.’ Recently, I also had the opportunity to conduct mock interviews for a few candidates with hearing impairment from Mumbai, India. It was an overwhelming experience.”
Volunteers who coached and mentored children over several years realized that their efforts would be incomplete if the high school students could not afford to attend college. The Outreach Scholarship Program was launched in 2012 to address this problem, and between then and 2020, more than 2,100 gifted students have been awarded scholarships to pursue higher education.
After clearing an eligibility evaluation and interview process conducted by our volunteers, around 500 scholars are added to the initiative every year. Over 90% of Outreach scholars are first-generation graduates, and 72% of them are girls.
For many scholars, the switch from high school to college is more pronounced due to the change in the language of study from a local vernacular to English. To ease the transition, scholars are invited back each year for regular skill-building programs, such as spoken English training, interview skills and mentoring sessions. Additionally, close to 700 students have completed the Microsoft Digital Literacy certification.
The program has helped many scholars graduate and secure employment. As of July 2020, 15 of them are working at Cognizant. Malathi Sivakumar from Coimbatore is an ex-Outreach scholar who has been with Cognizant since 2018. After completing her studies at the Government Higher Secondary School, Coimbatore, she received a full scholarship to pursue her B.E. degree.
“Outreach helped me pursue my dreams,” says Sivakumar. “As an Outreach volunteer now, it fills me with great joy to pass on the knowledge to junior scholars.”
We are committed to protecting and sustaining the environment. Cognizant volunteers adopt and promote sustainable living practices at home and in their communities to positively impact the environment and foster an appreciation for biodiversity.
After devastating floods wreaked havoc in several cities in India, Outreach volunteers collaborated with restoration agencies to help restore school infrastructure and provide students with safe places to study.
In 2015, Chennai faced the worst floods in a century. Relief camps swelled with a teeming mass of distressed families, while the city reeled under massive infrastructure losses. On a mission to help, and to give children a safe place to study, Cognizant volunteers stepped in with a plan to revive 100+ damaged schools through the “Project 100 Schools” initiative.
Schools were identified following a building survey in the worst-affected districts of Chennai, Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur. Volunteers from Chennai took stock of the schools’ infrastructural requirements and oversaw the required repair work. Over a three-year period, the initiative helped restore such critical school infrastructure as buildings, classrooms, libraries and laboratories, enabling nearly 50,000 students to meet their educational and extra-curricular needs.
Cognizant Outreach launched a similar effort under the “Project 25 Schools” initiative to rehabilitate 25 schools affected by the 2018 floods in Kerala. These floods left several cities with a staggering loss of life and infrastructure, severely impacting the availability of necessities such as clean water and sanitation.
As the floods wreaked havoc, 2,750 Outreach volunteers collected, sorted and packed 44 tons of relief materials for distribution to those affected. After the water receded, Cognizant Outreach joined hands with Round Table India Trust to help some of the worst-affected schools in the flood-hit districts, restoring and rebuilding critical infrastructure such as classrooms, toilets, and compound walls.
Cognizant associates across India contributed through a one-time payroll deduction program for the rehabilitation efforts in both the states.
Protecting the environment
Cognizant believes in taking a hands-on approach to environmental stewardship. As part of Outreach, volunteers pursue a range of initiatives aimed at protecting and sustaining our environment. These include planting and conserving trees, restoring water bodies and public spaces, helping low-income farmers in their fields and promoting environmental consciousness in the community. In addition to participating in field events, volunteers also organize and take part in a wide range of webinars to foster an appreciation for biodiversity.
Planting Saplings: Outreach volunteers survey barren places and plant tree seedlings and saplings where they have the potential to thrive. They periodically revisit these areas periodically to nurture and maintain their work, engaging with the local community to ensure sustainability. Between 2008 and 2020, employees have planted and nurtured over 100,000 saplings.
Waterbody conservation: Wading through knee-deep waters, volunteers clear trash and debris from lakes, as well as clean the banks surrounding them. In 2019/2020, volunteers helped clean and restore over 69 water bodies around the world.
Cleaning public places: Volunteers participate in multiple initiatives to keep the planet clean and green, working together to clear trash and restore the natural beauty of their surroundings. Clean-up activities range from public parks and beaches to the areas surrounding our offices.
Urban farmers: One of the most popular environmental initiatives in India is Urban Farmers Outreach. Volunteers help the owners of smaller farms with day-to-day chores, such as clearing weeds, watering fields and transplanting rice seedlings onto paddy fields. Not only does this teach our volunteers more about farming, but it also helps the farmers save on labor costs.
Farm lab: Associates in India help school students start and maintain vegetable gardens on school premises. The objective is to help students develop an interest in gardening and understand healthy food production techniques. Students learn from our volunteers to till the soil, sow seeds, and nurture and harvest produce, which is then cooked in the school’s kitchen.
Restoring water body
According to the World Economic Forum, an estimated four billion people are running out of fresh water at an astonishing rate. To make a difference, Cognizant Outreach volunteers have launched water conservation and restoration efforts in many parts of the world where we have a presence, including:
Neknampur lake: Bearing the brunt of urbanization, this 400-year-old lake in Hyderabad, India, was badly polluted and choked with weeds. To restore this heritage water body, Cognizant volunteers collaborated with an environmental organization to clean it up. In 2019, 320 volunteers devoted 1,871 hours toward the lake’s restoration. The efforts are ongoing, with the lake now providing the perfect ambience for a variety of recreational activities.
Jakkur lake: A similar story can be told about the banks of Jakkur Lake in Bengaluru, India. A bird watcher’s haven, Jakkur Lake had become a dumping ground following years of exploitation. “When we started working there were only a handful of birds,” recalls Cognizant volunteer Krishna Teja Mangalampalli. “Now different species of birds and butterflies visit the lake, and medicinal plants and rare trees trace its boundaries.” In 2019, 176 volunteers devoted 780 hours to the initiative.
Sembakkam lake: Cognizant contributed more than US$373,700 to enable wastewater treatment and landscaping to rejuvenate the 100-acre Sembakkam Lake that flows into the Pallikaranai wetland, one of southern India’s last remaining natural marshlands. The project will help clear the lake of solid wastes, aid groundwater recharge, and improve the lake’s storage capacity and water quality. This initiative will benefit over 10,000 nearby households and conserve local biodiversity, including 189 plant species and 41 bird species.
Beach cleanups: Cognizant volunteers undertake regular beach cleanup drives around the world. The labor involved in keeping beaches litter-free has been intensive, requiring resourcefulness and commitment. Volunteers also meet with subject-matter experts to educate themselves on how plastic pollutants threaten the marine habitat of species. In 2019, approximately 100 tons of trash were collected by our volunteers in more than 17 beach cleanups.
Enhancing green cover
Cognizant Outreach volunteers who focus on the environment place a high priority on local restoration efforts. The results of their work are evident:
From barren hill to biodiversity: Quadron Hill is located behind the Cognizant office in Pune, India. Every weekend, a group of Outreach volunteers treks the hill slopes with shovels and watering cans to nurture the saplings they have planted there. Today, the first traces of greenery are beginning to appear against the dusty, urban backdrop. “We had to increase the number of water and food feeders to see an increase in biodiversity in the area,” says volunteer Naresh Sonawane.
On-campus herbal gardens: Volunteers working in the Cognizant campus at Coimbatore, India, have crafted herbal oases amid the concrete walls of their workplace. Using rainwater harvested at the facility, plastic bottles and organic manure sourced from farmers, they have created a unique ecosystem that attracts many species of butterflies and birds.
Tree banks in our offices: Associates dedicate time to building and nurturing plant nurseries in our offices. Volunteering on these tree banks enables them to take part in planting opportunities that provide an in-house nursery experience. As of 2020, over 12,000 saplings have been nurtured in six cities across India.
Hunt and plant: Associates survey barren places that show promise for promoting greenery, and then plant saplings there. They periodically revisit these places to nurture and maintain the planted trees, often collaborating with various agencies and institutions to amplify the impact. In one such partnership in 2019, volunteers collaborated with the Indian Air Force Base and Police Training Academy near Chennai, India, to plant over 10,000 saplings, including natural herbs known for their pesticidal and insecticidal properties.
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.
Non-profit communities and charities
Our highly skilled, diverse global workforce has much to offer when volunteering to help individuals and nonprofits pivot to digital and create community value.
Well versed in office productivity, Cognizant volunteers are focusing their attention on improving the digital skills for charity workers.
From wheelchair basketball to paralympic swimming, Cognizant's involvement with paransports ables a level playingfield for those with disabilities.
Individuals, communities and nonprofit organizations around the world frequently grapple with a lack of formal skills and a shortage of resources. Cognizant Outreach volunteers fill in these gaps by conducting workshops on resume writing, brainstorming project management solutions, helping nonprofit managers understand contracts and providing skills training.
Design thinking workshops: Our volunteers conduct design thinking workshops to generate innovative solutions for a wide range of scenarios. Using intuitive and analytical thinking, they help nonprofits address specific challenges, reframe questions and integrate stakeholder engagement into their decision-making process.
Hackathons for social good: In a hackathon, coders, engineers, designers and others come together for a day or weekend to build a website, app or system for a local nonprofit. Each Outreach hackathon provides an intense working environment that pushes participants beyond their typical learning boundaries and encourages them to tackle socio-economic problems.
Digital advisory programs: Digital technologies can transform how nonprofits connect with clients and create community value. Cognizant volunteers offer their professional skills to help nonprofits manage their databases, use the right productivity tools and create effective websites.
Career readiness workshops: Volunteers lead a variety of initiatives to mentor students and individuals to help get them ready for a professional career. From helping them build an online business profile to conducting career awareness sessions, volunteers introduce a world of new opportunities to these aspirants.
Providing medical advice: Associates who are qualified medical doctors volunteered to support a special COVID-19 telephone helpline in Mumbai, India, providing critical, non-prescriptive advice to citizens, including those from underserved communities.
Using technology for community support: Cognizant employees from the U.K. Digital Engineering team developed a COVID community support platform. The pilot implementation for the volunteer taskforce at Nairn, Scotland, supported over 400 volunteers and served an entire town of beneficiaries.
Digital enablement charities
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.
Assisting during the COVID crisis
Outreach volunteers are well equipped to help their communities during the COVID-19 crisis. Using virtual technologies such as teleconferencing, online workshops, distant learning and other digital tools, they reach out to provide assistance where it is most needed around the world.
Operating helplines: Working with NGOs and community kitchens, volunteers in Coimbatore, India, helped supply more than 200,000 meals to stranded daily-wage laborers, the homeless and senior citizens. Our volunteers have participated in similar helplines to support vulnerable communities in Chennai, Kochi and Hyderabad. In Chennai, volunteers assisted in contact tracing activities of those diagnosed COVID-19 positive. They called relevant contacts over the phone, recording their details in an online portal for healthcare staff to follow up and carry out quarantine procedures.
Employability training for people with disabilities: Recognizing the role that employment can play as a leveler, Outreach partnered with an NGO in Chennai to co-create the “LinkAbility” initiative in 2017. The sessions, anchored by volunteers and experts from Cognizant’s Academy and HR teams, are part of month-long workshop sessions on aptitude, resume building, communication and interview skills to help people with disabilities become job-ready. As the pandemic unfolded, volunteers started conducting these sessions online. Participants joined virtual classrooms and received guidance from Cognizant trainers, after which they reported feeling less inhibited, more confident and more aware of the opportunities available to them. Volunteers also conducted English coaching for visually challenged students to help them during lockdown.
Digitizing content for the visually challenged: Volunteers across locations have scaled up their efforts in digitizing content for the visually challenged. Using the “Accessital” technology platform they proofread and record material for conversion into audio books for digital libraries.