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The large glass case was full of knives, machetes, brass knuckles, homemade tattoo equipment, gang paraphernalia and cigarettes, all confiscated from the young students at MySkills Foundation. The sign, “Strictly Prohibited Items,” made the expectations clear.
MySkills Foundation, located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing second-chance opportunities for at-risk youth in the ethnic Indian community of Malaysia. The Indian community makes up 10 percent of the total Malaysian population yet is responsible for 70 percent of the country’s gang-related crime.
The students range in age from 13 to 20. Many are former gang members who dropped out of school and were living in a dysfunctional environment before coming to MySkills. The mission is to equip these boys and girls with fundamental social, life and workplace skills so they can find jobs and integrate into mainstream society.
In November 2017, 3M sent 14 employees to Malaysia for two immersive weeks as part of the 3M Impact program, a skills-based, pro-bono service program in which teams of 3Mers volunteer their time and talents to benefit nonprofit organizations around the world. Three of these employees were assigned to MySkills and over the course of two weeks helped the organization revamp its stakeholder engagement strategy and communications plan.
According to MySkills CEO Devasharma Gangadaran, two major areas the team looked into were volunteers and corporate partnerships. “They helped us match our volunteer force to relevant areas, to reduce operating expenses,” he said. “They suggested ways to engage more shared community ownership of the MySkills cause. And they created detailed, step-by-step initiatives, including a volunteer manual and analytical tools, which helped us plan effectively for the new year.”
About the results achieved by the 3M Impact team, Gangadaran said, “MySkills Foundation was deeply impacted by the relentless effort of 3M to transform lives of youth at risk in Malaysia. We had a vision for a self-sustaining campus with numerous enterprising ventures in the future, and they helped us make it real in a short amount of time.”
More than a year after the 3M Impact project, 3M is still involved with MySkills. The 3M Impact team is still in contact with Gangadaran and other staff members, and 3M recently provided a grant for $10,000 to MySkills to help them continue their inspirational programs and to help them implement the 3M Impact team recommendations, “allowing them to be more sustainable to continue to develop more programs for the underprivileged communities in Malaysia,” said Parameswaran Nair, managing director of 3M Malaysia.
How the 3M Impact program works
3M Impact projects are designed to make a positive economic or social impact on the local organization and community while providing an opportunity for participants to strengthen leadership skills, develop market insights and spur innovative thinking. 3Mers globally are encouraged to apply each fall and are selected based on the skill sets needed to support community partners in accomplishing their project goals.
Before and after their time on location, the 3M Impact teams work to create action plans that enable their partner organizations to achieve long-lasting change.
While the 3M Impact program benefits the nonprofit partners, it also benefits the 3M employees chosen to take part in the program, providing a challenging and rewarding development opportunity that enables them to grow as leaders, build relationships with colleagues from around the globe and share their skills to make a positive difference in the world. In fact, many past participants say the experience has been life-changing.
3M Impact evolves for 2019
The 3M Impact program continues to grow and evolve. In 2017, 50 3Mers went to three countries. This year, 125 3Mers will travel to nine countries. The first trips of 2019, to India and the Philippines, have concluded. Next up: Morocco and Turkey in April. And new for 2019, all projects will ladder up to 3M’s new sustainability framework – fitting into either Science for Climate, Science for Community or Science for Circular.