Why we chose to partner with Chapter One - Cisco

Cisco's Partnering for Purpose initiative enables the company to sponsor additional teams of Chapter One volunteers by engaging its channel partner community

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Joy Aboim is Senior Community Impact Lead, People, Policy and Purpose at global technology company, Cisco. This is Cisco’s fourth year as a Chapter One partner and also Joy’s fourth consecutive year volunteering with a Chapter One child.

Could you tell us about the Cisco Partnering for Purpose initiative?
A global Cisco initiative, Partnering for Purpose works to align our commitment to an inclusive future across our business relationships. It is designed to make it easier for our partners, customers, and suppliers around the world to collaborate with Cisco to accelerate and amplify our collective positive impact in the communities in which we live and work. We can go faster and further together. We ask: how can we scale best practices?

Considering our business model and our very close working relationship with our channel partners in serving our customers, collaborating with them to drive positive change in our communities is an essential part of how we go to market. Businesses have always had this responsibility to the communities they operate in, and at Cisco, we believe that doing good is good for business.

Our channel partners vary in size and there is much we can each learn from each other - great ideas to share and scale, impactful stories to tell. Creating a framework that enables that is at the heart of Partnering for Purpose.

How is Partnering for Purpose working in practice with Chapter One?
Through our Partnering for Purpose work, and alongside Cisco employees supporting the literacy journey of children in UK schools, we are able to sponsor additional teams of Chapter One volunteers by engaging our channel partner community. We are currently supporting children in primary schools in Greater Manchester, a region where there is high need.

To share this volunteer opportunity with our channel partner community, we held a Lunch and Learn, specifically for our UK & Ireland partners, where we discussed the literacy gap in the UK and Chapter One’s innovative solution to tackling it. Cisco employees who already volunteered with Chapter One talked about their experiences reading with a child and the amazing impact it has not just on the child but also on them. We then made a call out for anyone interested to sign up and join the movement.

To date, we have about eight partner employees from five unique partner organisations who are making a difference, as Chapter One online reading volunteers, to the lives of 5–6-year-old pupils helping them become confident readers. We are ambitious to increase that number as we start now to recruit more for the next academic year.

We have also created a Webex community where we support each other and share our experiences, challenges and highlights of being a Chapter One volunteer reader.

How do you demonstrate the impact of the initiative?
At the moment, we are measuring the extent to which we are engaging and collaborating with our channel partners around the world and sharing that through storytelling.

The convenience of the programme being online is a great advantage - it makes it so much easier to slot the 30 minutes into my working day, wherever I might be.

Joy Aboim, Senior Community Impact Lead, People, Policy and Purpose, Cisco

What inspired you to sign up as a Chapter One online reading volunteer?
I have been a longtime ‘ready helper’ for the volunteering opportunities that our Cisco UKI CSR team organise, and when I saw this request for volunteers, I knew I wanted to be involved. I live by the African proverb, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, and this was an excellent opportunity for me to express that. I am part of 20 or so other Cisco online reading volunteers, and by getting involved with a child’s development and literacy skills at such a critical early age, we are investing in their life outcomes, and indeed our shared future. I have been a volunteer reader since the 2020/21 academic year and really like the long-term nature of the programme - providing support to a child across the entire school year enables us to build-up a relationship as well as see the results of the time spent together.

The convenience of the programme being online is a great advantage - it makes it so much easier to slot the 30 minutes into my working day, wherever I might be. I have even chosen to have a number of sessions whilst on holiday. Given my industry, it’s also brilliant to see the application of technology to help build bridges, and close divides. The Chapter One platform is quite a gamechanger!

What has reading with a child given you personally?
As a longstanding volunteer, I have been able to help a number of children become more confident in their reading, which is wonderful. But what is equally wonderful is my own personal development as direct result. I have to be flexible and innovative - I need to make sure I adapt to support the individual needs of each child and reinforce what we cover in our weekly sessions, whilst being fun and engaging. This has helped me reflect and grow. It also helps keep me in touch with a new generation.

Then, there is my relationship with my ‘child’. Even though the reading sessions take place over the phone and there’s no video, I am able to develop a relationship with each of the children I’ve read with and get to know them. We are equally excited for each week’s session! For me, the sessions are one of the highlights of my week.

How has being a Chapter One online reading volunteer aided your professional development?
Being a Chapter One online reading volunteer allows me to innovate and find new ways to teach and explain a concept. Something not too removed from my day-to-day work. It makes me devise easy and clear ways to breakdown the English language and nuance of pronunciation. I giggle at the many exceptions in the language that have tripped us both up. It makes you think, how does this differ to when I explain something to an adult? It’s an impressive skill: can you explain something to a 5-year- old? The collection of books in the Chapter One platform library are vast and international and I love to be able to teach and explain non-English words as well.

Additionally, I am part of the Cisco Webex community of other Cisco employees who are Chapter One volunteers, and we are able to share experiences, highlights and challenges with each other. That community is a valuable part of the experience for me.

Have there been any standout moments?
I have realised just how much the children build a routine around the weekly reading sessions. I typically schedule my sessions on a Thursday, and when I had to reschedule a session or two, my pupil noted that we were reading on a different day, and she was a bit confused. She’d lost track of what day of the week it was, because of that change. It just made me think about how the pupils use the sessions as a measure of time, and how they are a key marker in their week, and they really look forward to them. Another standout moment was with my current pupil. We had been going over and over something for a few sessions, and then she finally got it and I got to see the ‘aha’ moment. It is always a triumph when it clicks like that, and they start to self-correct.

As a long-term volunteer, another thing that stands out to me is that when I start reading with a new child, I am reminded of just where my previous pupils started and how far they journeyed during our time together. It is quite exciting to start all over again!

How can companies get involved in Chapter One?

Chapter One’s virtual, time-efficient, flexible model for volunteering will enhance your company’s employee value proposition, whilst fulfilling CSR or social value commitments around education, social mobility and inclusion. Employees can:

- volunteer online directly from their desks with no travel

- make a direct impact on the lives of children from disadvantaged communities

- support local communities across the UK

- improve their own well-being by helping others

- reconnect with your company’s social purpose

If you’re interested in joining us, we’d love to hear from you! You’ll find out who we currently work with on our partners’ page. You can contact us here or email sarah.taylor@chapterone.org.