For the past month, Tangier has been home to an international group of corporate social volunteers. IBM's Corporate Service Corps has sent 9 volunteers – all from IBM's worldwide operations, from Rio to Tokyo – to Tangier, fanning out into three teams with three different non-profit associations. Organized by the Morocco office of CDC Development Solutions, the teams have been working with AMED, a university-based group active in sustainable development, the TMSA Foundation, the corporate social responisbility arm of the Tangier-Med port, and FTAM (Fondation Tanger al-Medina), TALIM's partner in the Arabic literacy program for the women of Tangier's medina.
Though TALIM hosted the kickoff event for the entire IBM contingent (photo at top), we've been especially closely involved in the work of the FTAM team: Misha Santa Barbara from the Czech Republic (and IBM's Atlanta office); Lavinia Frota Flach from Brazil, and Ryosuke ("Ryo") Sawazaki from Japan (photo at right, with Mohammed Hammich of the Tangier acrobats, one of the community artistic groups at the FTAM-sponsored cultural center of Borj El Hajoui).
Painstakingly interviewing members of FTAM, the team came to form an accurate picture of the foundation and its challenges. Through a series of facilitated workshops with the leadership of FTAM, IBM's corporate volunteers used their experience in management to stimulate frank discussion of impediments that have prevented the foundation from reaching its full potential.
FTAM's group has chronicled their work in blog posts, including two (Lavinia's and Misha's) on their work with the women of a spinoff cooperative from our Arabic literacy program. They unearthed a great Moroccan variant on MBWA, management by walking around – "work and you will be strong; sit and you will stink." The women of the cooperative are certainly hard-working, though concepts like pricing to cover their costs sometimes elude them. The IBM team provided them with another idea to augment their income: offer cookie-baking classes to foreign visitors willing to pay to get hands-on training. They tested out the concept in a fun cooking class.
Sometimes it takes an interested outside look to help spur a fresh approach, which has helped FTAM focus on its core values, and the strategy necessary over the medium to long term to achieve its objectives. And we are happy to find an interested partner in IBM, which is looking at the possiblities of adapting its online literacy program for use in our literacy classes.