How Tanja used her Talent for Good
About Virtual Skills-Based Volunteering
Volunteering your skills and expertise with an NGO to help them build their capacity or support specific needs is referred to as skills-based volunteering. In 2020, we launched a new initiative in Switzerland where employees could engage in virtual skills-based projects with different local NGOs. One of them was SapoCycle, an NGO that collects discarded hard soaps in hotels and turns them into life-saving products. The soaps are recycled by people with disabilities and distributed to improve sanitary conditions of families in need. As SapoCycle wanted to expand to also collect liquid soaps, they needed a new process and specific expertise on how to handle the liquids.
Tanja Schaller works as a Senior Project Manager in Zug. With a passion for doing good and always on the lookout for opportunities to get engaged and have an impact, she decided to support SapoCycle. As she took on the project lead role, she quickly realized that people from different areas and functions would be needed to solve the challenge. She connected with R&D teams and supply chain specialists and brought a group of 5 J&J colleagues together, each an expert in their respective areas.
Working directly with the NGO management allowed Tanja and the J&J team to gain interesting insights and a better understanding of their challenges. As a project manager, she felt comfortable in terms of coordinating the group, setting up meetings, etc. But there were also challenges such as having to lower the standards to adapt to the NGO and make the topic understandable to everyone. She also explains that she had to let go of the J&J point of view and take a much more outside the box approach. “When working with an NGO that has limited resources and a very different approach to J&J, you have to adjust to the environment and challenge yourself to see things from another perspective. Being understanding and empathetic is also very important.”
In the end, the J&J team developed a new supply chain process for the collection of liquid soaps, which SapoCycle will test and hopefully implement. According to the NGO, the work provided by the J&J team was invaluable and will help them to scale their operations. And according to Tanja and the whole team, also for them it was a very rewarding experience.
“I would recommend anyone to engage in skills-based volunteering and to support NGOs or community projects. It can be difficult to do something different, but at the same time it’s very rewarding. A new challenge pushes you out of your comfort zone and allows you to gain new perspectives and impressions. It also helps us to appreciate what we have within J&J and what we can give to support others.”
Click here to watch Tanja's video: