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  • Posted by: Asher Fink on Tuesday, May 27 2014 05:06 PM | Comments (0)

    In late April, Interbrand's Tom Zara, Dominik Prinz, Asher Fink, and Kristin Reagan visited Guatemala with members of Pencils of Promise's leadership team. The Interbrand team visited pre-build sites, schools under construction, completed schools, and observed lessons in the classrooms. Below, Interbrand New York's Asher Fink answers a few questions about the trip and the Pencils of Promise mission.

    A classroom in Guatemala

    You were the one who connected Interbrand and Pencils of Promise initially. How did that come about?

    When I first started working at Interbrand, one of the internal culture building activities that impressed me most was our World Changing Speaker series. Speakers doing world changing things come to our office, talk about their pursuits, and make it clear that, 1. we aren't doing nearly enough to change the world, and 2. we should go out and change the world. Adam, one of the biggest world changers of our generation, happens to be a friend. We went to summer camp together growing up, and I’d been tracking his success with Pencils of Promise (PoP) over the years. I knew my friends at Interbrand would be as inspired by his story as I was. So, I invited Adam to come to Interbrand and speak. As expected, his visit got us all fired up to get involved.   

    Adam Braun, CEO/Founder of Pencils of Promise, came to Interbrand's New York office about a year ago. You hosted a brainstorm at your apartment the very next day. What did the Interbrand team discuss during that first impromptu meeting?

    Actually, it wasn’t impromptu. After Adam’s speech, we hung out, had some beers, and talked shop. Melanie, PoP’s COO, had an upcoming offsite with the PoP team and she wanted to put brand on the agenda but didn't know where to start. So, over breakfast the next day, Dominik Prinz, Emily Grant and I mapped out the perfect exercises for Melanie to run with her team.   

    Can you tell me about one or two of the exercises, and what you learned?   

    Melanie asked her team to envision that, three years from now, Pencils of Promise is featured on the front page of The New York Times. What would the headline would be? This exercise often reveals the driving purpose behind an organization’s approach that makes them unique. We weren’t at the offsite to hear the answers, but Melanie shared the results with us and they were interesting. Some headlines were focused on the regions themselves (e.g., "How a young, groundbreaking organization is transforming Africa"). Some were focused on impact through sheer numbers of students reached (e.g.,"PoP educates its 1,000,000th student"). One answer I found particularly interesting described PoP’s success in cracking the code to improving education in the developing world. It spoke to the whole approach PoP takes to improving education.   

    Working with Pencils of Promise

    I assume you saw this in action in Guatemala?   

    On our trip to Guatemala, we saw all of this first hand. We saw the smiling faces of children in the schools that PoP built, but we also saw the things that seem like smaller details but are critical to a successful and sustainable education program. We saw the community enlisted in building and sustaining their own school. We saw the use of sound-proofing techniques for the roofs that replace the corrugated tin (commonly used in rural parts of developing countries) that makes it impossible to hear when rain is pummeling the roof. We also took note of a curriculum tailored to the region—where 21 different dialects of the Mayan language make it so that teacher and student don't always speak the same language. We watched a water purification lesson that is taught because parasites taint the water they drink, which makes kids too sick to learn and often leads to them quitting school altogether. We met Jesse, the country leader of Guatemala, whose primary focus is to work closely with the communities to make sure that nothing gets in the way of the education of each child. Speaking with him and witnessing his passion and leadership made PoP’s unique approach clear to me.   

    Asher and kids

    What’s next in your work with PoP?   

    After working alongside PoP as they developed their brand, a natural next step to strengthening and protecting the brand was to evolve their approach to partnerships. As brands continue to crawl over each other to try to get a piece of PoP’s action, they needed a plan for choosing their opportunities wisely, to maximize the effectiveness of their resources, reduce risk, and ultimately increase impact.   

    We’ve been working to identify the key activities that PoP should be engaging in, the ideal partner types and the profile of an ideal partner. We also created a decision tool, in the form of a filter, that helps PoP employees deliberately manage the partnership selection and integration process. This tool is helping them streamline the process, and uncover opportunities that would have been overlooked in the past.  

    Asher is Senior Consultant at Interbrand's New York office. Follow him on Twitter: @asherfink


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  • Posted by: Dominik Prinz on Monday, May 12 2014 05:08 PM | Comments (0)

    In late April, Interbrand's Tom Zara, Dominik Prinz, Asher Fink, and Kristin Reagan visited Guatemala with members of Pencils of Promise's leadership team. The Interbrand team visited pre-build sites, schools under construction, completed schools, and observed lessons in the classrooms. Below, Interbrand New York's Dominik Prinz answers a few questions about the trip and the Pencils of Promise mission.

    Arriving in Guatemala to see Pencils of Promise's work

    In what ways does the Pencils of Promise mission align with Interbrand's own core values? Why does it make sense for Interbrand's global network to support this organization?

    I have been with Interbrand for over 8 years now, and always felt that it is an organization that brings together a very unique group of people—people that are genuinely driven by the desire to inspire others through powerful brands and the experiences they make possible. Pencils of Promise is an NGO that is equally passionate about inspiring others. In their case, it's young students they inspire, and their means of inspiration is education. In that sense, we share a very similar ethos and are driven by very similar ambitions. And I think that's why our employees around the world almost instantaneously got so enthusiastic about partnering with Pencils of Promise—it simply felt intuitively "right" to start something great together.    

    Can you describe what Interbrand did over the holidays to support the Pencils of Promise initiative? What was the outcome?   

    This is where things get exciting! Interbrand had committed to funding the construction of a school in Guatemala, with the goal to provide access to education for almost 100 kids. We felt this was not only a wonderful cause, but also a more meaningful way to give, as opposed to simply sending out gifts to our clients that—let's be honest—no one really needs. Our people around the Interbrand network got so passionate about this idea that local offices rallied the troops to organize additional fundraising events! Collectively, they ended up raising almost the amount needed to build a second school. It is that kind of commitment that I love and which drives our culture—and it's fantastic to see that it is creating opportunities for others in very remote places of the world.    

    The Interbrand team in Guatemala

    You work closely with numerous non-profits. In your opinion, what is unique or special about Pencils of Promise?   

    What I personally love about Pencils of Promise are actually two things. First, their belief that "Everyone has Promise" reflects an extremely optimistic and uplifting attitude. To me, it represents a very respectful way of looking at kids around the world. It means that, even though they happen to live in less fortunate circumstances than most of us do, they have equal potential to succeed—if given the right tools. Secondly, their "community model" is very empowering. It is a way to create a sense of shared responsibility. Not only for the kids that attend the classes, but also for their families—because it is the community that will ultimately help construct, run, and maintain the school.    

    Had you ever been to Guatemala before? If not, how would you describe the country and culture to others? 

    I actually had not. It is a beautiful place, with fantastic natural beauty, very warm and welcoming people, and—of course—great coffee! I love visiting new countries, away from the traditional tourist tracks, and feel very fortunate that we were invited into the heart of the local culture. Visiting the communities in which the schools are being built, sitting down with the teachers; having rice, beans and chicken for lunch; or casually playing a round of soccer with the kids, has given us a glimpse into their daily lives that not many first-time visitors get. It's actually the most authentic way to experience a country. I am sure we will be back!   

    Did you learn anything that you didn't know already about Pencils of Promise when you were in Guatemala? 

    Well, I had no idea that they would drag us into the mountains and make us zip-line through the Guatemalan jungle!   

    What was your favorite moment of the trip to Guatemala? 

    That's easy. When we arrived at one of the schools Pencils of Promise had built in a small community, we got the chance to sit in on one of the classes. And in between what must have been about 20-25 kids, I spotted a little boy, maybe 7 or 8 years old, who wore a hoodie and would not take off his dark, black sunglasses. He was very quiet and kept to himself. When the class was over, and all the other kids were visibly excited and ready to hit the soccer field, he stood up and walked straight to the front of the classroom. He told the teacher that he would like to say something. Suddenly, his shyness transformed into confidence; and with a firm voice, he told everyone how much he appreciates going to school and that he values the opportunities this would open up for him. It literally blew me away. Here was a kid we had probably slightly underestimated, but he turned out to be the one reminding us all of the most important thing we came to Guatemala for: that "Everyone has Promise"!

    Dominik Prinz breaking ground at a Pencils of Promise site

    Dominik Prinz is Strategy Director at Interbrand's New York office. Follow him on Twitter: @DomPrinz

    In late April, Interbrand's Tom Zara, Dominik Prinz, Asher Fink, and Kristin Reagan visited Guatemala with members of Pencils of Promise'S [hyperlink to PoP's homepage]   leadership team. The Interbrand team visited pre-build sites, schools under construction, completed schools, and observed lessons in the classrooms. Below, Interbrand New York's Dominik Prinz answers a few questions about the trip and the Pencils of Promise mission.

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  • Posted by: Interbrand on Tuesday, December 10 2013 04:56 PM | Comments (0)

    It starts with one.
    One intention. One firm commitment.
    That spreads throughout a global network.
    And touches part of the world…

    Every year, Interbrand comes together to celebrate the holiday season with our colleagues and clients across the world. This year, we are focusing on our commitment to Corporate Citizenship: education. Leveraging our global network and in partnership with Pencils of Promise, a non-profit organization focused on creating a world with greater educational opportunity, Interbrand is already building a school in Guatemala which will build a brighter future for children in the process.

    Holiday Campaign

    Education is the foundation of a successful life and something to which everyone should have access. Starting in Guatemala, Interbrand is committed to changing lives one book, one brick and one new school at a time.

    To find out more about how you can help Interbrand build a second school in another part of the world and brighten more futures, please visit our Interbrand and Pencils of Promise page.

    Happy Holidays.

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