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