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Non-profits face many challenges – perhaps none as critical as a lack of access to senior management counsel and experience. Usually established by passionate social entrepreneurs, non-profits are rich in innovative ideas and energy – but often lack the seasoned business acumen that every successful organization – profit or non-profit – needs to be successful.
The HP Advisors Program helps to bridge that gap. It pairs seasoned HP professionals with social entrepreneurs, helping them address some of the world’s most urgent social issues.
HP works with the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship and Global Health Corps -- internationally-recognized organizations who foster social entrepreneurs, recognizing them as an important catalyst for social change and progress. With their help, HP identifies leading non-profits who have proven their ability to drive social transformation, but who need access to professional business skills to truly maximize their ability to reach their goals.
Helping Argentinian non-profit
The support given by Dave Bruscino, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, to Marcela Benitez, founder and Executive Director of the non-profit RESPONDE, is a testament to the huge potential of the program. RESPONDE, an Argentinian NGO that has been a recipient of the Schwab Foundation’s “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” and many other awards, is dedicated to saving small rural communities which are in danger of disappearing due to the exodus of native populations who leave to find work in urban areas.
The loss of hundreds of small towns over the past few decades have impacted Argentina’s cultural and historical heritage, exacerbated the problems caused by rapid population growth in large cities and contributed to the degradation of the environment.
Since it was established by Marcela in 1999, RESPONDE has developed social and economic projects in 85 rural towns that have enabled tens of thousands of villagers to stay in their communities. Between now and 2021 RESPONDE plans to expand the project to 500 rural villages, and potentially expand beyond Argentina.
Dave joined HP in 2007 as VP and Deputy General Counsel for APJ, based in Singapore, and led the company’s legal team in the region. He moved to EMEA in 2010, to lead the EMEA and Growth Markets legal teams and later the combined Americas, APJ and EMEA legal teams. Dave relocated to Palo Alto in October to assume his current role leading the legal teams supporting HP Financial Services worldwide and the Latin America and Canada regions, and he also has a strategy role within the Office of General Counsel.
After indicating his interest in the HP Advisors program earlier this year, Dave, who is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and also participates actively in the company’s legal pro bono program, got a call. The question posed on the call: would he like to become the advisor to an Argentinian NGO? He was immediately interested.
“I had previously done business consulting work for social entrepreneurs in Asia and in the US and was looking for an opportunity to get involved in the HP program– and this seemed perfect,” he says. “I had lived and worked for a number of years in Latin America, so the opportunity to work with an impactful organization in that part of the world was very exciting.
As I happened to be going on vacation to South America at the end of the summer, while I was there I took a day and flew to Buenos Aires to meet with Marcela and her team.
Deep dive conversation
“We spent the entire day together and Marcela shared the history of how she had first gotten involved with this cause, why she had started RESPONDE, how it has evolved over the years, what their key projects and challenges are, and finally where she wanted the organization to go in the future,” he explains.
Since then, Dave has met regularly with Marcela – by email and phone, as well as a follow-up visit to Argentina – to share ideas and give her advice and guidance on how to best move RESPONDE forward.
“Based on that initial deep dive meeting, we clarified what the biggest challenges were for her organization,” he says. “We narrowed them down to some key areas where we felt I could be most helpful.”
The first addresses a crucial short term challenge. “Marcela recognized that she is spending too much time on tactical activities,” he says. “She’s used to having her hand in every project – but that’s unsustainable if RESPONDE is to continue to grow.
Together we looked at what each of her team members is doing; making sure that she is delegating appropriately; giving people opportunities to take on different projects so that they can grow and become more of an asset to the organization, etc., all with the goal that she spends more of her time on strategic matters.
“Based on this, I helped her to develop a tool that captures all of RESPONDE’s projects, tracks their status, provides metrics and timelines and is easily referenced. Now that it’s in place, Marcela’s team is able to more easily track the status for each project and identify more easily opportunities for efficiencies– freeing Marcela up to concentrate on other areas.”
Helping with a long-term strategy
More importantly, Dave also worked with Marcela to put together a strategic plan that identifies short, medium and long-term objectives, as well as an operational plan to achieve those objectives.
“Marcela has ambitious goals and is very interested in doing a lot of different projects,” he says. “She is looking for a framework that will help her understand that when she makes a decision to invest time or resources in one activity – it can potentially impact her ability to do other things.
This also raises some critical questions. Where does she want RESPONDE to be in three years? Which team members does she need to develop? What level of financial support does she need, and where is she going to get it? What kind of skills does she need in her organization and on her advisory board? And so on.
“Marcela came into this partnership with a good idea of what she was looking for – but my impression is that the opportunity to engage with a “neutral sounding-board” who is familiar with the challenges of an entrepreneur, has helped her crystallize what was most important to her and what she wanted to accomplish,” says Dave. “It helped her to have someone with a fresh set of eyes and ears to talk things through with.”
“I can’t say enough about Dave,” says Marcela. “When I first started RESPONDE I was alone – and in many ways I continue to be alone. Every major decision is mine -- although I have wonderful professionals in my team, the ultimate responsibility is always up to me. I have a board with magnificent people, but they are always busy. That’s why having the ongoing support and advice of a business expert like Dave is so wonderful.
“He is a very special person – he is giving more to this match than I could have ever hoped for,” she says. “He now has a deep understanding of RESPONDE goals and our weaknesses. He’s a wonderful sounding board for me, and has jump-started my thoughts in many important areas. We have exchanged many emails and have had many conversations. His support will help ensure that RESPONDE can continue to grow and meet its goals.
“I would tell anyone who is considering becoming an HP Advisor – please do it! There are many entrepreneurs like me who have to fight every day to achieve their goals,” she says. “Your help is very important. I feel so lucky -- my profound thanks to this program."
“I can’t say enough about the HP Advisors program and its potential, as well as the growing number of other skills-based volunteering and pro bono initiatives at HP,” says Dave. “I think HP is uniquely positioned to make an enormous difference from a social perspective. We’re a big company with a great set of values, global reach and the ability to make powerful connections. And we have a lot of talented, smart people with a wealth of valuable expertise. The HP Advisors program helps to bring all of these great qualities together.
“It has given me an opportunity to use experience I’ve gained over the years in a really meaningful way and to continue to develop leadership and general business management skills that are important for my career at HP. It’s a privilege to be part of this program.”
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