At TOMS we take Giving seriously. We have a team of over 20 people dedicated to every aspect of Giving. We’re excited to introduce you to some of the fine folks on the TOMS Giving team, eager to share more about what they do in their role at TOMS. We’re handing the floor over to Karen, a Giving Account Specialist with a focus on building relationships with our Giving Partners in Africa:
Before I started at TOMS, I spent over 10 years working in domestic and international public health policy and it’s exciting to be a part of something that’s having a real effect on both the private and public sectors. As a company, TOMS has taken the opportunity to have a positive impact on people’s lives and, thinking more long term, potentially on the way that corporate social responsibility is interpreted across industries.
As a Giving Account Specialist, a large part of my job is cultivating and managing the relationships between our Giving Partners and TOMS. Together with my team, we vet, seek out and establish long-term partnerships with organizations (nonprofits, non-governmental organizations and international organizations) that have the desire and capacity to integrate Shoe Giving into their existing programs. In a nutshell, this means a lot of travel, a lot of emails, and tons of Skype calls at off hours of the night.
We take the idea of “giving well” seriously and we work with organizations that are having a real impact on the lives of the people they serve. We aim to ensure that the shoes we give always complement — and never detract — from our Giving Partners’ programming. Every day, I am continually amazed by the work that our Partners do and the innovative ways they integrate shoes into their existing programming in health, education and community development.
At TOMS, part of giving well is avoiding or mitigating any potential negative effects of TOMS Shoe Giving on local economies. It’s especially important to both our Giving Partners and everyone here at TOMS. Part of my job as an Account Specialist for Africa has been to increase shoe production efforts in Kenya. By 2015, TOMS will produce 1/3 of its Giving Shoe in countries where we give. In order to make this goal a reality, I work with a team of people from our Supply Chain, Production, Finance and Giving departments. We’ve partnered with a local firm in Kenya to produce shoes for all of our local partners, including the Kenya Red Cross Society, Ahadi Kenya Trust, COHESU and Carolina for Kibera. Our Giving Partners work with us to field test the shoes and provide us with the feedback we need to ensure our shoes meet the needs of the children who will be receiving them.
Right now, I’m most excited to be working on the development of a program that we’re calling JobsPLUS. It’s not enough to just ramp up our production efforts in Kenya; we also want to create additional benefits for the workforce producing TOMS Shoes. More specifically, our goal is to create a sustainable program that benefits the children who have parents or family members working in the factories where TOMS are made. In collaboration with the factory leadership, we have a team of Kenyan researchers conducting what’s called a “needs assessment” to determine if there are unmet needs that TOMS can play a role in fulfilling. Stateside, we’re researching similar programming by other progressive manufacturers. These findings will shape the development of a social service component that we hope to roll out by 2014.
After nearly a year of working on projects like these, I’m constantly impressed and humbled by the commitment of TOMS employees, the amazing work of our Giving Partners and the dedication we all have to continue to define and drive impact through the One for One® model. We’re still a young company in constant evolution, and we’re always learning: from our Partners, from our failures and our successes.