How to get started with Global Activism

In today's video, we discuss global activism, what it looks like today, and how your business could start. We chat with Jo Jeffreys, Principle Social Value Consultant with Jacobs, and explore how to scale your global activism efforts, showing the ROI of programs and what is the greatest challenge in the space today.

Watch the episode:

Prefer to listen?

What we discussed:

Karl Yeh:          

I've got a very special guest today. Her name is Jo Jeffreys. She is the principal [00:00:30] social value consultant at Jacobs, and outgoing program manager of their global giving and volunteering program, which they call Collectively. Thank you very much for joining us, Jo.

Today we're going to talk about global activism, so let's start from the very beginning.

What is your definition of global activism?

Jo Jeffreys:                   

Love it, Karl. Rather than a pure definition, let's consider it from [00:01:00] two different sides.

One side, I think, imagine a world where employees in all corners of your organization, or corners of the globe or corners of the country, whatever your footprint is as an organization, they are all working to do good in their local communities, so they're spread all over the place.

Then, the other side is taking all these employees and rather than just focusing on what they are doing [00:01:30] locally, thinking, "How can we do this, make an impact globally?"

I mean rather than just focusing on one city, one office, one country, how can you still do all of that, but also do it in multiple global places at the same time.

Then, imagine the beauty and the magic if both of those things happened at the same time, people everywhere thinking globally.

Also, if you were pushing me for a definition, I would [00:02:00] say something like

global activism is where employees drive employee engagement. It doesn't just happen. It's the actual employee's driving it themselves.

Karl Yeh:                      

Isn't that little bit difficult, though, when you're trying to focus on local but also keeping your eye on global?

How to focus on global and local activism at the same time?


Jo Jeffreys:                   

Yeah, and I think the tricks that people need to be thinking about is what is applicable to replicate directly, [00:02:30] what needs to be caveated, maybe language needs to be tweaked, time zones changed, obviously.

Little details that could be easily swapped type for other people. It's using all the effort that one person would do in their office, in their city, but then helping using those same resources, training and upskilling other people so that they can replicate it in the same way without having to work from the beginning, without having to go back to basics.

They've already got a [00:03:00] level up and got all the templates and aims and vision in place already.


Karl Yeh:                      

Is that what global activism looks like today? Maybe you can give some examples of that?

What does modern global activism look like? Examples?


Jo Jeffreys:                   

Yeah. For us, some examples of global activism, where we're seeing employees doing something locally, but thinking how can they make it global... One example that I can think of is relatively new in the last couple of years. Since we launched, actually.

We launched our program [00:03:30] a couple of years ago. One particular employee, or indeed a few groups of people wanted, to replicate Macmillan's Cancer Care World's Biggest Coffee Break.

A framelike work is already in place, but they're starting from scratch, launching it internally in the company.

Jo Jeffreys:                   

Year one, starting from scratch, they started getting the templates and comms in place, and put feelers out to getting reps, ambassadors, [00:04:00] champions, volunteers to put their hands up to do things.

And year one, it went reasonably well, but it needed to take another shot at it to then give it more momentum.

The call went out for global volunteers to also take this. They'd already come up with a blueprint, or template, shall we say, and then they could build on that the next year.

Again, going back to using the templates, using the basics, to then help and upscale people to then replicate it easier the next time.       

That's [00:04:30] one example, and for us at Jacobs, one of our biggest employee giving campaigns is our annual giving campaign for Water for People.

Really large organization, we've been a partner with them since the beginning, about 30 years ago. It's well established, it's got a lot of oomph behind it, our execs are behind it, but every year, we go back to basics and we have to go around the business and ask our office coordinators to put their hand up, [00:05:00] and then it's over to them to be creative.

Maybe there's already a steering committee in place to try and weave them and tailor them into the right direction so they don't go too off course, but we want them to be creative, use what's already in place, what's already been built up, what we know works, and then taking the best bits, redoing them, and then bringing in something new and different.

Creative and innovative, shall we say?

That's a couple of examples. I've got more of them, maybe I'll start with them.

Karl Yeh:                      

Those were great. [00:06:00] It leads me to the next point of you were able to leverage missions, giving, volunteering global, and so on.

What challenges were you solving for and how did you do it all?

Jo Jeffreys:                   

The challenges that we were solving for.

Going back maybe three, four years, Jacob's realized that we needed to up our game with our sustainability program, agenda, culture, initiatives, and [00:06:30] recognizing and respecting the three different pillars of sustainability, social, economic, and environmental.

The social piece, there were big gaps there for us, so we branded that under a focus area called Thriving Communities.

That's the challenge, in that there wasn't anything in place for us.

We knew that there were pockets of great stuff happening, sporadic activity, if you will, but nothing where we could really wrap our arms around it, report it, get everybody shooting [00:07:00] in the same direction, in the correct strategic way that we wanted people to and knew we could make the most impact.

That was the challenge, it was a big gap.

Then beyond that, I think we just spotted the multiple opportunities that Benevity's products and functionalities could lend to driving progress in that space that we knew there was already a huge gap, whilst also chiming really nicely to driving [00:07:30] and sustaining employee engagement across whatever that is.

That was the challenge that we were [inaudible 00:07:38] for.

How did we do it? It's a very good question because I don't really know how we did it.

We just did it. We just went all in, and why not?

We just went for it. If you're launching something new, everything's going to be new, so I think our approach was, "Let's just do everything new at the same time."

Albeit it wasn't everything, and [00:08:00] things have developed and changed and we've added on things and enhanced things.

That's how we did it, and I think we've now realized that it was a brilliant approach to go all-in because we probably captured different types of people at the beginning who have different passions and different interests.

The really generous givers, they could go straight in and claim match.

The really passionate volunteers, they knew how to create volunteer [00:08:30] opportunities, how to garner more volunteers, how to track their time.

Then, using missions. The people who just or and wanted to make a positive impact, there was something for them.

There was always something new for people at the beginning and all the way through, and we saw those three different areas, participation spikes and rates differing at different times, and maybe that was because people had so many different things to check out and get their teeth stuck into.

Karl Yeh:                      

[00:09:00] I've interviewed other guests, and when we talk about social impact strategy, it's always about trying to get buy-in and whatnot.

Is that something that you also faced at Jacob's, trying to get buy-in or creating a strategy that everyone would accept, or was it more of an easier path?

How did you get buy-in for social impact programs at Jacobs?


Interesting. It sounds like buy-in, that could be multiple stakeholders-

so execs, employees, the external community partners that they're wanting to bring along on [00:09:30] this journey with us.

Every strategy needs a roadmap or implementation plan to succeed


With our execs, I think once you have exec buy-in for your high-level CSR, corporate sustainability, philanthropic sustainability, community giving goals, whatever an organization calls it, I think you then just need to communicate really clearly and often, and make it crystal clear, that if you want to achieve those CSR dreams and goals, then you [00:10:00] need to have a roadmap in place.

That roadmap, for us, was our Collectively ambassador network, was our global activism, was our employee engagement part, because I think every exec knows that with every strategy, you need to have an execution plan or a roadmap behind it to then deliver it.

I think once you communicate that message, you are unfurling.

Then, it is making people aware what is going to be required [00:10:30] to make that happen, what is required to make the global activism and employee engagement truly happen.

Then with the execs, it's sustaining them along the way as well, both at the beginning when you launch...

For us, we ran a naming competition to name our program at the beginning and we had our execs face a video, so they introduce the video and introduce the competition to name the program, so you can give them face time, and make sure that you're setting [00:11:00] program goals that they believe and have helped craft and can help contribute to.

In governance, as well.

Create a steering committee, an oversight committee, whatever you want to call it, and get them involved at the beginning, set the schedule, set the goals and targets, and that's your ongoing driving momentum.

Leaders and executives want to be seen as purpose driven


I also think that executives want to be purpose driven, too. They want to remain relevant for [00:11:30] all their audiences, they want to stay current, they want to stay relatable and local, so helping them understand that through your organization's giving and volunteering program, they can do that, too.

They can make it personable to them, then they can help with their employees own purpose-driven and all their giving opportunities and volunteer opportunities as well.

Karl Yeh:                      

You must have had a lot of lessons that you've learned being that program manager for Jacobs. [00:12:00]

What advice would you give to companies just starting out, or even companies who have just started in global activism but want to scale their programs?

How should companies get started in global activism?


Jo Jeffreys:                   

Starting out not just from the beginning, but maybe from small pockets of activity.

You know that things are happening, but you're not really sure where. I think the first way to build the case for action is going back to the exec buy-in, making [00:12:30] everybody understand that if you want to achieve these goals, creating an employee engagement ambassador-led volunteer network is the way to go.


That is you laying the foundations for a success. Once you've built the case for it, then where next?

I think one of the key things, and I'll probably go back to this later as well, is making sure that people know that it's going to need time and effort.

Like all brilliant things in the world, it [00:13:00] requires time and effort. Things do not just happen overnight.

They also need tender care, attention, support every single day as you continue on your journey, because it's so easy for people and things just to stop.

You need to have some things on one driving, keeping everybody together, making people want to be a part of it, and make it fun. It has to be fun.

Other things [00:13:30] that we found were really successful were we were pretty proud of the way that we started to build our volunteer network, which we call the Collectively Ambassadors, Collectively Ambassador Network, is we started putting adverts out for these volunteer positions before we launched our program.

And maybe that isn't possible for people listening to this, they're already well underway, so at whatever time.

Make a splash when you launch something [00:14:00] and when these adverts are out.

Make them feel like being in this position is core to your program's success and that they will be valued at the beginning and then all the way through.

Another way to show that they're valued is, as I mentioned before, just providing the support, the comms templates, the open forum, responding quickly to the questions so that they know that, "Oh, this person got back to me really quickly.

This must be quite important. [00:14:30] Oh, right. I better get on this as well." It's not just words from the company.

Then, rewarding and recognizing people in whatever way that an organization can. If it just be a simple thanks, or little recognitions of, "Oh, this is the office with the highest participation increase in the last month," that kind of thing, that always goes a long way as well.

How to scale your companies global activism efforts?


To your other part of the question, Karl, about scaling it.

Some thoughts on [00:15:00] that, if you're trying to do another resplash. Think how to do something fun, new, innovative, creative. Make a splash, make it exciting, so that people want to get involved.

Prizes, competitions, that kind of thing, to get the execs back involved. Reintroduce them so that your people can see, "Oh, this is actually very important for my company."


Thank and reward people again, create little leadership [00:15:30] positions within the network. For us at Jacobs and our Collectively Ambassador Network, we have country ambassadors who help and work with our office ambassadors.

We have office, country, and then we have regional ambassadors, so it's little, local pockets of teams that can all lean on each other.

That could be a great way. If only would be to do something in person to bring everybody together, because we're all in desperate need of meeting in person.

Karl Yeh:                      

[00:16:00] You raised a good point at the very beginning about things requiring time and effort to do things well.

I've heard a lot of the challenges that other social impact, CSR professionals are always coming up with is how do you create a long-term vision program, but also ensuring that your executives or your leadership team sees some sort of [00:16:30] ROI or return on investment or something where they can... It maybe could be tangible.

How did you address that at Jacob's, or maybe you didn't need to address that?

How to show the ROI of social impact programs


Jo Jeffreys:                   

I think we're still finding ways, and we're finding our execs coming to us as well and asking questions.

Most recently, a couple of weeks ago, our chief people officer asked the question, "Can all this data," from our giving and volunteering program, "help us find patterns to [00:17:00] understand what groups, in terms of years of service," so naught to three years, three to six years, six plus years, "are we seeing pockets of different participation spikes there?"

So then that can help inform other employee engagement teams, other people, HR teams, to then use that data to inform whatever they want to do.

That's an ROI there.

Understand the power of data             

Also for us, I [00:17:30] think understanding the power of data itself has been incredible because you can do so much with data.

You can put it on a map and show, "These are the geographies where our employees are giving to the most," or what locations are giving to the most.

Then that could determine what geographies or what part of an organization are really active, do feel like [00:18:00] they're engaging, do feel proud of the company that they work for.

Then quantitative data, how much dollars, pounds, euros, whatever it is, you are donating to particular charities or particular charity categories, sub-causes and themes of different types of work.

That could be very powerful, and the same with volunteer hours as well. And number of people engaging as well. I think data, for us, is [00:18:30] key as we understand more about the ROI of giving and volunteering programs.

Karl Yeh:                      

Jo, what do you see as the greatest challenge in this space today, and what are your thoughts on overcoming it?

Greatest challenge in this space and how to overcome it?

Jo Jeffreys:                   

The greatest challenge of building and enduring global activism is tackling employee burnout.

Everything that we've spoken about [00:19:00] in the global activism and employee engagement realm is all about tapping into volunteers' goodwill.

These are the type of people that aren't going off to the pub and going off and seeing their friends and doing what other hobbies that they want.

In this world, they're staying at their computer earlier, later, over lunch, and I'm sure lots of people can relate to the fact that unfortunately, you end up going back to the same [00:19:30] types of people because they are the do-gooders, as I quite often say.

They are the go-getters, so we use them a lot, and the challenge and the risk is that we lean on them too much and these employees burn.

We don't want that to happen.

The good reasons for driving global activism and the opportunities is so that our people are getting these cool leadership opportunities and getting to do [00:20:00] things outside of their usual day jobs and doing goodness and inevitably feeling more loyal to that organization.

We want all that to happen, but we don't want all that to happen and burn them out at the same time.

I think for us at Jacobs, the biggest challenge is to continue to sustain a volunteer network without burning them out.

Some ways to stop that.

Some ideas [00:20:30] of rotation programs. Can you drop people in and out, give them a bit of a break, a bit of a breather?

Can you, as I mentioned before, bring them all together in an in-person event and give them a bit of rejuvenation and remembering why they're part of something?

Supporting them in ways that everybody would love to do, covering some of the volunteer time, seeding them, giving volunteer rewards for all their hard work.

I think it gets [00:21:00] back to some of the bases of rewarding, recognizing, supporting, and thanking these people. That's the biggest challenge, employee burnout.

Karl Yeh:                      

Jo, you're going to speak about this topic, global activism, at Goodness Matters.

We'd love to hear, what are you looking most forward to, or what are you looking forward to, at the conference?

Jo Jeffreys:                   

I am most looking forward to that in person magic that we're all [00:21:30] dying to feel again, for sure.

To be reunited with our people, our tribe, our crew, the people that understand the work that we are all doing, that's what I'm most looking forward to, then with that, getting all the inspiration, motivation, ideas to then take onwards when we go back to our day jobs. I'm not looking forward to trying to take everything that I've learned and then trying to replicate [00:22:00] the experience back in your company, because that doesn't work.

It is impossible to recreate the magic that happens at Goodness Matters, but what you can do and what I will be trying to do is cherry-pick the best bits that I know are going to resonate with our people, with our execs, the general people and community organizations.

Cherry-pick the best bits, and then make it work and communicate it in a way that I think your organization is [00:22:30] going to resonate with. I'm looking forward to in-person magic.

Karl Yeh:                      

If you want to join Jo and other social impact professionals at Goodness Matters, come on down. It's June 1st to 3rd in San Diego. Or, if you can't make it, it's also online.

For more information, visit, and if you put in the promo code IMPACTGM22, you actually get a 10% discount off your registration.

Goodness Matters 2022 Registration

[00:23:00] Jo, I know we could talk about this for a long time, but if our audience wanted to reach out to you, connect, where's the best place to do that?

Jo Jeffreys:                   

LinkedIn, for sure. Just find me on LinkedIn, Jo Jeffreys. Delighted to chat, just ping me a message, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Question of the Day:

How would you change or adapt your employee engagement strategies today?