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13 Nov. 2019 | Comments (0)

The Western Union Foundation has established a new goal to invest $15 million within three years, with a focus on empowering displaced and marginalized youth to succeed in today’s technology driven global economy. I recently spoke with Elizabeth Roscoe, Global Head, Corporate Brand and Purpose, and Executive Director, Western Union Foundation, about the investment. This is an excerpt of our conversation. Listen to the full podcast is available here.

Can you tell us a little bit about Western Union and its purpose?

Western Union is truly one of the most global companies in the world. It’s over 168 years old. We have a strong history of innovation and our values are based on being globally minded. We’re a leader in cross-border/cross-currency money movement and payments. We work in over 200 countries around the world and we have employees in offices in many countries around the world. What’s great is that our business and our purpose therefore have a truly global reach.

Is “Education for Better” a corporate commitment or a foundation commitment?

It’s all about the work of our foundation. The foundation has been around for about 20 years. We’re really proud that in that time we have invested over $120 million in over 137 countries and that’s looking at countries where our customers and our employees live and work. The mission of our foundation is, through education, to support the communities that Western Union serves.

The Education for Better commitment is the work that we’ve been focused on for the past five years. The reason we’re excited to talk about it now is that that commitment is coming to a close. We’re really delighted to share that we gave ourselves a public commitment—that we launched at the Clinton Global Initiative back in 2015—that we wanted to make a meaningful impact to the lives of around 50,000 young people by helping them connect to the global economy. We wanted to do that through education, workforce training, and scholarships. As of today, we’ve helped over 75,000 youths by being able to fundraise from our company and our partners more dollars than we expected. So, we’re really excited to announce the successful achievement of Education for Better and start to look forward to 2020 and beyond and to think about our next commitment.

What is the focus of the foundation going forward?

My role spans both the purpose of our company and the mission of our foundation and we’ve looked at our company to understand the work that we do. The uniqueness of the business is all around being able to connect people across borders. So, our new commitment is “Opportunity Beyond Borders.” We want to focus on empowering forcibly displaced youth and marginalized youth to succeed in today’s and tomorrow’s technology-driven global economy. We really see that these vulnerable populations who have been forced across borders aren’t getting access to the kinds of education and training that are giving them the same fair shot at integration into the mainstream economy.

We’re collaborating with NGOs across all five continents to reach those young people and help them get the skills in technology and entrepreneurship that’s going to help them thrive in those jobs of the future 

Who was involved in the development of the foundation’s strategy?

We start with looking at the global challenges. We’re seeing is an increase in migration with around 68 million people forcibly displaced, 22 million of those refugees. We’re seeing a real dichotomy—today we’re seeing a growing middle class but there are still over 260 million people who don’t have access to quality education or to the ability to climb up into the middle classes. We’re seeing a change in technology—technically, 50 percent of the world’s jobs today are automated and can replace people with AI.

Within that backdrop, we’ve said these are the challenges that our business is facing. These are the challenges that the communities our customers live and work in are facing. So, that’s where we’ve started. We then tried to connect that by asking: where can our business assets make a difference? The great thing about running a global foundation that is connected to a Fortune 500 company is we have employees and assets around the globe that we can mobilize to start to make a difference.

A great example is that we’ve unlocked the ability for our customers to donate to our foundation when they’re in our app using our product. When they’re building loyalty points, customers can donate them to one of the causes we support, so we’ve engaged different levers in the business to try to make a difference.

That’s where the strategy starts. The idea of Opportunity Beyond Borders was part of a crowdsourcing challenge for our employee base. Globally we reached out and said you understand our work deeply, what should we call this? Where should we focus? Then we worked with our leadership team to put the dollars behind the commitment and create the network of grassroots organizations that are doing the work to help move the needle for young people.

In the rest of the interview, Elizabeth and I discussed how Western Union Foundation ties its work back to the company through internships for young people, how the company involves its employees through volunteer opportunities, and the partners that Western Union Foundation works with in the deployment of its investments. Click here to listen to the full podcast or download ESG News and Views from all major podcast platforms.

  • About the Author:Alex Parkinson

    Alex Parkinson

    Alex Parkinson is Principal of Parky Communications, a communications agency specializing in sustainability and CSR reporting and communications. He serves as the Co-Leader of The Conference Board Cor…

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