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Celebration of Service

Building a Smarter Buenos Aires

IBM volunteers help bring business and barrios together in Argentina

Since 2005, IBM’s Global Delivery Center in Argentina, has been located in the Olivos suburb of Buenos Aires. While this is an area of prosperous, long–established businesses, it is surrounded by other barrios, or neighborhoods, better known for overcrowding, crime and high dropout and unemployment rates.

Determined to be a good neighbor and contribute to a safer, thriving community, local IBM volunteers Federico Sciarretta Miliozzi, Martin Rodrigo Cepeda and Santiago Laplume have embarked on a major initiative they are calling 'un barrio mas intelligent' — a smarter neighborhood.

Using company resources to create a better city

The team tapped into IBM’s On Demand Community, a strategic global online community that combines the skills of over 160,000 IBM employee and retiree volunteers with the power of access to innovative IBM technology, resources, training, and support. Armed with On Demand Community's "Introduce not–for–profits to open source" tool, the team worked with not–for–profit Complementary Educational Center (CEC) and fifteen young people from the neighborhood to create and maintain a website, Cronicas Barriales. Built to foster understanding between business and residential communities and improve opportunities for youths, the website has quickly evolved into a vehicle for young people to tell the stories of their lives and to learn new skills.

"When we began describing our intentions to the neighborhood, we got a very interesting reaction," recalls Alejandro Toscano, a manager in IBM’s Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs department. "We don't have a sign on our buildings saying 'IBM.' Our neighbors saw three huge new buildings, but didn't know they were home to 4,000 IBM employees. So their first reaction was surprise, then happiness, as they saw how IBM is interested in the community, and how we're determined to work together to build a better neighborhood day by day."

Other investments drive change

With the website running, the three volunteers secured a $7500 Community Grant from IBM to continue outreach to the barrios' 3,000 residents and engage other corporate neighbors like Lo Jack, Deltacom, Hyundai and Herbalife. About 20 IBM volunteers are already lending a hand, and smart neighborhood organizers hope to involve about 50 more volunteers from other companies, including IBM suppliers.

In 2010, "we're aiming for a synergy between our smarter neighborhood and other initiatives in Olivos, like KidSmart and Reading Companion," says Toscano. "We are also planning outreach to our neighbors with things like a 'celebrate the child' day, Reading Week and a bowling tournament between neighborhood residents and employees of IBM and other businesses."

IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.