Between October and November of 2015, Cicero employees were asked to brainstorm and research opportunities to improve K-12 student outcomes and/or support the immediately destitute and then submit their proposals anonymously for review. Twelve team members ended up submitting detailed proposals for projects ranging from “Computers for Convicts” to “Refugee Home Makeover.” At this point, the proposals were made available to the entire company for voting via a simple survey based on a predetermined rubric of proposal quality. The basic parameters were
- Impact for good
- Measurable impact
- Alignment with Cicero’s charitable giving philosophy
- Demonstrated passion and creativity
After voting was completed, three proposal finalists were announced and the proposal creators were identified to the company. The finalists then had a week to create presentations to convince the team why their idea should be the one picked. At the end of the week, the finalists pitched their ideas to the company and a winner was selected.
The winner for 2015-2016 is Bryan Anderson with his idea, “Feed the K-8 Students of Utah County.” Anderson has until October 2016 to fulfill his idea, and will share progress with the team and present the results when completed.
We sat down with Carrie Miller, one of the minds behind the project, to learn more about its origins and goals.
Where did the idea for Cicero’s “Be the Change” initiative come from?
Improving student outcomes is always top of mind for me. It’s a huge passion of mine next to family, friends, and lifelong learning. I worked with students in schools for over a decade. For the four years leading up to my tenure at Cicero, I taught 7th grade Language Arts and social studies at a highly-impacted Title I school where over 90% of the students were from poverty. Although I’m thrilled that my role here includes working to improve student outcomes at a much larger scale, I’m wholly committed to continuing work supporting students at a local level, especially with underserved student populations.
In a short time with Cicero, I realized our team walks its talk when it comes to charitable giving and fostering personal growth. Not only are my colleagues smart and energetic, but they are also deeply committed to making the world a better place. We are regularly invited to volunteer, donate, and even play kickball to give back to our community.
The Be the Change Initiative came about from a casual conversation with CEO Randy Shumway late last summer. Knowing personal growth is an essential component of Cicero’s team, I asked whether he would be interested in supporting some of the creative social good ideas our team regularly comes up with. I proposed a friendly competition of ideas among Cicero Group employees, and that the winner get $1,000 and an extra week of paid time off to implement the project. Randy like the idea, but countered that while he agreed with the week of PTO to implement the project, Cicero Group should pitch in $2,500 instead. We decided that the selection process would occur around Thanksgiving, and that the winning project would need to have a measurable impact on improving student outcomes or supporting the immediately destitute.
What is the long term goal of initiative?
The long-term goal of the initiative is to have a sustainable and measurable impact on student outcomes and on supporting the immediately destitute. We hope to ultimately be able to implement multiple initiatives in both our local and global communities.
How do you foresee the initiative growing in the future?
We intent to keep the Be the Change Initiative focused on the cornerstones of Cicero’s philanthropic efforts: supporting the immediately destitute and improving student outcomes. Given the strong engagement in the initiative this first year, we have discussed growing its scope through doubling the award amount or doubling the frequency of the initiative (to make it a biannual event). We have also talked about including a requirement in future competitions to ensure the winning proposal makes lasting systemic change as opposed to a one-time impact. We are exploring these options
In what way does this initiative relate to Cicero Group’s focus on data-driven strategy?
Cicero Group is passionately committed to making a substantive contribution to our community. For the past fifteen years, the company has donated tens of thousands of dollars in time and money annually toward measurably improving outcomes in public education and in helping the immediately destitute. In the past 12 months, its largest contributions have gone toward feeding those in need through the Catholic Community Center / St. Vincents de Paul and Mary’s Meals as well as in improving public education through contributions to EducationFirst, Univesity of Utah, Prosperity2020, and Envision Utah.
Cicero’s charitable giving philosophy relies heavily on its evidence-based corporate orientation, requiring measurement and accountability metrics to be in place ensuring desired outcomes are improved through its contributions.
The Be the Change Initiative continues this trend, focusing on developing and advancing ideas that have a measurable impact. Given the way Cicero’s team thinks and the way the selection rubric was structured, the proposals that made it to the final round this year demonstrated extensive thought into not only how each team member would spend their time away from work but also conveyed the impact this time would have on our community.