Community Engagement Via Repurposed Office or Branch Space
Whether by way of consolidation, downsizing or just low branch utilization, chances are you have under-utilized or vacant space sitting within your facilities footprint. Consider that space as an opportunity to engage your community in an unconventional way.
My favorite idea? Begin an after-school extracurricular program for area high school students interested in things like business, technology, financial statement or data analytics and conduct educational sessions in your underutilized spaces. This can be used as a system for mentorship, volunteerism, diversity & inclusion, and community engagement, while helping these students prepare for college and a career path.
Here are some steps to consider:
Identify charismatic employees with some bandwidth and expertise with a skill in particular demand, and work with them to build a basic curriculum using what they learned themselves in college programs. Invite these employees (preferably exempt salaried employees) to teach once during the course in an after-hours session about their specialty. Try to form a team of instructors large enough to share the burden and also provide diversity of thought and opinion. Have the employee - teachers start to build real-life business cases from your work environment (using fictional data and names) to use in a classroom setting to teach practical application of these classroom concepts.
Work with your Facilities Management team to locate a space and supply it with old office equipment (i.e. tvs, monitors, desks, keyboards, supplies, etc.) in an open collaborative work space, meaning large tables with open seating in comfortable chairs, computers or laptops tethered to a shared TV or screen. Try to make it looks something like a lounge on the floor of the NYSE.
Promote the opportunity among local guidance counselors, high school websites, community message boards, etc.
Start with an application process requesting information relating to personal and career interests, as well as a written statement to ensure interests are aligned. GPA could be a consideration, but would likely exclude those students with genuine interest who are poor test takers.
Through the application process, strive to build teams or cohorts which are compromised of mixed gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and so forth.
Structure something in the form of a 10 week semester in the Fall and Spring, much like a sport would be in-season for the students.
Begin the students in the early classes with basic instruction on the concepts and then start to introduce the business case or hypothetical. Have the cohorts compete on a team basis toward achieving some result or objective through the hypothetical. Maybe its developing a new marketing campaign for a teen checking account, or building a profitability model for Q4 2023 based upon an assumption of an acquisition, or similar.
Invite senior executives and guest speakers in throughout the semester to give support and feedback.
Have the students present at the end of the semester based upon their team work-product. Invite their parents or guardians in to view the presentations.
Award a certificate of completion that the students can use in applying toward college.
If you have funds available from your foundation intended for charitable giving, consider giving scholarships.
As the students then proceed through college or graduate school, invite them for internships. It may even lead to a job offer upon college graduation.
The above should cost you nothing but time, which can be counted toward your volunteerism. You're otherwise utilizing space which is otherwise vacant or under-utilized and office equipment which might otherwise be obsolete. You're allowing students within your community to grow and develop relationships with your organization and you're earning the trust and respect of their parents and the school community. Done properly, you could have an engagement platform which creates a career path for students within your community for years to come.