„We support projects that can bring about a change“
The Telekom Endowment Fund with the Pontis Foundation has been helping in the creation and development of various successful projects of non-profit organizations for almost 10 years. Many amazing people have contributed to its operation. Táňa Švrčková, a senior corporate responsibility specialist at Slovak Telecom, is one of them. We talked about many things – her work, how she views the corporate philanthropy and about other plans regarding the work in the Telekom Endowment Fund.
Let’s start with an introduction. Táňa, tell us something about yourself, your work and how long have you been doing all this.
I’m involved with the corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Telekom, and I deal mainly with the activities of the Telekom Endowment Fund, sponsorship, and telecommunications fundraising. I have been working in the company for twenty-three years; I’ve been in the Corporate Communication since 1999. Besides that, I’m also a mother of two daughters.
What do you like most about your work?
My older daughter recently said that I’m lucky to have a job I enjoy doing. I agree even though things can get sometimes quite difficult for me, I really hate administrative matters for instance. I get to meet personalities from various fields as a result of my work. It might not seem like it, but there are a lot of great people here in Slovakia. These people aren’t indifferent to what happens around them. They care for people with disabilities, children from orphanages, homeless people, and people from the Roma minority. They also fight against corruption and educate others. I learn a lot about the world and myself thanks to the meetings and discussions with them.
How would you define the term ‘corporate philanthropy’ for somebody who has never heard it before?
It’s charity, benefaction. A desire to share your resources with others, be it in the form of money, in the form of know-how transferred by employee volunteers or provision of products and services. Corporations have various strategies on how to help. Some are passive, they just choose from received applications. Many other corporations take a more active approach, they have a clear vision and strategy of whom to support.
How do you perceive the role of Slovak Telekom within the social entrepreneurship?
Our company offers a comprehensive portfolio of data and voice services. We operate our own extensive fixed and mobile telecommunication network. We are also faced with a responsibility that goes hand in hand with it, a responsibility toward our employees, customers, suppliers, and even the environment. As one of the signatories of the Business Leaders Forum in 2004, we publicly pledged to do business in a responsible manner and with regard to the environment. We are constantly trying to improve processes and introduce innovations. To show the results of our efforts in the CSR, we publish yearly Corporate Responsibility Reports. We also closely follow the situation in the society. For example, we were behind the Fund for a Transparent Slovakia that supports watchdog organizations and think-tanks.
You are also responsible for the Telekom Endowment Fund with the Pontis Foundation. Tell us more. What does the Fund do?
We have a vision of a society where nothing is impossible. A society in which being different and having specific needs doesn’t divide people but connects us, just like we connect our customers. We support and carry out activities that create opportunities for solving the problems and needs of people whose life is hindered by various barriers in the society. We have been strategically dealing with the needs of the deaf since 2002.
In courses, we break down various myths about the deaf and shed light on their culture and sign language. We have been supporting deaf entrepreneurs for five years. Currently, we are focusing mainly on families with hearing-impaired children. We also support education through cooperation with Teach for Slovakia, Comenius Institute (realized by the civic association Živica), and EDUMA, and help start-ups through cooperation with Impact HUB. We mainly focus on supporting projects and activities that can bring about a change in the society. It’s one thing to gift a fish and another thing to teach fishing.
What are your future plans?
We plan to continue working on ongoing projects and partnerships, and will continue focusing on supporting deaf children and education. There are ongoing long-term partnerships we have with our partners from non-profit sector. We are interested in their impact, something that can be observed mostly in the long term.
Which project are you most proud of?
That’s a tough question. I’m proud of all of them. Every project is important, and behind each one you will find a unique story of great effort and hard work. For example, we have been with Choices from the beginning. I still recall the moment when I was with Ivan Ježík in a café on Karadžičova Street, and he introduced me to the concept of evening discussions with interesting people on various topics. Since then he has prepared more than sixty discussions. Another example is the support of Online Living Library (Online Živá knižnica). It’s an education programme that aims to improve the attitudes toward impaired and disabled people. Not to mention that working with Janette Motlová is an experience that can have a profound influence on you.
One of the most important projects is the Mobile Teacher programme, through which we provide multifaceted assistance to families with hearing-impaired children in the form of an early intervention done by professionals. They visit the homes of the families and teach parents how to develop their children’s language and understanding. They are also an important psychological support for them. This programme promotes the involvement of the parents as well, in the form of exchanging experience between themselves. We also provided support to the creation of the NepocujuceDieta.sk portal, an online advisory service.
We helped parents by supporting an initiative to increase the contribution for hearing aids. We support the skill development of the professionals. We want to show the importance of an early intervention for hearing-impaired children. We possess the technology and expertise to create an environment for these children where they can develop to their full potential. All children deserve this, not only those enrolled in the programme.