Sebastian Grabowski,
volunteering is a management school

Man is a social animal,” says this
brainy man, convinced that individual success depends on contact and cooperation with other people.

Director of R&D at Orange Labs in Poland, Sebastian Grabowski began putting his personal philosophy into action when he was still at university. Setting up associations and launching civic initiatives, Sebastian, a member of the Student Parliament and a University Senator, already believed that everyone is capable of making a difference. Today, with his team, made up of around a hundred people, he promotes a policy of participatory democracy.

"Mutual trust leading to shared satisfaction."

In the corporate world, this is called management. As long as you forget the old school mentality. “Why, if you want to gain people’s trust and get them all to work towards a specific goal, should you be authoritarian, calculating, cold and distant? Volunteering proves the opposite approach can be every bit as successful.” For example, Orzyny Primary School has been transformed by a team of employee volunteers including Sebastian. Almost all of the rooms have been repainted, and the grounds and sports fields have been spruced up… It should be pointed out that the project was well prepared; everyone pitched in, including the town mayor, the headmaster, the fire department and local community members, making sure that the buildings were secured and tools made available to the volunteers. Meals were also provided to boost their energy and enthusiasm.

“Project management, team building, sharing responsibilities: volunteering is a real school of management,” says Sebastian, who is fascinated by social innovation and uses empathy as a driving force. He is not afraid of grabbing a paint brush and getting things done. In fact, it was by wearing a Father Christmas outfit to hand out presents to children in a hospital that he discovered volunteer activities at Orange. Since a successful field trip to prepare a school renovation project, he has applied the same approach to all of his team’s volunteering projects. A panel of his staff visits the site, meets local people, defines what’s needed, assesses what kind of resources are available, and draws up a funding request for the Orange Foundation. The work is then divided into a number of different tasks. The key? Mutual trust leading to shared satisfaction.

Portrait by Anne-Laure Murier.

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