Rachel Hutchisson is a corporate responsibility & philanthropy guru. 24 years at Blackbaud led her to grow a passion and true talent for developing and implementing strategic philanthropy and corporate social responsibility in her company. Then she took all that knowledge and experience to create “Business doing Good”, a website she started in order to give advice to businesses that wanted to build a give back function. Rachel believes that “good is for everyone” and that the public discourse and mindsets are being changed thanks to the growth of social good campaigns, initiatives and talks by leaders in many industries. Horyou got to ask her key questions about her career, growing a sustainable business culture and how she sees the future.

Have you always wanted to be an advocate for Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy? How did it come about?

When I joined the workforce with a master’s degree in journalism, I thought I was headed to a career in communications, perhaps for a college or a healthcare center (which is interesting because these are some of the kinds of organizations my company serves). I ended up meeting some interesting people from Blackbaud, a then 130-person technology company providing software to nonprofit organizations, and was offered a job which I thought would be an interesting challenge for a few years. Over the past 24 years, the company has grown tremendously, and I with it, taking on a series of newly formed roles and ultimately formally establishing our strategic philanthropy and corporate social responsibility function. I describe my role as working at the intersection of nonprofits and corporate good, which is especially meaningful for a company where we power the business of philanthropy through the solutions we offer. I walked in the door so many years ago not realizing the incredible power and reach of the philanthropic sector. Now, I look back realizing that my parents raised me to be a part of this world of social good, modeling volunteerism and compassion through their own work in the community, work that I didn’t realize could lead to a profession. Now, my life and my work are intertwined.

How did the idea for Business doing good come about and what is its purpose?

Business Doing Good, the website I launched on #GivingTuesday 2013 to offer advice to small businesses interested in building a give back function into their firms, was born out of my own experiences. When I took on the challenge of building the philanthropy and corporate social responsibility function at Blackbaud, I looked to the broader business world to learn the best practices. However, the examples and resources I found were mainly for very large corporates with operations around the world. So I pieced together my own plans and learned along the way. With a really good operation now in place, I thought it was important to give back by sharing insights and experience, making it easier for those who followed. It’s also important to know that I have a fundamental belief that “good is for everyone,” (individuals, nonprofits, government, small businesses or corporates). So I was seeking, by making the advice on the site clear and easy to understand, to empower anyone in business who wanted to give back.

What are your best/favorite success stories from creating and building give back programs?

My favorite success stories over the years are always about people, whether they are our employees who are engaging in the community or the people we are serving through our philanthropy. I am hugely proud of Camp Blackbaud, a STEM-focused camp where staff from our Products team introduce disadvantaged middle school kids to programming and careers in tech. They walk in the door thinking technology is something unreachable to them and leave saying they’ll be back to work for us after they graduate from college. That’s the goal, to help Charleston Promise Neighborhood (our nonprofit partner) open these kids’ eyes to education and the role it can play in changing their lives. The kids are great, smart, lively and so enthusiastic. Our people love leading the camp, especially how they can share their skills (programmers, usability designers, quality assurance, etc., not being skills nonprofits typically ask for in volunteers).

Camp Blackbaud
]7 Camp Blackbaud

What in your opinion are the three building blocks for a company to establish solid corporate citizenship and philanthropic practice?

1) Vocal CEO Support – Having vocal support from the very top of the company is essential to building a solid corporate social responsibility practice. There is absolutely nothing that compares to a CEO’s ability to make citizenship, service and giving a priority from a corporate level, across the management team and with individual employees. Your CEO needs to be your strongest advocate and be willing to open doors or ensure you are involved in the conversations where your work can truly make a difference.

2) Partnerships with key leaders in the company – corporate social responsibility teams are traditionally small but span across entire operations and locations. For this reason, you will need strong partnerships with people who understand how your collective work will deepen their success. Key leaders should include those leading talent acquisition, HR, culture, corporate marketing, business units or company sites. Working together to determine how what you can offer will help them succeed is at the heart of corporate social responsibility.

3) Engaging employees as advocates and a key audience – corporate social responsibility is important inside and outside the company, and employees are both key agents of telling the story and a key audience to engage. Design your program to be one that helps bring good people to the company who want to engage and who, by engaging, are more likely to stay and thrive, telling their own stories. Make your giving and service a differentiator that makes you an employer of choice, one your people are proud to speak about.

We live in a culture of consumerism as opposed to a giving back culture, how do we slowly change that mindset? Is it really possible to combine the two?


Yes, I not only believe but see every day at Blackbaud that it is possible to combine a culture of doing good with doing well. We can change those with a purely consumer mindset by what we do as people, how we give back and the priorities we set, and how we lead the organizations where we pursue our careers. Also, there are many positive messages in the world about how to advance good. I like to say that my kids are hearing from their president, their priest, their teachers and their parents that they should give back, and these messages are sinking in. The number of degrees available in nonprofit management, philanthropy and social innovation are a sign of this positive shift, as is the growing understanding that you can bring socially minded philosophies into the business world.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 to 10 years? Any ideals?

In five to ten years, I see myself working in the middle of a cause and an organization that I’m proud to champion and feel driven to help succeed. There is so much more to do, and the idea of how social good can help drive positive change brings much promise.

You joined Horyou, what does our mantra Dream, Act and Inspire mean to you personally and professionally?

I never dared to dream that I would end up with such a wonderful, fulfilling career focused on good. But now that I am here and looking at how else I can add value, I see this mantra as a responsibility, a charge to make sure I do dream, I continue to act, and I always take the time to inspire. Finally, I would say that it reminds me of my personal commitment to mentor as many women in my community as I can. There are a few people who helped me immeasurably on my own journey, and I strongly believe it is my duty to pay that forward.

By Amma Aburam


By Amma Aburam and Vincent Magnenat

The Horyou team in Geneva continued its adventures at the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) last Saturday where it met Hajooj Kuka, director of “Beats of the Antonov.” His documentary is an account of the Sudan war from a new, inspiring angle. It’s all about music. Music is what keeps the populations in these war-torn zones going through their everyday lives; it gives them courage to face their dire circumstances. Culturally and spiritually, music is a miraculous means to sustain these communities. Kuka is a very cool guy – open-minded in many ways, and our discussion led to the discovery of an inspiring cinematic visionary.

On the human condition and the inspiration behind the film:

Kuka’s inspiration lies in music. The ongoing war in the Sudan has had a major impact on him. There have been very few breaks in the conflict in 55 years. In his documentary, Kuka focuses on the Sudanese reality but not the war-torn side that we tend to see and hear about. He focuses on how people keep living despite it all. It is all about the music and how life moves forward in a “party scene” that exists in parallel to the conflict. Many people in the country go out, party and dance; there is a daily connection to communal music. k “In refugee camps, the resilience is astounding,” Kuka said. “Such resilient behavior has to be shown to the outside world.” He himself has been inspired by partying in a refugee camp. “Human beings are complicated constructions, and the idea of a person that is always sad or a victim is never true because people always find a way to smile. In times like these you realize the importance of life because you know you can lose it any second,” Kuka said. He also emphasizes that it is in those hard moments that people seek happiness and increasingly value life. “People in Sudan are happier than people here right now in Geneva,” Kuka said jokingly. That disconnect and contrast of happiness in dire situations is the principal idea behind his film.

The film: a solution for Sudan?

Kuka uses the documentary in a solution-oriented manner with the music. “There’s a huge focus on wars throughout the world, but not on the Sudanese war, but they all teach us the same things,” he said. “The scope of this war is identity shift. Exclusion exists and the response to that is simple: admit diversity, celebrate it and find a way to use it.” For him, the key is to allow coexistence, the mingling of people and let Sudan become what it’s meant to be in all its diversity. “The need for a nonreligious government is pressing,” Kuka said. “No ethnicity or religion should be above another.” The film showcases many facets of society, from regular individuals to free thinkers as well as refugees. The conclusion is the same: According to Kuka, “the real way of seeing identity is to separate it from politics and remember that first and foremost we are all human. Identity is in the way we dance, in simply eating, sleeping and living our lives.”

On Dreaming, Acting and Inspiring:

To dream for Kuka is to consume art and to reproduce it. But what really catches his attention is the suffering of people: “The point is to be useful,” he said. “I would love to produce romantic films or comedies, but they will not have the same impact as a smart documentary. I guess it is definitely possible to do comedies in which reality is slipped in to a certain extent.” In terms of taking action, Kuka has decided to train young people in the art of film. “It is about being self-sufficient, about documenting your own reality, hence your own history” he said. The media has covered the conflict in Sudan, but to Kuka, it is less connected, less accurate and less truthful. “Of course, strangers to the cause will bring in a certain audience to what is happening in Sudan, but their views will remain by definition shallow – not truthful enough for the Sudanese that is living the actual war,” Kuka said. “Beats of the Antonov” is the first Sudanese production to win an award at the Toronto International Film Festival, which it did in 2014. For Kuka, “the first step to taking action is to know there is an issue to start discussing.”

Mauren Brodbeck

Written By Amma Aburam

There is no better way to describe Mauren Brodbeck than as a bold, multifaceted artist. From paintings, collages and photography to acting and singing, there is no artistic avenue she has not explored and mastered. The Horyou team had the opportunity to attend one of her shows in Geneva last month. We caught up with her to ask about her creative process and how she lives to Dream, Act and Inspire.

Is being such a multifaceted artist a dream come true for you?

I have always loved music, visual art, drawings, collages, photography and cinema, so, yes, it is. I always loved these means of expression because they allow you to pick the “tool” that fits exactly what you want to express. The tool translates the theme. The idea for me is to be multisensational by creating a unique universe. Performing, as seen in my last exposition, represents the unified energy of music, visual art, drawing, collages, photography and cinema, reinforced by the presence of the public. The exchange of energy is palpable in a live performance, something you don’t get with paintings, for example.

It seems you are inspired by so many things. To you, what is inspiration at its best?

My ultimate inspiration is identity. Our rapport with the world around us, the contrast of our urban spaces in comparison to our physical beings, how as individuals we have created a mass culture. I’m also fascinated by identity through portraits, specifically adolescence as it a delicate time where we become ourselves or rather lose ourselves. My photos are an attempt to highlight the multiple faces of identity.

Original artwork by Mauren Brodbeck
Original artwork by Mauren Brodbeck

How do you transition from handcrafted art to performing?

There is a strong link between the two, but it is not always an obvious one. For my series Flowers, I took photos of flowers individually and created a mesh of colour palettes. In my performance, the link is found in the colours of the setting, the content and the songs that borrow elements from the initial work. Even though the link is not obvious, we find the same essence, and through song, for example, I can put words on a painting and describe exactly what it was meant to express.

You just joined Horyou, the Social Network for Social Good, which gathers citizens of the world. What does to Dream, Inspire and Act mean to you?

Horyou represents everything that I do, which is why I joined the platform. It is my way of thinking – sharing so that everyone who sees my work is inspired to dream and to act as well. Ultimately, through my work, I want to inspire people to act on their dreams – inspire them to push and go further, to dig and to take their dreams and live through them. I want to be a doorway for people to reach that level in themselves. What helped me is knowing that what I do is for others. The ultimate goal in life is to enjoy it, and if we really express that, it inspires others to do the same.


Mehdi Hadj-Abed will introduce the EaumOb at SIGEF 2014 and will participate to the “Call for Projects.” Hadj-Abed is a Horyou Personality. He tells us here* about his commitment to equal and universal access to drinking water.

Interview conducted by Sarah Lemaire and translated by Lola Gazounaud for Horyou’s blog

Hi Mehdi. Could you give us a few words to introduce yourself?

I am the manager and founder of EauNergie company, whose aim is to help populations that have trouble accessing a water supply. In order to do that, I develop innovative solutions to bring water to them without polluting the environment, using green energy as much as possible and equipment that is more versatile.

What innovative solutions have you worked on so far?

I have worked on the desalination of seawater using solar energy. This way, the equipment is much more mobile. I have also developed solutions for the desalination of remote places or places along the coast that could become eco-touristic. There will be as many solutions as there are kinds of water. I can treat seawater and polluted river water, as well as bring a solution to water discharge. That means once we use that water and pollute it, we can treat it and use it again for irrigation, farming or something else. In terms of innovation, we created the SeamOb, which is mobile water desalination equipment using sustainable energy, and the EaumOb for river water treatment, which I am very proud of.

And for those who don’t know anything about desalination, how is this innovative? Didn’t these solutions already exist?

These solutions do already exist, but what makes it innovative is that we integrate all these technologies together into one solution. It takes dirty water, treats it and distributes it without the need of having an external supply of energy, because it is provided by sustainable energy only. This makes it completely automatic. And we are getting closer to what I wanted: a water supply producer. We integrate all the existing technologies to help these populations in an ethical and, above all, ecological way – like if we have created a new water spring. And the EaumOb can be built anywhere on the planet.

What other projects you would like to tell us about?

I worked in Mauritania for a dispensary that we fully equiped. It was located in a small fisherman village on the Banc d’Arquin where there was only access to seawater. We built a desalination unit that was powered by photovoltaic solar panels. It brings enough energy to provide the population with a fridge to store vaccines and lighting for them to have a comfortable place to live in. Can you imagine having to deliver a baby at the light of candles or waiting for the police station to have access to vaccines? Because that was the only place where there was a fridge, as they used to do. So it makes life simpler for populations. We recycle toilet water as well. As the dispensary’s toilets were located close to the school, we engaged with young people from these villages, developing awareness toward ecology and water recycling. Another example: In Morocco, we set up a solar pumping solution. We provided 25,000 liters of water per hour. The pump works as soon as the sun illuminates the solar station. This equipment was funded by the International Cooperation of Monaco and given to a small charity located in the deep South of Morocco, toward Tata. Before this, they used to run a Renault 21 car engine with gas. It used to cost 12,000 per year including maintenance. This is what you need to run an engine from the ’80s. For the installation of the solar pumping system, we needed around 40,000 euros, the equivalent of four years of water production, paying for gas and maintenance. But our system does not pollute and it will work for the next 20 years and let’s hope forever. They do not need any energy to make the pump work. We set up the equipment in a way that they can easily take the pump out for maintenance and put it back into water. It is a perennial system.

On your Horyou profile, you shared an article about the situation of a village in South Africa. What did you feel when you read this article? What did you decide to do?

I was angry and frustrated because I have a EaumOb at the studio that was created to avoid these kinds of disasters. And I decided to do all I could to send one there.

What can we do if we want to help the realization of this project?

I need help in funding and logistics to be able to send this machine successfully. The estimated cost is 10,000 euros. In the long term, I want to create a local assembly studio.

It appears you have a special link with water. What does water represent for you?

As a kid, I grew up in a fisherman village. My house was located between the orchards and the sea, and we had a lot of drinking water supplies. Nevertheless, there was a difference between the water we used for drinking and the water we used for cleaning, irrigation, etc. I have always known that drinking water was much more valuable than domestic water. Water is life! Even when we send a sensor into space, the first think we look for is water. Without water, there is no life. I quickly understood that our ways of living are very far from the true value of water.

You give a lot to people through your commitment to bring them water. What do you receive in return?

When your project is over and you see people using water, you feel good. For example, we rented a machine to Monaco Sailing School. The children’s parents told me that kids were fighting against water waste at home. No more bath, no more playing with taps! I remember well kids lecturing their parents about baths. What I am most proud of is to know that some newborn child have been given my name, Mehdi, after I set up the water equipment in the dispensary in Mauritania. So you are so proud, so happy. Even if the worst scenario happens and you have to shut down your company, well, you’ve done your job! And you know that these women will be able to deliver their babies in better conditions. When I’ll go back I might meet those kids.

Would you like to say a last word to our readers?

Water is as vital as air, it is more than food. The volume of water has not decreased or increased since the creation of the Earth. But we have. There are people that are dying of thirst while we clean our streets with drinking water. What do you do to make things change?

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