Lundbeck is putting a new twist on technology in education. The company launched a device buy-back program, which makes retired corporate mobile phones and tablets available for employees to purchase for personal use. However, instead of paying Lundbeck for the device, employees donate the amount of the device’s purchase price to Perspectives/IIT Math and Science Academy. Since its inception, the program has generated $100,000 in employee donations to Perspectives.
The charter school, which is located on Chicago’s South Side, is focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. It serves students from some of the city’s most economically challenged communities. Over the past 11 years, Lundbeck has partnered with the school to enhance learning opportunities and inspire students toward careers in the sciences.
“Lundbeck works to understand the needs of our students and deeply cares about finding ways to support their success,” says Diana Shulla-Cose, past president and founder of The Perspectives Charter School Network. “With nearly 85 percent of our Perspectives students living in some of the most disenfranchised and discarded communities in our country, the Lundbeck IT Buy-Back Program helps close the equity gap by investing in teaching and learning materials for the classroom. We are so grateful for our long-standing partnership with Lundbeck.”
The buy-back program was the brainchild of Dan Stanfield, Lundbeck’s senior director of North America Business Technology. In the past, the company simply recycled older technology, but Stanfield saw an opportunity to do more for the environment, employees and Perspectives/IIT Math and Science Academy. He knew employees would welcome the opportunity to purchase the retired devices, and he suspected they would embrace a charitable giving program. Having observed how Perspectives students inspired employees during their many visits to the Deerfield office, Stanfield saw that a donation program for the school was the logical choice. “It seemed like a great way to extend our giving to the school, and I knew our employees would appreciate the chance to directly support Perspectives,” he says.
In fact, many employees choose to donate more than the cost of the device, according to Stanfield. That generosity reflects employees’ strong connection to the school and its students. The relationship began back in 2010, with funding of infrastructure improvements and a new science lab that provides students a variety of hands-on learning opportunities, including an advanced placement chemistry class. Since then, the partnership has grown to include an internship program, college scholarships, career days and an annual school-supply drive.
Lundbeck annually hosts interns from Perspectives/IIT Math & Science Academy.
“We know that kids in underserved communities don’t always have the same STEM learning opportunities as other students, and that can put them at a disadvantage when it’s time to choose a college major or career path,” says Peter Anastasiou, Lundbeck’s executive vice president and head of North America. “As a research-driven company, we understand that diversity of backgrounds and approaches are essential for scientific advancement. That’s why we are so committed to supporting programs like Perspectives that nurture the talent pool of the next generation of scientific talent.”
Administration of the buy-back/charitable giving program is fairly simple and other companies could easily replicate it, according to Stanfield. Employees who want to purchase a phone or tablet put in a request to Stanfield’s team and then are linked to the Perspectives giving page. Only after they have supplied a copy of their donation receipt do they receive the device.
In all, more than 800 devices have been recycled through the buy-back program. That’s a win-win, in that employees get a device and Perspectives gets a donation; but it’s a lot more than that, Anastasiou says. “It allows our team to support a school that they deeply care about, and know that they are having a real and direct impact on the learning path of these incredible kids,” he explains. “It’s an opportunity to reinforce our corporate purpose – advancing brain health and improving lives – in a very hands-on way."