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Sustainability & CSR

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The - not only linguistic - integration of so many people will occupy us for years to come. The earlier this month started MOOC from Der Paritätische Wohlfahrtsverband and openSAP demonstrates how even volunteers without teaching background can run languages courses very effectively. I can say honestly, in just a few days, I have learned and urge all interested volunteers to participate – it’s free!  Christian Reinboth


The course is very well constructed. Even I, as pc-amateur, can handle it. Gerd Schmidt


I would like to regularly see such teaching examples and get good tips. Many thanks for the additional material and the further reading links.  Carola Langer


This is just some of the feedback we received as part of our joint initiative, Auch du kannst das. Deutsch für Asylbewerber. Ehrenamtlich. In February 2016, openSAP and SAP Corporate Social Responsibility teamed up to collaborate with Der Paritätische Wohlfahrtsverband, Germany’s largest humanitarian organization, and launched a a course to enable volunteers in German speaking countries to deliver German language classes to refugees in their local communities.


This week, we received the wonderful news that we, in collaboration with Der Paritätische Wohlfahrtsverband, have been awarded a prestigious award in Germany, Ausgezeichneter Ort im Land der Ideen 2016 (Excellent place in the Land of Ideas) by Deutschland – Land der Ideen (Germany – Land of Ideas). The topic for this year was NachbarschafftInnovation – Gemeinschaft als Erfolgsmodell (Neighborhood Innovation - Community as a successful model). Through the creation and successful delivery of this free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), Auch du kannst das. Deutsch für Asylbewerber. Ehrenamtlich., over 8,800 volunteers learned how to set up German classes with the aim to enable refugees to communicate with neighbours, new friends, and prospective employers, and settle in to their new communities.



We are proud of our teams’ great collaboration on this initiative to put this idea into action and successfully enable such a large number of volunteers. Thank you to everyone involved from both SAP and Der Paritätische Wohlfahrtsverband and congratulations on receiving this great honour.


Bernd and Alicia

Bernd Welz                                                                    Alicia Lenze
Executive Vice President,                                           Head of Global Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Scale, Enablement & Transformation                      Corporate Affairs




About Germany – Land of Ideas


The “Germany – Land of Ideas” initiative was started in May 2014 by Federal President Horst Köhler and works with different partners to carry out projects and hold competitions to focus attention on the country, its people and their ideas.


Germany has specific economic, geographic and cultural location factors which shape its image. Like any location, however, it is primarily defined by its people. They, their ideas and their activities form the basis of and provide cohesion for society. This is where the “Germany – Land of Ideas” initiative comes in with a platform. The initiative seeks to use its projects and competitions to encourage people to make their ideas and innovations public and visible, thereby creating a social climate characterized by imaginative flair and a wealth of ideas. Each person is needed and can contribute towards the success. Individuality in diversity is a definitive element of the Land of Ideas. Positioning Germany in this sense requires numerous players and partners from many different areas of society – politics, economy, culture, and science. The initiative works with them to award prizes to ideas in competitions, make them visible in projects, and continue implementing key issues.

Majd’s dream of finishing his University degree in Economics was interrupted by the war in Syria. Left with no choice but to seek refuge, he fled to Turkey in hope of continuing his education and establishing a better future for himself. Even with his own dire situation, Majd chooses to support children and young adults like himself whose education has been disrupted as a volunteer teacher and translator at a UNHCR community center in Istanbul. It was there that he first heard about and applied for SAP’s Refugee Code Week; quickly moving from translator to session leader, he now teaches coding skills to young kids.


Majd is one of the 22+ million people being forcibly displaced from their home countries by war and persecution in what turns out to be the world’s biggest refugee crisis since the 1940s. Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey currently host almost 5 million refugees.


Governments, citizens, non-profits and the private sector all have a role to play in responding to this major crisis. Businesses, with their ability to move quickly and scale innovation, can often take risks that other actors cannot afford to make on their own. One area in particular where innovation has the potential for large scale impact – while also delivering value to businesses and society -- is in providing refugees with high demand digital and ICT skills.


ICT skills are a significant driver for both the economy and society. While ICT is one of the fastest growing industries worldwide, digital transformation in all industries is driving massive demand for highly qualified, tech-savvy workers. The Middle East is in dire need of skilled ICT professionals. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia alone had a shortage of 30,000 ICT professionals in 2014 underlining the high demand for capable ICT experts throughout the region.


Bridging this gap between thousands of refugees and thousands of unfilled ICT jobs in the Pan-European region and the Middle East has the potential to build a pipeline of talent for Middle East companies seeking talented employees to support their digital competitiveness.


SAP pledged its engagement at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) by endorsing UNHCR’s efforts to unite private and public sector collaboration on the migrant refugee crisis.  At a WHS panel session titled “The Role of Technology in the Humanitarian Response to the Refugee Crisis”, we unveiled our refugee coding initiative, “Refugee Code Week”.


“Refugee Code Week is a practical example on the role of corporations in impacting the lives of refugees. The global ICT skills will point to enormous career opportunities for young refugees. It will be an added value for the refugees themselves and their host communities,” said Houssam Chahin, UNHCR’s Senior Private Sector Partnerships Officer for MENA.


Empowering Refugees with Job Relevant Skills

With the extended nature of today’s conflicts, refugee camps in the Middle East are developing into longer term settlements for millions of people.  Under these circumstances, families need tangible solutions to help their young people get educated and equipped for employability.


This is what brought SAP to join forces with the UNHCR and the Galway Education Center to run hundreds of free coding workshops and online training courses for youth aged 8-24 inside refugee camps and in surrounding communities. Their goal: sustain a full life cycle of ICT skills support for all age groups. Taking place this October in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, the Refugee Code Week initiative aims to empower 10,000 youth with the coding skills they need to thrive in the digital economy. The younger participants (8-17) will  get introduced to Scratch, a highly visual and playful coding program developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, while older students (18-24) will delve into the realm of in-demand technologies: either web programming or SAP Business One, the business management software currently trusted by over 50,000 companies worldwide.


In preparation for October, experienced teachers and SAP volunteers have been hosting “Train The Trainer” (TTT) sessions during the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul as well as in the Zaatari UNHCR refugee camp and several Universities in Jordan. These TTT sessions equipped participants with the necessary skill set they need to teach coding to their peers and/or children in their respective communities, thereby multiplying the number of students Refugee Code Week can reach.


As a newly trained teacher, Majd commented “We are teaching kids something [SCRATCH] they would never get the chance to learn otherwise. I had heard about coding, but now that I have tried it myself, I am really amazed at its possibilities. People are feeling lost at the moment and this could really give them a new start.”


About Refugee Code Week

  • Young participants will learn on the simplified coding platform SCRATCH
  • Older participants will learn how to build a website with HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, and SQL, along with an introduction to the SAP Business One
  • 18-24 year olds will also be able to join a 15-week coding boot camp to become computer engineers ready to be hired.
  • Currently SAP is training teachers as coding instructors, and launching an openSAP platform to facilitate online







Sunday Excursion: Ups and Downs, all one day!

Sunday was a completely different story: our client, the Academy of Entrepreneurship in Chengdu invited all Grasshoppers to a bus tour to the country side including friends and family. With a delay of a few hours, somehow there was something wrong with the first bus, we finally got started. And same procedure as always, we were not the only ones who had the brilliant idea to flee the city. It took us ages to arrive at our first destination: a tea plantation near the mountains.

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The day was sunny, we arrived at a tea factory first, and here the first stop was of course: the toilets! Better not to go into further details, I needed a second round, as the first experience was simply too shocking.

Anyway, all the women in our tour got theses “lovely” shirts and headscarves to wear, grrrr, the boys only got a basket on a string to collect tea leaves.

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Some of us, or to be precise only Jeremy, found all the tickets that were hidden between the tea bushes, and funnily enough, he was the only one who had barely collected any tea leaves. But he had the decency, it only needed a minor twisting of his arm, to distribute the tickets among us. Later, back at the tea factory, we found out that those tickets were then transformed into nicely packaged tea, or lovely tea sets. I bought some Jasmin tea and a nice glass tea flask, that you can fill with tea leaves in the morning, and then you simply add water during the day, very convenient!

We also experienced how the freshly picked tea leaves were prepared:

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From there we went to a little town, only 500.000 inhabitants (!), were we had a real feast at the restaurant of a relative of our client.


There were two nicely laid out tables for the whole group, and this is how it looked at the very beginning:


And here is the transformation after the meal was already well underway: it was magnificent, there was everything there that has to be dished up in a traditional Chinese meal, and there was plenty of it! It was spectacular! And do not think that there were only the “normal” dishes, no! There was jelly fish, very thinly sliced, and other delicacies that we cannot even spell. It was truly a wonderful late lunch.


Replenished with excellent food we headed off to the site were in 2008 a terrible earthquake had happened. We did not know exactly what to expect, and we were certainly not prepared for what we found.


On May, 12, 2008 shortly before 14:30 the world and lives stopped for 69,197 people and 18,222 went missing. The earthquake was measured at 8.0 Ms. The earthquake is now called the Great Sichuan Earthquake.


The entire site in Hanwang, which before the earthquake was a thriving industrial town with lots of factories, public buildings, hospitals, banks, schools, and apartment building has since become a memorial center with a memorial building and the site itself with all buildings badly damaged by the earthquake. It was heartbreaking.


We were driven around in little mini-vans, and it is very hard to find the right words for what we saw: empty and cracked 5 – 6 story buildings, destroyed shops, fallen trees, collapsed and condensed buildings where the floors have crashed down and buried entire floors in between.


Below you see the clock tower where time literally has stopped at 14:28 for so many people.

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In addition of being in this sad place, the weather had changed and it started raining. Very suitable indeed.

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The day ended with our tour back in the same traffic jam, I am sure there were the same people sitting in the same cars as in the morning.


Back in Chengdu we stopped at the largest building of the world, the New Century Global Center. It is impossible to photograph or to grasp its size. It contains luxury shopping malls, restaurants, offices, and indoor swimming pool, a hotel, everything is super-sized!

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It was overwhelming in a very different way.


We then went to a Tibetan Vegetarian Restaurant and had another tasty experience of the huge variety of food you find in Chengdu:

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That evening I crashed into bed. It had been an emotional day, and I think stopping at this place of commerce, where life was bustling, was one way of getting the images out of our heads.


This was our last weekend we, the Grasshoppers, had together in Chengdu.

The whole blog series can be found here:

1. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Week 1 + 2

2. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 1

3. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 2

4. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 3

5. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend 3/2

I am back at work now after the amazing Social Sabbatical time in Chengdu.  I returned with a mass of impressions and learnings on the culture, history, heritage, art, economics and food.  Today however I want to share some moments and images that were part of a deeply moving experience towards the end of the stay in Chengdu. One of our client NGO organizations invited the SAP team for a Sunday excursion outside of Chengdu towards the mountains in the countryside to visit a tea plantation and also see an earthquake memorial together with them and their families.  We had no real idea of what to expect.  Traveling across the flat fertile plains of the Sichuan basin first  through the extensive suburbs of the city and then past farmland and villages, we saw the morning mist starting to lift and mountains rising as a lush green wall at the edge of the plain.  I have since learned that this very line of hills marks the Longmenshan Fault in tectonic terms.  The morning was spent on a tea plantation, picking leaves in the sun and learning how tea is roasted and prepared. This was followed by a fantastic Chinese lunch after which we returned to the bus, slightly sunburned, well-fed and content - curious to see what was next.  We were not at all prepared for what came. On Monday May 12 (Pentecost) in 2008 at 14:28:01 a force 8.0 earthquake struck Sichuan province with the epicenter around 80km north-west of the city of Chengdu.  Up to 100.000 lives were lost and millions made homeless. Hanwang is a small semi-industrial town lying directly where the plain meets the mountains.  It was devasted by what is now known as the Great Sichuan Earthquake. The memorial we saw was in fact the entire town preserved in the state to which it was reduced within a few apocalyptic minutes 8 years ago - the clock tower marking the exact time the world ended for so many.  In the welcome centre we were shown a movie reconstructing that May 12th through the eyes of residents after which there were already no dry eyes on the tour.  We emerged to see the sky had darkened, the temperature had dropped and it had started to rain.  We were then taken around the town where piles of rubble are marked simply with the description of what the building had been - hospital, kindergarten, school, apartment block, factory, town hall... Thousands died that day here and sadly this town's fate was not so bad as in areas further away in the more remote mountainous regions where entire villages and towns were swallowed up or crushed to nothing in the valleys.  Heartbreakingly - it was public buildings and especially schools that were hardest hit due to historically shoddy construction.  In Hanwang alone 700 kids perished in one single school and across the province more than 7000 schools collapsed. We all see news pictures and disaster movies portraying natural catastrophes and become numbed to the shock.  When you are confronted with this in reality the emotional and physical impact is indescribably more powerful. Nothing could serve as a more lasting and fitting memorial for those who were lost.  We were so thankful to our hosts for sharing this with us - more so because there is nobody in that part of the world that was not personally impacted by the event. I think I can speak for all my SAP colleagues when I say this was probably the most memorable part of the SoSa experience and one that will stay with us a very long time. eq3.JPGeq2.JPGeq1.JPG


In 2015, over a million refugees fled civil war, conflicts, and oppression and came to Europe. That’s more than four times the number that arrived in Europe the previous year, and the situation is expected to be similar in 2016.

€900,000 raised

Last year, SAP raised around €900,000 for refugee aid through the SAP Solidarity Fund. With this money, it was possible to start a comprehensive cross-regional refugee aid program. Some of the program’s projects have already been successfully completed, while others are ongoing.

Great commitment from SAP employees

Through the SAP Solidarity Fund, SAP employees donated €200,000 to tackling the refugee crisis in Germany.
Thanks to these donations, it has so far been possible to support more than 40 refugee initiatives throughout Germany. SAP employees are involved as volunteers in most of these initiatives. The supported initiatives have so far reached more than 14,000 refugees, and their work focuses on the following areas:

  • Integration and cultural exchange is facilitated by voluntary local groups and initiatives in the whole of Germany that have set up meeting places, mentoring schemes, leisure activities, and music projects.
  • Sports projects: Local sports clubs foster inclusion and the development of team skills, and contribute to eliminating prejudice. Background, religion, and income take a back seat in sport.
  • Language, vocational training, and professional integration
  • Distribution of clothes and other items through clothing banks, bicycle workshops for and with refugees, as well as an aid convoy to Greece with supplies from Germany.


Furthermore, SAP was able to make a significant contribution to setting up a meeting place near SAP headquarters that supports the inclusion of refugees in Walldorf.

Many SAP employees are active as volunteers in refugee initiatives. German courses take place weekly in the region and colleagues provide countless and diverse voluntary services, in part through local asylum initiatives.

Emergency aid in the transit countries and countries of arrival

Other money from the SAP Solidarity Fund has been used for emergency aid in the transit countries, for example, Greece and Croatia. The local SAP subsidiaries assisted in selecting and supporting the aid initiatives. Urgently needed basic care was ensured with medical and sanitary supplies, food, and baby care kits.



Greece: help for refugees in Lavrio

Other funds for emergency relief have been made available to the local SAP subsidiaries in the countries of arrival Sweden, France, and the Netherlands.

Supporting language acquisition

The publicly accessible openSAP course called “Auch du kannst das. Deutsch für Asylbewerber. Ehrenamtlich” (which translates as “You can do it, too. German for asylum seekers. By volunteers”) has been available since February. It gives volunteers tips about how they can teach refugees simple German for day-to-day situations. This online course was developed in collaboration with the German welfare association “the Paritätische” and is provided free of charge.

Long-term vocational aid in the United Nations’ refugee camps

Together with partners, SAP is providing programming and Web design courses to improve the employability of refugees. It is also filling critical gaps in children’s and young people’s education with programming courses. In October 2016, a Refugee Code Week will take place in the countries bordering Syria and Iraq.
The first train-the-trainer session was already held in Jordan at the beginning of March, where more than 700 instructors were trained by SAP in collaboration with partners and universities.

SAP is involved in more refugee aid projects:

  • "Heimstärke"; an inclusive project in the areas of sport and language. More information can be found here.
  • Support for social start-ups that are addressing the refugee crisis and the integration of refugees. We will be reporting on this in the coming weeks.

* Sylvia's Social Sabbatical

This blog is part of a series and the other blogs can be found here:

1. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Week 1 + 2

2. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 1

3. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 2

4. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 3

5. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend 3/2

Peace, Peace, give me some Peace and Quiet!

Planning for the third week was well under way before weekend April 23/24 was there. So what to do? In discussion was a visit to the Leshan Giant Buddha or going to Mount Qingcheng, which is one of the most important centers of Taoism. Hmmm, both sounded interesting! So what to do?

Ha! Decision was made very fast as soon as I heard that there will be thousands of tourists at the Giant Buddha, but much less - if you arrive early - at Mount Qingcheng. So there we went, this time only three of us.

And here they are, and I am behind the camera. Did I tell you already that I hate selfie sticks, no? I do!

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Mindy from the US and Jeremy from Canada/ France/ Ireland - it's complicated...

As you can also see, there was no one there! We took the train at 6:40 am and we where in Qingcheng Station only an hour later, took the bus, and there we were: at the park entrance at 8:00 am on a misty Saturday morning with the promise of rain and about 10.000 uneven steps ahead of us, but I have never felt so relaxed (and tired) during the first three weeks! I can see why it is a center of Taoism. Walking up all those stairs is a mediation in itself.

So up, up, up the stairs we went...for 3 hrs, seeing temple after temple, not many people,...,

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...and after having climbed up stairs for 2,5 hrs we thought we deserved a little break! And so did the locals, they were drinking tea, we preferred a cooler drink, and we did NOT share one beer. And believe me, ordering beer is not that difficult, but ordering a cold beer is a challenge. In China people drink either hot water or tea, but never ever a cold drink, or even worse, something coming out of a fridge as it is unhealthy. So even if you see a fridge with beer in it, it does not mean that the fridge is actually on and is doing its work...

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After 3 hours climbing we were rewarded with a view, a pagoda, and some interesting views:

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At the same time with us arrive a group of monks, male and female:

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After we have reached the top, there was the long way down and by that time we were pretty hungry. But before we came to a place where we were able to order some food here are some impressions that I want to share with you:

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So, how do you order food when you are very hungry, but there is only a menu in Chinese and none of the waitresses speak English?  You take photos of the dishes from other guest that look promising - the dishes, not the guests - and show it when ordering. This sounds pretty straight forward, but the waitress needed the name of the dish, and she was not able to recall it. Fortunately for us there was a young boy around 9 who was able to speak enough English to help us ordering our feast! How cool is that? And this is what we got: a dish with mushrooms, one with chicken, I hope it was chicken, and lots of chili, and some double cooked pork (?) with green vegetables, and rice. By the way: you do not get rice with a dish, you specifically have to order it. It is usually the last dish that is severed, to get you full - finally!

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Walking down was as hard as walking up, although it was faster, and so we ended up at the train station and in the train after five. We were all pretty tired, after an early start, lots of exercise and fresh air, beer and good food, which had its toll on us during the journey back:

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Sunday is now an extra blog as I can only upload a certain amount of photos...read more here:

SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend 3/2

We are on our way out. What an experience. My head is full of pictures, in no order at all. Women selling food at junctions when lights are red, carrying all on their heads. People sleeping in odd places. People singing and dancing. Slums, but people emerging from them wearing proper and clean clothes, women in magnificent colors. Wealthy neighborhoods with luxury houses. Traffic scenes of all kind. A lot of green nature. Wonderful beaches. It is an endless stream. Ghana truly is a beautiful country with so many great people. They are warm and relaxed. I listened to more laughing in two weeks than in two months in Germany (in two years?).

After only two weeks I can´t dare to have a fair judgment on how things go here. But I nonetheless want to share some thoughts: If I want to point to something which could be improved, then to me there is a lack of “connecting the dots” in Ghana. To think pro-actively, to think beyond the immediate task which someone is assigned to, this all seems to be restricted to a very small elite. Maybe it is because the broader population does not learn this in any way. In school it is all about facts and figures, it is all about repeating what the teacher has said – in exact words. Not helpful. Creativity is not asked for, it is restricted to some pockets of excellence in private school system which can only be paid for by a small minority.

I share just one example: After our field trip and 9 hours in the mini-van we arrived back in the hotel. I just wanted to go to my hotel room and take a shower. When I tried to open the door I realized my key was not working any more. Ok, could happen after being not in 2 nights. So I went to the reception and the guy there in a friendly way helped me getting a new access card. Back to the room I tried to have my shower. Then I realized that there is not water coming. So me heading back to the reception. The very same guy then told me that there is currently no water available at all. I asked him why he did let me find out on my own and did not inform me about the water outage 5 minutes back. He said: Oh sorry, the manager is just now calling to all rooms and informs the clients. So the task was given to someone else, he was off and not connecting any dots. He did not even understand my question. This is just one example, but here you encounter it every single day. Sometimes difficult for Europeans.

Hierarchical thinking is another fact which hinders development. It hinders young talents when they need to obey to old men at all costs, regardless to what extent it makes sense what these old men decide. I do not want to say that we don´t need respect for experience and for age. But it must be possible to criticize and change things in a fair manner.

Cooperation between organizations needs to be pushed to a higher level. There seems to be a tendency to hold on to own assets, to work in silos. If I observed it correctly then everything is here, it just needs to be brought together, there are ample opportunities for connecting the dots. No need for money from outside, maybe the need for some knowledge sharing here and there.

The country is so rich, by all kinds of natural resources – agriculture, fishing, gold, oil etc. But still more than half of the population lives in poverty. I spare to talk about politics, this seems not be safe when travelling home. Freedom of speech apparently is a higher value here in Ghana, I am sad to say.

Back to me. I am so grateful for having been exposed to this great learning opportunity. Thank you SAP for providing this Social Sabbatical program.

Thanks so much to you for following my blogs. I am honored by all the positive reactions I received!

Thanks so much to Francis, Keren and Mina. They are wonderful people I will never, ever forget in my entire life.

Let´s take a minute for an individual, silent closing prayer.


We really worked hard in the past days to come up with possible solutions for our challenge: How to scale the rollout of IT training to teachers (iTeach).

Initially we spend some time discussing fundraising. But then we changed this and put it on low priority. Why? Every project asks for more money, fundraising is serious business. Given we are only two weeks here we started to ask what can be reached with the same resources. We did not want to join the choir of “we do not have enough resources and that is why we are stuck.”

Number one, and that was the obvious one, we propose to use much more content which is already out there on the internet. There are free MOOCs, there is YouTube, there are many other things. So far all teaching content has been created by the two full time employees of Dreamoval foundation, Mina and Keren. If they put together in a digestible way what is out there (using free content builder tools) then they can free up quite some of their capacity to work on the scalability topic.

Second, so far the curriculum covers five days. Great for the teachers, but none of them will be capable afterwards to teach all of this content to other teachers. Especially if they are real beginners. That is why we propose to split the content into two courses, a basic course (2 days), followed by an advanced course (another 2 days, preferably delivered online). The basic course will include an introduction into the use of the computer/laptop, educate how to leverage search capabilities, E-Mail and Social Media, and last motivate and explain the value of Excel, Word, and PPT. The advanced course then does the deep dive. This content should be teachable after attending each course.

Third, a functioning multiplier concept will be key for success. So our proposal is that every attendee of the base course will be asked to pass the knowledge on to at least 3 other teachers. Only then they will be eligible for the advanced course, other incentives can be thought of (e.g. certificates help to be promoted to the next level). This will be checked through certifications which can either be done online or in cooperation with the regional representative of the Ghana National Association of Teachers. Dreamoval anyway cooperates with them, they are the ones who so far select the teachers. They are present in all regions, in all districts. So they have the reach to do this. We spoke to them at their headquarters here in Accra and visited a regional center on our trip towards the west. They take iTeach very seriously and will help in every possible way.

We propose as well that only those teachers are eligible to the courses who can prove that they have access to a computer afterwards, either personally, at their school or whatever. This maybe sounds somewhat brutal but multiplying will not work otherwise. We spoke to several teachers as reported, and only those with this pre-condition did pass on their knowledge afterwards. The others had the great experience of the class but more or less already forgotten most of the content.

Fourth, we created a “heatmap” which shows the density of teachers per the 10 regions in Ghana, correlated with the availability of internet (data density). This gives an indication on how to come to a better structured roll-out. So far one region per year has been tackled, chosen more or less randomly. If our suggestion is followed, then we start in the regions with the highest density and expand from there. Thus more teachers can be reached – and success creates success. When sharing with the Dreamoval team they very much liked it. Data always is a convincing argument. Don´t ask how difficult it was to get to this data, this in general is a real issue here in Ghana.

Five, we strongly propose to change to a decentralized approach – in the sequence the heatmap proposes. So far all trainings have taken place in one week in August in a college here in Accra. Teachers travelled to Accra, all has been paid for. We found out that there is another local NGO called “techAide” which accomplished to set-up 70 computer training labs allover Ghana (EduLabs) in the course of the last 10 years. Dreamoval needs to interact with them to come up with a least 10 co-operations – one per region. Then trainings could be held there, participants would have a much shorter distance to travel. And they would be even willing to cover the travel costs under this circumstances, this we validated with the groups we talked to. Two Dreamoval instructors could travel to one location and give 2 trainings there in one week (as we reduced the course duration). So instructors travel to the classes, not the other way round. This is far more efficient. Instead of 60 attendees travelling to Accra for one class 30 teams of 2 instructors could go and teach 60 classes (2 day course).

And instead of one course in one week in Accra, Dreamoval could announce a “Month of iTeach” in August, so the instructor resources could be spread over a longer period of time. We initiated a first meeting with Dreamoval and techAide, it went well, so it looks promising.

If not all regions can be covered by this EduLabs, there are other options for the more rural areas: There are “trolleys” with a number of laptops, all pre-charged, which can be used. A technical device, also developed by TechAide, could be set in the middle. It is prefilled with all the content and creates connectivity within a 20 meter radius, so it more or less simulates the internet. While talking with the Ghana National Association of teachers even the possibility was discussed to own a bus which serves as mobile IT lab. More costly, but not completely out of reach.

Of course as good corporate SAP citizens we brought all proposals to a proper PPT presentation we used in our discussions with the team. I just highlighted the main aspects here in written form. All in all we think we made proposals which are rather simple to be implemented, anything else would not work to our judgement. And there are several factors built in which help to scale: reduced course duration and easier content creation, de-central rollout with instructors travel to the classes, multiplier concept, cooperation with other NGOs. If only a few are implemented it could already make a difference.

Let´s see to which extent this works out. We have a bit the McKinsey-Feeling right now: Flying in, work on a strategy, present it to the clients, fly out again. We will keep in contact with Francis, Keren and Mina to check the progress.

One more thing to mention: We did present our proposals today to the management team of Dreamoval. Angelique, Franz and I were truly touched by the kind words they found to thank us. It was expressed to eloquently, so warm, so human, wow. I am still emotional while I write this down.

This is not yet the end, there is one more blog to come.

We are on a “field trip” towards the Western region of Ghana. It is a long ride, 7 hours on a minivan one way. We stay there for 2 nights and then head back to Accra. Our intent is to talk to teachers who have been educated by the iTeach program of the Dreamoval foundation in the last years. Have they been able to pass on their newly gained knowledge about IT? At least to their colleagues, maybe even to their pupils? Remember: Only 360 out of 170,000 thousand teachers have been reached by iTeach so far. So a well working multiplier structure is key. Otherwise it will simply not work out.

Close to the boarder of Ivory Coast we met a group of those teachers who shared their experience. They were all thrilled by the training they received and praised the advantage it brought to them. Excel for example is simply great for them to calculate the results of their pupils. As single class has on average 40-50 kids (sometimes even up to 80), this rating work usually consumes a lot of time. With excel knowledge this is so much easier to be accomplished.

Challenges they shared with us are: lack of computers – only a minority of teachers own one. Not even half of them have a smartphone or any other mean to access internet privately. In some schools they even do not have electricity. But they are really engaged, they find different way to overcome challenges. Sometimes at least the headmaster of the school has a laptop, and if teachers are lucky, they are open to help and make their laptop available for training purposes. One teacher told that he has a desktop PC at home and then regularly on Fridays invite 5-6 pupils to his house to train them for an hour after school. As there is almost nowhere a projector available they have to take turns with the pupils – a very time consuming approach. A female teacher told us that there is an Internet Café near to her school, and she takes pupils there. For those who can´t afford the small fee she even helps out. What an engagement level! Surely not all teacher in Ghana are like that, but we really met a few true role models.

I attach one picture of our discussion with the teachers. The other one shows a school we did visit. The level of discipline there was amazing! The pupils stood up when we entered the room, they greeted us all in a choir, they were quiet and very attentive. I don´t think too long about with which education means this level of discipline is reached…  Anyway, what I really need to tell my two kids when I am back: The class was shouting in excitement when it was announced that as part of our visit all of them will receive a frozen joghurt! The cost is at 1 CEDI each, which equals some 20-25 Eurocent. They surely don´t get it every day.

* Sylvia's Social Sabbatical

This blog is part of a whole series and the other blogs can be found here:

1. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Week 1 + 2

2. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 1

3. Current blog: SYSOSA in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 2

4. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 3

5. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend 3/2

Our Journey to Jiuzhaigou or the 9 fortified Tibetan Villages

A few days before our second weekend we decided to book flights & hotel and go and see Jiuzhaigou, which is pronounced Tschutschaigooo - or for experts tɕi̯òu̯ʈʂâi̯kóu̯ in the North of Sichuan province.

What we had heard about it sounded spectacular: "Jiuzhaigou is a nature reserve and national park located in the north of Sichuan province, China. Jiuzhaigou Valley is part of the Min Mountains on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and stretches over 72,000 hectares." See more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiuzhaigou

The whole valley has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 and is since 1997 a World Biosphere Reserve.

And all photos looked brilliant!

Okay, flights were booked with the untiring help of Zhen Chen from Pixera Global - not easy to get seven people booked on the same flight where you need passport IDs of all travelers for the reservation - thanks again, Zhen!


Hotel was found, and it was extremely cheap, but the reviews were sort of okay. Let me say that we had running hot water, and free WIFI. And we did not have to share rooms.

Chengdu Airport and Toilets

The flight on Friday night was around 10:00 pm, and Chengdu Airport at night looked like this: deserted!



As one better uses the toilet before a flight I was surprised to find this sign here :


But everything was fine, what I found behind the door was a "normal" toilet with a seat. Now I have to explain that in most public toilets there are only squat toilets... and I did not take any photos of them, and there is a good reason for it!

Finally in Jiuzhaigou

We landed after about 40 min at Jiuzhai Huanlong Airport in approx. 3500 m above sea level, and it was freezing cold with - 2°C, in Chengdu we had around 24°C. We then were expected by two drivers who drove us in nearly complete darkness to the village. The journey was long, sometimes interrupted by speed cameras and Yaks on the road, but after 90 min we arrived at the hotel, and they were still waiting for us at 0:20 am in the morning.

The next day we finally saw where we were: in an extremely busy little place, with its main purpose to accommodate as many tourists as possible, with all drivers, regardless of the size of the vehicle, honking and honking and honking! It was maddening, even more so as I had a room to the street and the first lorries started to rush past at 5:00 am! Aaaaarrrrggg!

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Our hotel was in walking distance of the park's entrance, so we had a quick breakfast in a small dumpling and noodle soup place and off we walked.

When we finally arrived at the ticket counter we were not the only ones. In high season there will be on average 15000 mostly Chinese tourists in the park. You have to pay for the green shuttle busses, and at every bus stop there are 10 to 20 busses waiting to drive passengers back and forth!

So not a quiet little place where you can enjoy the loneliness and peacefulness of the surroundings. And it was cold, the sun disappeared in the afternoon, and ice even saw a few snowflakes.

All in all not something I have expected. You had to fight to get a good view to take some photos, and if you were not fast enough, people pushed you out of the way.

As I had been to New Zealand several times, this place felt a bit like Disney Land, some kind of a show you had to pay for. And it was the dry season, so most of the lakes had no or not too much water.

Here some impressions: this was the view....


...and when you turned around you saw this:


Here are impressions from Tibetan buildings:


and waterfalls, and you can see that it was a very dry winter:

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In the afternoon it started raining and snowing, which did not improve the mood, but nevertheless we decided to come back the following day, and voila: we had sunshine, and there was fresh snow on the mountains and the lakes were finally green:

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On our way back to the hotel we found a market or the market found us, and some of us discovered that they were quite good at bargaining with the locals:

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Then it was time to fly back and we finally saw where we landed as it was still light on the way to the airport - photos were taken out of the car:

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Back at the airport we found out that the only warm place was the little restaurant there, which is where we spent every minute before our check-in.

What we have learned:

Overall the whole weekend was an interesting experience, we had managed to order a fantastic dinner in a Tibetan restaurant, but one of the waitresses spoke some English, that helped! Otherwise it can be a challenge to communicate. The good thing is that  nowadays there are plenty of apps you can use to translate back and forth between Chinese and English, and there is also sign language and a calculator when you want to bargain. And all 7 of us were still in speaking terms when we got back to Chengdu, cool!

The third week was waiting for us.

More to come here:

SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 3

* Sylvia's Social Sabbatical

This blog is part of a series and the other blogs can be found here:

1. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Week 1 + 2

2. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 1

3. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 2

4. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 3

5. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend 3/2


In Weekend Excursions I decided to talk a bit about everything not related to our work in Chengdu, so you will mainly find information about our weekend excursions and trips.


In another blog I will write about week 3 to 4 of our work and in a last blog about the final presentation of our results, and some reflections of these 4 weeks in China - but this is still in my head...


The team arrives in Chengdu:

On our first weekend the twelve of us arrived all at different times coming from all corners of the world.

We had 3 people coming from Germany: Tom, Peter Stock and myself, although Tom is from the UK, but he lives in Gernany.Then we have George from the Uk, Jeremy - Le Français - lives in Ireland, Grimley - originally from the Philippines - now lives in the Netherlands, Rahul from New Delhi, Shinto from Bengaluru, Mindy from the US, Mariana from Bulgaria, Florencia from Argentina and Pete, living in Canada, but originally he is an Aussie, not liking Kiwis, hmmm, what can he do?

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Chengdu City:

And while we were waiting and waiting for people to arrive, we decided to explore the city. We literally arrived during a timespan of 48 hrs.

We took the metro - 2 lines so far in the city, but approx. 11 more lines to come within the next years - and arrived at Wenshu Monastery, which is the best preserved Buddhist temple in Chengdu! And I think it all hit us when we saw the temples that we will be working in Chengdu for the next four weeks, and there was no escape!


The next experience was when we wanted to order food at lunchtime in a recommended vegetarian restaurant. Okay, we were a bit late, but by the time we arrived at the restaurant, the only drink they had was hot water - and I nearly forgot - hot soy milk - which was disgusting! We left it open on the window sill, to keep the only wasp away we have seen so far. They had no tea - no tea in China? -  no coke, no cold beer, nothing! And just as a remark: the "cold" was a challenge! We hardly ever got cold beverages, cold beer? Ha! And if they had beer, it was either very warm or lukewarm, hmmm, very nice!


Thaaaat was a good start, but we were not disappointed after all, the food was excellent! We had tofu 9 different ways, or was it 7? I cannot remember, but it was the best tofu I've ever had: on one plate came a fish, but then we thought "fish in a vegetarian restaurant"? And it was actually tofu. And very, very delicious!

This was already a good outlook of things to come: food in Chengdu is excellent! I have never eaten so many different dishes in my whole life! But this will be a different story.


So we were definitely in Chengdu, China, there was no mistake. Everything look Chinese to us, even the door knockers:

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And here is more: temples, pagodas, outlooks through windows...:


Even the wheelbarrows and ladders are different, the electric cables on the street or the apartment blocks:

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Chengdu and its famous Pandas:

On Sunday we went to the Panda Park or better to the Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. The Panda Center is about 10 km outside Chengdu Downtown, and, as we were not the only ones, who wanted to see the Pandas, we got up really early. Pandas are not only a Chinese national treasure but are also beloved by visitors around the world -well, here we were then! Pandas can be be found only in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. In total there are less than 2,000 pandas, and 70% can be found alone within the territory of Sichuan Province! So we were really lucky!

We arrived at the park at 8:00 am and then we were hunting for the little beasts as they get fed in the morning and are most active after they had their portion of special bamboo shoots.

And of course some photos, although it was very difficult to pick the best as I had tons. They can use their paws in a very agile way, but they are not the most energetic species. Eating bamboo is not really a good idea as bamboo is not very nutritious and they have to eat lots and lots of if, and still: they sleep most of the time.

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On the second weekend a group of us went on an adventure to Jiuzhaigou. More about it here:

SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 2

SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 3

Today some guys from the Dreamoval team gave us a demo about their products. In short: This was very, very impressive. Their flagship program is a full CRM suite for banking. Several banks here in Ghana are on it. In addition they have a solution for mobile payments with some 30,000 individuals using it so far. The further potential is huge. Ghana is a big country, some family members work in the larger cities or even abroad and want to send money to their families. Traditionally this is very cumbersome, with the Dreamoval solution everything is completely seamless.

Their products are all build using open source, all are cloud solutions. Everything they use is absolutely state of the art. They follow a scrum methodology, so after giving the presentation to us the team went for a meeting to plan the next sprint. “Backlog”, “daily scrum meeting”, all normal terminology to them. My colleague Franz Hero, who leads a development unit, was really taken by surprise. You could easily read his mind: “I want to hire some of these smart guys!”

Below you can see pictures of them giving the presentation to us, on the second you see their development. Not “a” development lab, “the” development lab. It is amazing what they put together with a workforce of 43. Sure, they work long hours, but obviously enjoy it. To nonetheless prevent burn outs, they introduced a rule a while back which says you need to leave office at least one day per week in time, to go out for following your hobbies, meeting friends etc.

One other thing stood out: They had amazingly beautiful and simple slides. For them the standard. Everything which goes out for being presented is checked by a graphic designer. They take as well great pride in having really nice UIs in all their software.

Dreamoval in 2015 won a price for being the best software company in Ghana, and you could clearly see why. Angelique de Vries, my colleague from Presales, will make sure that SAP exploits if there is the opportunity to cooperate with Dreamoval in one way or the other.

The company was founded 9 years back by 4 guys who had just finished university. They all did study computer science. The first investor they had gave them 10,000 US Dollar so they could get started. In return he received 15% of the shares. If I look at Dreamoval now, I would say this was a business opportunity I have missed!

We started early in the morning to arrive 7.30 am at the office of Dreamoval, after a 1 hour drive. The day there starts with a prayer, a reading from the bible including a short discussion on the meaning of it, and a song. All in all some very inspiring 15-20 minutes. It surely creates team spirit. This mindful start into the day is a common theme at companies in Ghana. Religion is big here, and all in a very tolerant way. Various kinds of beliefs peacefully co-exist.

Afterwards I owed Francis an answer. The day before he had approached me and offered me a job. Dreamoval now has 43 employees, they expect further growth. So far there is no HR person on board, payroll is outsourced. Now they want to have an HR Director who helps the company to scale in a professional manner. The offer comes with a very decent salary at local standards, plus health insurance for the entire family, plus pension scheme, plus a company car allowance. So all in all very attractive. I told Francis that I will sleep one night over it. Now I had to tell him I can´t take the offer for family reasons.

Sounds very strange? Maybe not. Pyxera is the 3rd party vendor who works with SAP and other companies on Social Sabbaticals. One of their employees told the story about an HR professional from Ireland (not at SAP) who after a Social Sabbatical in Bangladesh decided to join the company they had supported, including re-location at own costs and local contract.

Francis stayed cool and said he did not really expect me to join. But in return he asked me to join interviews they had set-up for the afternoon. It was a shortlist of three candidates for an open position. So this is how I gained recruiting experience in Ghana.


The set-up for the interviews you can see on the pictures attached. To the left Francis and I were sitting behind a desk, to the right the candidates, also behind a desk. And in between we had some 3 meters of space. Unusual to me, but obviously the standard setting. All three candidates were “a bit” surprised meeting me, but they managed to cope with it. Question-wise the interview went 95% similar to the approach we have. There is only a slightly higher focus on formal skills and education. I asked a fair amount of questions and enjoyed the 3 hours. Francis and I afterwards discussed the outcome and both were almost completely identical in our judgement of the candidates. So we reduced the list to one candidate who will now meet the CEO for the final round.

It was amazing how often Francis expressed his gratitude for me joining the interviews. He even wrote an e-mail in the evening to say thank you once more. People in Ghana are just so open and warm, simply great!

We travelled into Accra from different regions of the world and arrived in the evening at our hotel. The next morning we all gathered and met the local team supporting us in the interaction with the start-ups. We got to know each other better through team building exercises and received even more information about the projects we will work with. Details to follow.

In the afternoon we went to a city tour through different parts of Accra. There are really nice areas with decent houses, there are lively streets with shops, restaurants etc., and there are crowded markets of all kinds. All very, very colorful. Towards the end we visited Jamestown, which is the area at the seaside where the fishermen reside with their families. Puuh, that was a really different experience. Adults there live on 1 US Dollar or less per day (like some 50% of the population in Ghana). They work very hard to make a living with fishing. They reside in direct neighborhood to their wooden boats in all kinds of sheds. All live on limited space. I attach a picture. If internet is stable enough I will be successful in up-loading them to this blog.

We were there for some 20 minutes and everyone had the urge to leave the place. Partially because you could sense that many fishermen did not like us looking around. It was not always adequate to take pictures, especially portraits of individuals. They did not want us to document their poverty and maybe were suspicious that we show the pictures back home, making fun about them.

Back in our little bus silence was the motto. My initial thoughts were: The next colleague in Walldorf who approaches me to complain in an inappropriate manner about the quality of our free lunch at SAP will be send on a free ride to Accra, in order to spend 48 hours in Jamestown…

Ok, ok, I will of course never do this, I was simply sharing my initial thoughts.

Back to reality. Clear learning is to be thankful and sensitive about what we as SAP employees all have, to be conscious in what luxury position we are. It is surely ok to criticize things at SAP in a constructive manner. But it should always be clear that it is about the last 5%.

More to come, Wolfgang

The next morning we all gathered and met the representatives of the 4 projects we work with. The meeting started with an opening prayer, then we all introduced each other shortly. The 4 social start-ups presented what they are working on and talked about the challenges they are facing. Angelique, Franz and me will interact with Dreamoval foundation. It is set up by a mid-size software company called “Dreamoval”. Related to their expertise they have a program called “iTeach” which educates teachers on basic IT knowledge (use of PPT, Excel, apps etc.). They started it six years back and so far trained 360 teacher – one class of 60 teachers per year. The course duration is one week. All training is provided by employees of Dreamoval. Teachers to be educated come from all different regions of Ghana and stay for this one week in Accra. Most of them have not touched a computer before, did not use a mouse before, do not possess an e-mail-address etc. The idea is that when they return to their hometown they can transport some of their newly gained knowledge to their pupils.

It is a great initiative, all driven by two full time employees (Keren, the young lady in the middle of the picture attached, and Mina, to the right), plus Francis. In his day job he is the Sales Director of Dreamoval, in addition he drives the foundation with a lot of energy. Just amazing! He is the one who wrote the beautiful e-mail I was referring to in my first blog.

Keren, Mina and Francis started our interaction with giving us local first names. These names are related to the day of the week you are born. But one thing is guaranteed: I will blog about everything we do here in Ghana, but I will never ever disclose this name!!! And if Angelique or Franz are doing this, then they will be in deep trouble!


Let´s now come to the real challenges: In Ghana there are 170,000 teachers. iTeach so far reached 360 of them in six years. This will not scale. Many teachers in the rural areas do not have access to computers, sometimes there is even no electricity. So even the ones who have gone through the initial training will not necessarily pass their on the knowledge. As a side remark: Average monthly income of a teacher in Ghana is 200 Euros.

So how to scale, how to overcome this limiting conditions?

Angelique, Franz and I are now working on it, let´s see what we can achieve within two weeks. The good thing is that our CSR team at SAP is clever: They already plan to bring a “normal” Social Sabbatical to Ghana for four weeks in October, most probably to continue working with Dreamoval. So they then have the opportunity to repair the damage we super-clever executives caused to Dreamoval foundation.


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