Disney, like most big corporations with an eye on their reputation, has an outreach programme. Disney VoluntEARS, work with the Make-a-Wish Foundation and a strong emphasis on employees sharing skills are a few parts of Disney Worldwide Outreach.
This is, given my job, naturally an area of interest for me. I knew about Disney’s work with Make-a-Wish years ago as a visit to a Disney park, studio or other related venue is consistently one of the most popular wishes of very ill children. If that doesn’t tell you about the power of Disney’s story-telling and the evangelism that rises from it, nothing will. But I didn’t know until quite recently, when my interest increased, about the amount of employee time that is donated to communities.
This is one area where I’d love to see Disney developing online. Surely this is a place where online and offline communities really have a chance to be joined up. A place for volunteers to exchange information and potential volunteers to find out more? A place where kids can find online mentors from within Disney? A place where parents whose children have been helped through Make-a-Wish can build an online wall of memories of their child’s experience? A way for Disney to teach non-profit organisations without their budgets and marketing advantage to make the most of social technologies? You name it – the list of online possibilities surrounding outreach work are virtually endless.
My favourite is the Disney mentor idea – a natural online extension of the thousands of hours of offline community work Disney employee “VoluntEARS” already do. Imagine each employee giving up one hour a week to give advice to a kid online about becoming an attraction “imagineer”, animator, or other creative professional. What a boost to the arts that would be! And then there are the legion of other employees, from web wizards to front-of-house cast members. Each has advice and talent to offer; imagine how valued you would feel if you were asked to contribute your time to the project.
What’s in it for Disney? Well, though it might be done for entirely more altruistic reasons, there’s the lifelong fans you’re going to make when your pool of highly skilled employees shares the talent wealth a little. And the reputation advantages. Not to mention a direct line to possibly the greatest market research money can buy, straight from the people who love the Disney empire best, and a contacts list of future potential employees likely to feel completely loyal to a company that’s behaved like family.
For all I know, much of this is already in the pipeline or has been discussed and rejected for any number of reasons. But, for the record – that’s what I would do.