Building Partnerships That Last

January 10, 2021

Growing Home and Accenture have had a fantastic partnership over the years that spans many different kinds of programming and has adapted creatively this year. We had the opportunity to sit down with Accenture’s Growing Home partnership program directors, Michael and Stephen, to learn more. Enjoy the interview!

Q. How did the partnership between Accenture and Growing Home first develop and evolve over the years?  What are the different components of the partnership currently?

(Michael) The origin of the Accenture partnership with Growing home started with my wife, Cathi, and her passion for urban farming and giving back to the community.  In the summer of 2014 Cathi started helping Growing Home as a volunteer on the farm to help pull / prep vegetables that were ripe.  She came home one day after volunteering with the most beautiful vegetables and when she was providing an overview of Growing Home, I was intrigued on the workforce development component in their work.

With my role as the Director of Chicago Market Development, where I try to find ways that Accenture can make a positive impact in the community with our 6,000+ employees, I was intrigued by the opportunity to find a way to partner with Growing Home and support.  After a few conversations with Harry Rhodes, we were off and running with a partnership that started with the leadership of Matt Foulger and is now led by Stephen Gates to provide Growing Home with access to our employees for volunteering / mentoring, cash granting to help improve and enhance the classroom experience, as well as the leadership of Stephen on the board.

It is an honor to partner with such an amazing organization and I look forward to all we can do to work together to create more opportunities for more people in every community and zip code in Chicago.

Q. In a wonderful way, this partnership involves many personal connections between Growing Home’s PA’s, our ET Staff and different Accenture employees.  Why are these individual connections and relationships important across the two organizations? Do you have any favorite moments of these relationships over the years?

(Stephen) While the partnership between Accenture and Growing Home started off as a focused effort to connect PAs with Accenture volunteers to help with job-training skills, it has certainly blossomed over the years and has shifted to building longer-term bonds and connections between our organizations.

(Q2 Continued…) These connections are important for both organizations, by helping the PAs understand how strong their support network truly is to give them the best foot forward in their future career aspirations, to helping them understand what’s possible in and around their community, to continued assistance with job placement and grant funding for Growing Home’s programming.

We have built many shared memories over the years, from hosting the Growing Home Program Assistants (PAs) in Accenture’s Innovation Hub in downtown Chicago multiple times annually, to attending PA graduations, to backyard BBQs at the farm, to shifting to virtual PA job skills sessions during the pandemic, to the annual benefit Growing Home throws every year where we’re able to truly understand how much of the community believes in and supports the great work Growing Home carries out.

Considering all the memories made over the years, it’s really the hands-on sessions with the Program Assistants. It’s incredible to see the immense progress of each of the PAs as they develop from the beginning of their time with Growing Home to the end.

Q. Although the workshops and partnership had to move to a virtual format this year, there were still many great moments of teaching, learning and collaboration.  What were some of the highlights from 2020’s partnership for you?

(Stephen) 2020 has certainly been a year to remember.  Growing Home did an incredible job in quickly shifting their cohorts to virtual learning at the onset of the pandemic and we were able to adapt our traditional in-office visit sessions to virtual as well.  The virtual format enabled us to expand our programming from one event to multiple events for each cohort.  This year the partnership with the cohorts focused on elevator pitches, resume reviews, and mock interviews.

The mock interviews were an incredibly valuable tool, allowing our Accenture volunteers to simulate actual interviews the PAs would have in the future by ascertaining their job interests ahead of time, virtually conducting the interview, providing real-time feedback, and after debriefing with the rest of the volunteers, providing general common themes found across the mock interviews back to the entire cohort to keep in mind while prepping for the future job interviews.

We look forward to the continued collaboration of this incredible partnership that has developed over the years.