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Imagine you are facing a new culture, a new language, and new people’s realities that are very different from each other. You are meeting people who are most vulnerable and learning new business models with heart-touching missions. You are teaming up with colleagues you have never met, let alone worked with before. You need to work together to create added value for the local organization you will be supporting for a month. And as per usual, there is not enough time. Before you know it, you are already on the social roller coaster with all ups and downs that belong to such a journey.

This is what it means to be on an SAP Social Sabbatical. The SAP Social Sabbatical is a four-week pro bono consulting program where we as SAP employees get to work with nonprofits and social enterprises all around the world to solve business challenges. In May of 2022, I was part of the Social Sabbatical cohort that was placed in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This was the first Social Sabbatical team to re-launch with in-person engagement after the pandemic.

On the Social Sabbatical, you are away from friends and family and your daily business tasks and responsibilities. You are experiencing the unknown, learning and exploring every day, and listening with an open heart. Through this experience, you are getting a better understanding of the local community’s reality and the local demand to jointly succeed.

Moving forward together is our corporate social responsibility at SAP. We focus on accelerating social businesses, building future skills, and collaborating for sustainability by working with purpose to make tangible contributions to social change. Clearly the program delivers social impact through the work with nonprofits, social enterprises, and their beneficiaries. The unique program structure with teammates joining from all over the world, provides a one-of-a-kind learning and leadership opportunity for each participant. With all new experiences in our bag, we can add even bigger business value to SAP.

My Social Sabbatical (SoSa) team and I all represent different parts of the world: Varun from India, Kim and Stefan from Germany, Yakelin from Peru, Frank from Switzerland, Sue from USA, Niels from Denmark, Alex from Romania, Eszti and Csabi from Hungary, and myself from Bulgaria.

Niels, our local project assistant and Argentina expert Juan, and I are on a mission in Buenos Aires to support social enterprise Nilus.

Niels, Juan and I catching the train line San Martin to Retiro on our way to work in Barrio #31

Nilus is a triple impact company, which creates economic as well as social and environmental value for the communities they empower, with a special focus on the people in the slum neighborhoods. Nilus is not just a pure NGO, but a business-driven company with an incredibly important mission: Poverty should not be more expensive. Life can be very expensive for the people who do not have a proper place to live, access to transportation, medical services, or food in their neighborhoods. If we look at the numbers: there are at least 1 billion people living in slums (source: Nilus).

Nilus aims to prevent food waste and supports people from the most vulnerable places in Latin America, especially those living in the slums. They have offices in Buenos Aires, Mexico City, and Montevideo, and use technology to solve important problems. Through their platform, they help people in the poorest places afford food and a healthy diet at lower prices. At the same time, they prevent unnecessary food and product waste. 1.3 billion tons of food (source: Nilus). And the numbers are rising.

Barrio #31, a world in itself! This slum is situated next to the center of Buenos Aires.
And Nilus is in the middle of it all, close to their customers

Nilus’ business model helps food producers, social gastronomers, and community leaders to thrive and grow. Food producers can optimize their income and prevent throwing away good products just because they do not fit into our societal standards with a perfect shape, color, or packaging. Social gastronomers like restaurants, soup kitchens, supermarkets, and social institutions can purchase products from Nilus at a better price and satisfy their community needs. Community leaders can lower the cost of living for their family and friends through organized community buying within the slums, saving time and money for the people who already have so little.During this amazing month and working with the incredible team at Nilus, our team had the task to boost Nilus’ employer branding.

We jointly agreed to focus on Nilus’ People strategy and identify moments that matter throughout the entire employee lifecycle. The Management Team at Nilus helped us gain understanding of how the company runs, their core values, and desired goals. They encouraged their employees to talk to us and to share their honest feedback. We built trust within a short period of time and united powers to improve the employee experience. This challenge was a testament to the strong will, leadership, and dedication by the Nilus management to invest in their employees, help them grow, and be part of the company’s success.

Our SoSa Team visiting the Nilus office in Barrio #31

We ran interviews with employees, leaders, and HR teams from all Nilus geographies, discussed HR process execution, identified current challenges, collected ideas and business requirements. After a thorough analysis, we provided recommendations to each area of our scope of work. Our goal was to empower the Nilus team to take next steps without running into budget restrains or being dependent on technical solutions. The approach we took was fully oriented on handling the challenges with easy-to-follow recommendations. The Nilus team prioritized the action items and immediately went into execution. Over several weeks and months after our assignment, we kept our exchange rounds and celebrated the positive outcomes.

At Nilus, everyone is connected to the company’s purpose and is inspired to deliver their best. The people at Nilus know that their hard work touches so many precious lives. I could not put down in words the beautiful spirit of the diverse team. It’s been a true pleasure from day one to meet and work with everyone in the Nilus offices. Their passion, dedication and mission focus were contagious and energizing. Even though our assignment has ended, I still feel a strong connection to Nilus, and I wish to see this amazing team and the entire company continue to grow and reach all their goals. I have so many great memories through my Social Sabbatical experience. We came together, we explored, we delivered, we learned, and we enjoyed.

Thank you, Buenos Aires – you are such a vibrant city and I was more than happy to call you our home for a month.

Impressions from beautiful Buenos Aires