North Highland, a global management consulting firm, has launched a new social impact initiative: Economic Empowerment. Dianne Bernez, the firm's newly-hired Global Head of Philanthropy, has been tasked with leading the development phase of the firm’s platform aimed at reducing economic disparity.
The aim of North Highland’s new Economic Empowerment social impact platform initiative is to identify and address structural and incidental causes of economic disparity within the local communities in which the firm operates. Through the programmes and initiatives developed under the project, at-risk individuals will be supported towards becoming economically stable. According to recently released data, more than 16 million children live in poverty in the United States, while in the UK, 28% of children live below the poverty line.
The Economic Empowerment project, which is part of North Highland's broader Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy, will work with a range of civic, community and business organisations to create strategies, programmes and initiatives that support people to develop the skills and habits that result in long-term financial stability, such as work skill development. By leveraging the resources and know-how of the firm’s local consultants, the initiative hopes to provide a more tailored and fitting approach to helping those at risk.
To develop and deliver the project, the consulting firm has picked up Dianne Bernez, who joins from Equifax where she was the Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications from 2008 and Vice President of Corporate Communications from 2006. Previously, she worked as an Editor at Atlanta Woman magazine for a year. Bernez’s earlier roles include Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications at ING for four years, Director at Concert Communications for almost two years, and Director of PR/Marketing Communications at AT&T, where she started her professional career in 1993.
Bernez holds an Associate in Journalism from Vancouver Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts from York University - Joseph E. Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies.
Commenting on her role, Bernez says she is delighted with the challenge, adding "Our intention is to get to the heart of economic disparity, find solutions that work and deliver an impactful new philanthropic approach focused on transformative initiatives that will align civic, community and business partnerships.”
Economic Empowerment will initially run as a pilot programme from the offices of the firm’s Atlanta, London, Los Angeles, Philadelphia/Basking Ridge and Portland operations. The firm’s consultants, working with community partners, will aim to, among others, tackle financial instability, family sustaining employment and housing. Following an assessment of the programme, and building on things learned throughout the pilots, Benez says that a unified firm strategy will be developed that supports the local communities in which consultants of the firm live and work across the globe.
North Highland CEO Dan Reardon, reflects on the launch: “Through Economic Empowerment, we will leverage our business leadership skills and consulting expertise to help solve problems in the communities in which we work and live by stopping poverty before it starts. Our goal is to create long-term economic empowerment by helping at-risk individuals develop the skills required to break the cycle of poverty.”
Globally, the more than 3,000 consultants (operating from 60+ offices) of employee-owned North Highland are involved with a range of social impact initiatives. One of the firm's larger CSR projects is its annual 'Day of Giving Back' – on the day the firm's employees set aside their regular work to serve the needs of local communities, delivering activities such as teaching, painting playgrounds or preparing meals.