Zühlke Switzerland has supported the non-profit organisation Aiducation for many years. Partner and member of the Executive Board Thomas Memmel explains in this interview why he initiated the relationship, what makes this particular organisation right for Zühlke and which moments stand out for him.
What does Aiducation do?
Thomas Memmel: Aiducation International is an international non-profit organisation that aims to help children and young people in need access education in Kenya and the Philippines. It focuses in particular on talented students from low-income families. The most straightforward form of support is direct funding of scholarships and support can be expanded from there.
Why has Zühlke chosen to support this NPO in particular?
Thomas Memmel: We first made contact a few years ago, originally via an old business associate of mine who was an ambassador for Aiducation at a time when Zühlke was actively thinking about strengthening its corporate social responsibility commitment. The key thing for us was to do something that suited us as a company. As an innovation service provider, we obviously have a keen interest in education and training, so working with Aiducation made sense from the beginning. We started by funding three scholarships, and the working relationship with the organisation proceeded smoothly from there. It’s a very direct form of CSR: we see what we are achieving and making possible, and how the funds get to those who really need them.
What are Zühlke’s main priorities in this regard?
We started with a simple sponsorship model, but we quickly realised we wanted our commitment to be more than purely financial – although that’s obviously the easiest way to start. We then discussed the various options with Aiducation and subsequently, the Zühlke Innovation Academy (ZIA) was established. As part of this initiative, selected employees of Zühlke Switzerland travelled as mentors to the Philippines, where, as part of a diverse team, they conducted a series of thematically coordinated workshops. Both sides benefited enormously from this. Our staff were able to significantly broaden their horizons and gain a unique life experience. The children and young people, meanwhile, really enjoyed the knowledge sharing. To be able to demonstrate our commitment on the ground in South-East Asia, we issued an internal appeal for donations, whereby our employees were able to convert their flextime into cash and then Zühlke doubled the amount donated. In this way, we combined our business activity with the voluntary commitment of our employees. At this point, I would like to once again thank all our employees wholeheartedly for their support. I was blown away by their incredible generosity.
What does this commitment mean to you personally?
It’s very moving when the students thank us directly for the scholarship support, for example in a video call or message. Often, real tragedy lurks behind the stories of these children and young people. We get a glimpse into the realities of their lives, which are so different from our own, and that often humbles me. Education should be accessible everywhere in the world, regardless of a person’s background or circumstances. I also find it fascinating to follow the academic progress of those we help – we receive regular updates on their marks and career goals. We really appreciate this transparency from Aiducation. We’re not simply donating money here – we’re part of many different life stories.
Can you give us an example of this?
As part of our initiative, a young man from Kenya came to visit us in Switzerland and we were able to learn more about his story, which, thanks to our involvement, we were able to change for the better. He completed his entire academic career with the help of the Aiducation programme. I and everyone else present was extremely moved by this, because we could see and feel that our help was having exactly the effect we’d hoped. Aiducation regularly invites alumni to come and share their stories. Real-life stories help raise awareness and, of course, attract new sponsors.
The current scholarships, of which there are around a dozen, run until 2025. We had to put the ZIA on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. With sustainability concerns still very much in mind, we’re considering whether, in the interest of reducing CO2 emissions, we really need to fly people from Switzerland to South-East Asia or Africa for these training sessions in the future – even though, as I mentioned before, this experience is highly valuable for both sides. We’re currently exploring new formats, possibly also with a focus on European countries, as access to education is not always a given here, either.More about Diversity & Inclusion at Zühlke
Dr. Thomas Memmel has many years of experience in leading interdisciplinary teams and transforming corporate culture and environment. He has been with Zühlke since 2009, partner and member of the Executive Board Switzerland since 2014 and member of the Executive Board Germany since 2022. He is passionate about service and product innovation, business development, and creating new customer experiences. Thomas Memmel is currently responsible for the Financial Services and Enterprise Customers division.