Grayce Belvedere-Young is an exceptional woman from Minneapolis. She is a President at The Prouty Project, a pioneering consulting firm focused on strategy and organizational development. Grayce is also involved with numerous social causes in Minnesota, especially those related to women’s issues and education.
In April 2012, Grayce led a “STRETCH”, an international retreat Prouty carries out annually. Every other year the Stretch is service oriented, and this year Prouty teamed up with UBELONG to bring 20 of Prouty’s clients, colleagues and friends to the Galapagos for a week of service on the environmental projects in the Galapagos. Grayce worked with UBELONG to lead all aspects of the experience, from the programmatic to the logistical.
In addition to the service portion in the Galapagos, the itinerary included a visit with senior officials at the US Embassy in Quito and various meetings with leading conservation experts. The trip was a great achievement, and a reflection of UBELONG’s continued success in entering the corporate social responsibility space. We are thrilled to now introduce you to Grayce.
Why does Prouty do a STRETCH every year?
We want to give back. Service is an important part of who we are as a firm and it reflects our values. We volunteer locally in Minneapolis, with projects like the Animal Humane Society Walk for Animals and those run by Habitat for Humanity. Our employees sit on numerous nonprofit boards, including of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
We also recognize how interconnected we all are. What we do locally affects every other place in the world. Whether it’s water, trash, sanitation or what we put into the air, we’re all part of the same planet. One thing that really struck me in the Galapagos was seeing so many plastic bottles that had washed up on uninhabited beaches we visited. You can see how connected we are; the plastic we use every day in the US can end up on a far away beach in Ecuador. We all have a responsibility to reflect on how we act and, perhaps, to even do something like volunteering abroad to further be part of the solution.
What are three pieces of advice you would offer to another corporate group heading to the Galapagos to volunteer?
First, before you head out, have at least one group meeting so everybody can meet beforehand. We had a couple events like this, and they helped people form bonds. When we arrived in Ecuador, the team hit the ground running.
Second, do research about where you’re going and why. It’s important to know a little about the economy, culture and history of where you’re going. When we went to the US Embassy in Quito our first day, having some background knowledge let us engage and ask good questions to the experts we were speaking with.
Third, remember your hand sanitizer!
What was the impact of the experience on the projects?
We made a difference in the short time we were there. It’s incredible what 20 motivated people can do in such a short time. Everybody was committed to working hard and leaving a small but meaningful impact behind. We were part of a chain of volunteers doing great things, and that was very rewarding. Cutting down the mora [an invasive species in the Galapagos] was a big impact we made. It’s labor intensive, and that’s what we had in abundance. Working in the nursery was also helpful. The workers at the nursery were so pleased to have us; there’s a lot of work that needs to be done filling bags, planting seeds, moving plants and so forth. Because of how big and motivated our team was, we did a nice chunk of work in a very short time.
What was the impact of the experience on Prouty?
It was a great experience for everybody, which in turn is good for Prouty. First, it was a very enjoyable experience. We worked hard, had fun and I never would have thought I could live in such basic conditions. But we all survived to tell about it!
Additionally, we formed many new friendships . We all learned from each other. And finally, it made us all more aware of the world we live in and how important conservation is. To give you a small example, at the Prouty office we hold five to ten meetings with guest every day. We used to write a welcome message on a flip chart paper and just throw each sheet of paper away afterwards. However, after returning from Ecuador we decided to write the message on a white board to save paper. It’s a small thing, but this is how change happens. Step by step.