Big visions.

The BMW Group and the UN Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC) support local initiatives with big visions around the world – and provide much more than just cash.

The Intercultural Innovation Award, a partnership between the BMW Group and the UN Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC), was presented last year at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. It is always the people and their ideas that move Bill McAndrews, head of BMW Group Communications Strategy and Corporate Communications. “90 percent of the awardees have experienced some major event in their lives that inspired them to seek social change. And that is exactly what they do – with a lot of passion and tremendous strength,” says McAndrews.

We talked to Bill McAndrews about an award that supports visions around the world to flourish.

Every year, the Intercultural Innovation Award is presented to ten initiatives and individuals committed to resolving intercultural tensions and conflicts. What does the award achieve?

Bill McAndrews: The award is designed to support impressive individuals, who have organized their ambitious ideas into exceptional social and community projects.

The monetary aspect of 5,000 to 40,000 dollars must be pretty appealing to most people ….

Bill McAndrews: The funding alone is not what matters most to the awardees. The candidates who apply for the Intercultural Innovation Award have long-term visions and have invested a lot of personal energy and expertise into their projects. But if they want to turn their ideas into something more substantial, they need to learn to operate their initiative much more like a professional entity. And that is where we, at the BMW Group, can offer them guidance and professional assistance to further strengthen their projects.

What does that look like exactly?

Bill McAndrews: The BMW Group – or, rather, our associates – support these entrepreneurs worldwide by providing extensive consulting services. We also offer different forms of training – for example, in public relations, so they can make their vision more visible and interest corporate and business sponsors. Such expertise and guidance is a key component in expanding their initiatives. Initially, many are reluctant to reach out to sponsors in the business world. We feel it is our job to help them overcome these reservations.

The Intercultural Innovation Award must surely be a good way to open doors?

Bill McAndrews: An award from UNAOC and the BMW Group can certainly open doors for local initiatives, but it’s no guarantee. It really depends on the people involved, their commitment and their personal engagement. Of the current awards, 85 percent of the projects are doing very well. They are growing and are reaching more and more people – and can ideally be replicated in other countries. We measure our success through their growth and replication. The Intercultural Innovation Award already supports 41 organisations and more than two million people in 105 countries. Our goal is to reach six million by 2025.

How can you be so sure?

Bill McAndrews: Our joint goal with UNAOC, from the beginning, was to create a community. We maintain close personal contact with the awardees globally, visiting them in their communities and staying connected via social media. All awardees also belong to the “Intercultural Leaders” network, which allows civil society organisations and young managers, including BMW Group associates, to share ideas and offer cross-cultural support. In this way, projects can achieve a long-term impact, based on the principle of “community capacity building”.

And what’s the benefit for the BMW Group?

Bill McAndrews: Our customers and associates rightly expect us to bring added value to society, to be an involved corporate citizen in communities around the globe and to support those looking to do the same. That is exactly what we aim to do with Intercultural Innovation Award. This is ultimately not just about the BMW Group; it is about the awardees and helping them to realize their visions – what they achieve is worthy of our admiration. We are proud to partner with these admirable individuals and their projects around the world, together with UNAOC.