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Forever Friday—Zeno Gives Back

By Grant Deady

 ZGB 2020 Collage

Since joining Zeno shortly after the agency was launched in 1998, I have experienced more than 1,000 “Fridays”—the last day of the work week, most often spent huddling with colleagues, touching base with clients and getting organized for what lies ahead come Monday.

But this last Friday—January 17, 2020—was different, and one I will never forget. It marked Year 2 of Zeno Gives Back—an event that encourages Zenoids around the world spend part (or all) of their day donating time, knowledge and skills to organizations in their communities that need help. ZGB was created in response to an employee survey that found our team members wanted to see the agency doing more to support the communities where we live and work.

Like most big ideas, Year 1 was viewed as experimental—a test to see if people were truly “into” the idea and able to make an impact. We saw enough positive feedback from staff and clients to green light the program again in 2020, and asked people to take it to the next level.

And in true Zeno fashion, to the next level it went. And beyond.

Before I turned in for bed on Thursday night, I did a quick check of the Zeno social handles. And there it was—ZGB 2.0 was underway, photos and video of my colleagues in Malaysia at a “zero waste workshop,” others in Singapore at the Institute for Mental Health and in India with the transgender icon Gauri Sawant learning about the children’s shelter she runs. The energy in the content I viewed was palpable, our people with their sleeves rolled up and smiles on their faces—you could see the gratitude of those we were assisting. ZGB was off to a fast start on the other side of the world. And by the time the sun came up here in the U.S., things were really rolling:

  • 3 Monkeys Zeno was making a 15 mile trek across London raising money for the Mental Health Foundation—they walked all day in the cold, but looked so happy doing it—energized by their ongoing commitment to mental health!
  • Zeno New York up early working with Meals on Wheels
  • Toronto is packing winter essential kits for women in need
  • Texas is at a local food bank
  • Chicagoans are at From Cradles to Crayons writing letters of encouragement to at-risk youth, volunteering at Miseracordia and walking dogs at a shelter
  • And finally ending the day in California seeing Zenoids caring for canines at Vanderpump Dogs and serving hot food to the needy at St Anthony’s Padua.

It was a beautiful 24-hour whirlwind of giving, a truly global day of service (and only part of the action captured in the paragraph above). Zeno is a special place, the fearless spirit of our staff is on full display every day. We do a lot of really great things to fuel our culture and inspire our people and clients. But Zeno Gives Back, only in Year 2, is my favorite thing we do—it is pure green.

My colleague in Chicago, Amanda McGuire, said this: “We all recognize that giving back is incredibly important – for our communities, non-profit partners and even for our own personal growth – but our lives move so quickly that it can be difficult to find the space to do so. I’m grateful for a workplace that provides a dedicated day to show up in our communities. At the same time, Zeno Gives Back also provides profound moments of gratitude for our own privileges. I volunteered at Cradles to Crayons, an incredible non-profit that provides essential items to children living in homeless or low-income situations. I’m grateful for the personal perspective that ZGB gives me during these moments, and the important reminder to continue to give back to others who aren’t as fortunate.”

More than 1,000 Fridays at Zeno over the last 20+ years. It’s slightly hard for me to wrap my head around that. But this one—Friday, Jan. 17, 2020—I will remember forever. As the agency’s Chief Culture Officer, I was bursting with pride. We’re onto something big with Zeno Gives Back, and I am already thinking about how we will top it in 2021.