Community Engagement

Building a Bridge: Wayfairians Use Their Skills to Solve a Shared Challenge

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On September 21, Wayfair held its first-ever skills-based volunteering event at the Copley Headquarters called Building a Bridge, where seven teams of Wayfair employee volunteers came together and leveraged their skills and experience towards a shared purpose: finding a solution to a problem being faced by a local non-profit organization.

Think of it like a hack-a-thon, but without the coding – just great people and ideas coming together to solve a shared challenge in a limited amount of time.

The event was focused on local Boston non-profit organization Bridge Over Troubled Waters, which provides effective and innovative services to runaway, homeless and high-risk youth, helping them transform their lives. Organizations like Bridge Over Troubled Waters are the perfect fit for Wayfair’s shared vision of helping to create more affordable, sustainable and accessible housing for all.

In the end, two winning teams were selected: one by Wayfair leaders and another by Bridge Over Troubled Waters.

The Challenge

Our teams’ task was straightforward, but not simple: help Bridge Over Troubled Waters create a compelling social media campaign for this year’s National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, which takes place in November.

First, the teams were given the context, data and insights they needed to understand Bridge Over Troubled Waters’ work before crafting a solution - but they only had four hours to do it. Once they had their proposals ready, they had five minutes to pitch them “Shark Tank style” to leaders from both Bridge Over Troubled Waters and Wayfair.

Despite this time constraint, and with varying levels of expertise and experience in this realm of work, our teams managed to blow the judges away.

”I have worked for small nonprofits in the past,” said Will Colan of Wayfair’s Storefront Team. “It was really interesting to see how our experiences could give Bridge Over Troubled Waters something so valuable and tangible, over the course of a single afternoon!”

The Solutions

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Winning Team #1 - Chosen by Wayfair

Members: Rachel Brady, Kayleigh Phillips, Emily Huizenga, Nicole Zaino, Jorge Villalobos Beato, Mario Zyla, Pralhad Kulkarni and Rahul Somani.

The Pitch: This team suggested that Bridge utilize Instagram & Facebook for general awareness and TikTok for youth-specific awareness. By providing spec and content best practices, this team put together a robust playbook that Bridge could easily implement in their social media content. They suggested using hashtags to drive traction around certain themes over Youth Homelessness Awareness Month. #MeetBridge was introduced as a “Day in Our Life” series that showcases content of young adults as they enter Bridge to demystify what happens once they begin receiving services. #BridgeStreetChats takes a “Billy on the Street” approach, heading to the streets of Boston to “quiz” people on stats around homelessness.

Winning Team #2 - Chosen by Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Members: Nathalie Kovinkov, Darwin Gray, Benjamin Hartman, Nantha Rajendran and David Anderson.

The Pitch: This team focused around the concept of a “team” and tied back the awareness campaign to sports. Specifically, this team focused on how they can spread the word about Bridge’s services to support more at-risk youths. The main theme was sports as a unifying factor and an equalizer. The team pitched opportunities to connect and collaborate with different Boston sports teams and sports foundations in the area, all around the hashtag of #TeamBridge.

Congratulations to these two teams on pitching winning solutions to a complex challenge! And while these two teams may have been selected as the winners, Bridge Over Troubled Waters will undoubtedly be picking different ideas and elements from each of the seven teams’ ideas for the actual social media campaign they implement in November.

“Being able to work with my team in an environment different than we are used to while learning more about the struggles of youth in our community was a true honor,” said Wayfair Category Manager and participant, Jason Shapiro.

A Wonderful Experience

Beyond being an impactful event, all participants – from Wayfairians to Bridge Over Troubled Waters – had a wonderful experience and enjoyed spending their day discussing the challenge and working towards solutions.

“The day was fun and, more importantly, provided us with tons of inspiration and great ideas for National Homeless Youth Awareness Month and beyond,” said Melissa Cording, Director of Development at Bridge Over Troubled Waters. “The excitement of the teams was palpable and their pitches were well-thought-out, innovative, and truly got at the heart of the youth homelessness issue. We look forward to revisiting all of their pitches.”

Learn more about how Wayfair is accomplishing its mission of supporting housing and a sense of home for all in our 2022 Corporate Responsibility Report.