Case Study: Bridging the Digital Divide Through Story With SAP

Partner: SAP

What makes this project special 

As storytellers, we talk a lot about ‘connection’ — how stories build vital connections to ideas and to each other. However, despite the changes in storytelling over the past decade, it’s rare for us to talk about one very specific and important form of connection that many of us could not live without: an internet connection. 

Lack of access to modern information and communication technologies, including reliable broadband and mobile connectivity, is one of the key drivers of continued social inequity and injustice. No longer a luxury, access to the internet and digital technology is a necessity in the modern world. 

Otherwise known as the digital divide, this gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ continues to create far-reaching impacts across the economy, education, health, gender equality, and social inequity, widening the gap between less economically developed and more economically developed countries, and between educated and uneducated, and rural and urban populations. 

To bridge the digital divide, SAP’s Social Sabbatical program has instituted far-reaching and large-scale projects across the world to improve digital inclusion, among other critical business and social challenges.

A bird’s eye view

  • WHAT: Workshops and cross-country video story production
  • WHY: Tell the SAP Social Sabbatical impact story and celebrate the program’s 10 year milestone to engage and inspire
  • WHEN: 2022
  • WHO: SAP alumni, employees, NGO, and social enterprise partners from around the world
  • THE RESULTS: A story-driven ‘Bringing Our Best to the World’ campaign

The background – for those who want to dive a little deeper

10 years ago, world-leading software producer SAP envisioned a program that would bring their best to the world: the SAP Social Sabbatical. A portfolio of global pro-bono consulting programs, together with implementation partner PYXERA Global, the SAP Social Sabbatical enables employees to share their knowledge, skills and expertise with non-profits and social enterprises, delivering a ‘win-win-win’ for participants, organisations and the company alike in over 50 countries worldwide. 

Following an extensive and transformative ‘story-driven’ process for strategic communication & visioning with the Digital Storytellers team in 2021, key stakeholders  began to explore several of the rich storytelling themes to emerge from the program, including: Transformation, Empathy, Purpose, Diversity, Leadership, and Culture Change. 

With a fervent desire to find ‘storified’ ways of showcasing the program’s long-term and sustainable impact, a team of SAP employees and social enterprise partners embarked on a global video production piece that focused on personal transformation, with the support and guidance of our senior producers and filmmakers.

The challenge

Complementing their workshop and strategic storytelling processes the previous year, SAP wanted to use video production to:

  • Tell the SAP Social Sabbatical impact story to a wider audience in the lead up to the program’s 10 year anniversary;
  • Share the program’s key impact measures, including 6M+ lives impacted, 460+ jobs created, 450+ organisations supported, 359K+ hours volunteered, while making these results tangible and meaningful through individuals; 
  • Invite and excite new and existing audiences to ‘see for themselves’ the program’s immense track record, possibilities and opportunities to do good.

The solution

When you are sketching out the architecture of an impact story, often the most powerful stories are those that show (and tell) more than one side — e.g. a side of the participants or ‘helping hands’ and a side of those who benefit or ‘receiving hearts’. 

While it is not always possible, in the case of SAP’s Social Sabbatical, the organisation’s willingness to experiment with impact and purpose-driven storytelling allowed us to engage both alumni of the program as well as NGO/social enterprise partners and showcase the many ways this program impacts lives throughout the world.

Using every network, relationship and connection at our disposal, Digital Storytellers producer Arpita built and coordinated a network of highly skilled creatives, local producers and cinematographers across the globe from Bogota to Mumbai. On a tight timeline, in the middle of a travel-restricted pandemic, this incredibly complex multi-country production is one of the most logistically challenging yet rewarding projects we’ve ever been part of.


The process

  1. Series of pre-interviews: working with SAP employees and partners to plot and identify the myriad and intersecting ways in which the sabbatical experience has impacted each interviewee. 
  2. Logistics and coordination: local producers and cinematographers, SAP interviewees and partners were lined up across timezones, and briefed ready for the shoot.
  3. Story gathering: interviews conducted on-site across the US, Colombia, India, and Argentina, often traversing difficult terrain and navigating unpredictable challenges ‘on the ground’. 
  4. Synthesis and production: ensuring a consistent and engaging story throughout, footage was weaved together to create a 4:45 minute impact story. Want to take a look?

What emerged – the key outcomes

  1. An engaging story — threaded together across several continents, thanks to the extensive pre-interview and story-driven processes behind SAP’s project, what emerged was a compelling and cohesive narrative that engages new and existing audiences alike. Through longer form and shorter form cut down videos, these stories help to deepen the impact of the work and spread its ripple effect even further.
  2. Inspiration and fulfilment — SAP employees join the Sabbatical program to make a difference and spur on their professional and personal growth. With this story ‘artefact,’ alumni will now have a record of the work they did and the impact they created through the program.
  3. A shared sense of purpose and greater empathy — overcoming the instinct to make assumptions is a crucial part of the professional development that SAP brings its employees through the Sabbatical. This humility, empathy and commitment to ‘walking in the shoes of others’ helps to bridge divides beyond just the digital one. 

“I alone cannot change the world. But I can try to make it better … I mean, it’s just a small piece, but piece by piece, we can do something bigger.” — Muriela Schaab, SAP Procurement Specialist

Three things we learned

  1. Sometimes the most challenging projects net the most pleasing results: While coordinating global productions can be a huge logistical challenge, especially during a pandemic — getting the opportunity to build a highly-skilled and creative international crew, who collaborated quickly and efficiently to solve problems and produced a high-quality piece of work can make our job all the more rewarding.
  2. Story-driven productions help unlock connection and engagement: while there is deep richness in the process of storytelling itself, by shaping and distilling an impact story that marks a moment in time (in this case, 10 years of SAP’s Social Sabbatical) – you can use a video story to garner engagement and enthusiasm from new and existing audiences alike.
  3. Business is growing as a force for good: Increasingly, we are seeing businesses use their power, reach and influence as a force for immense social and environmental good. And when organisations of the size and scale of world-leading software company, SAP, come to the ‘business for good’ party — there is no limit to what we can achieve together.

Could this work for your organisation?

As you can tell, we love the challenge of finding a story, even in the unlikeliest of places. So, get in touch to see what’s possible for your organisation. 




CSR, csr film, csr storytelling, csr video, development, esg storytelling, esg video, purpose driven business, SAP social sabbatical, social business, Social Enterprise