Building a ” Social Fund” : Move beyond Corporate Social Responsibility!

Much distance has been covered in India to make corporates take some responsibility for the social cause. In fact many of the corporates have been at the forefront leading the cause of social development with much more force and vigour than the local governments. In the last decade there has been a renewed focus on developing engagement models to create effective partnerships between business and government to serve the society as its key stakeholder. CSR legislation was one such framework to provide a fresh impetus to further the cause of social good.

However, while all these developments have been great ideas to work upon, they are deficient on the fundamental approach towards inclusion. Social good- who should not be doing it? And there lies the scope for a solid foundation that can potentially revolutionise the social development as we see it today. Let’s focus on what business can do by leveraging its resources and connectivity.

  1. Identify a cause and build capacities to support it: Companies need to select a purpose that the want to serve and bring change about. This sense of purpose must be visible and palpable in the organization. Therefore, creating a dedicated team of passionate members who could drive the agenda across the organization to harness its cross-functional capabilities is a must.
  2. Do not just support a social project – Do a social project: Instead of giving financial support to NGOs, do your own stuff! A business and social enterprise can co-exist if it’s driven by a deep sense of purpose. We have examples from large MNCs –HUL that does such campaigns leveraging its marketing and sales capabilities, and smaller companies – Takshila Foundation in Bihar that runs a project in rural Bihar to promote sustainable living and governance.
  3. Promote the “purpose culture”: This is about how does a company engage with its employees to pursue things that are more meaningful for the organizational ecosystem. Employees can be engaged through opportunities for volunteering, fund raising and identifying the interactions of business objectives and a ‘cause’.
  4. Build a ‘Social Fund’: Create a voluntary fund by collaborating with the employees on a contribution basis and make employees responsible for disbursement to fund various activities. It likes an employee having his own social fund account within the organization that should be used up every year. The contribution can be worked out with the spirit of capturing and promoting the idea of ‘doing good’ and therefore should be in the ratio of 1:3 – therefore for every 100 rupee of employee, 300 is contributed by the company. And let this fund be used by the employee to further his social purpose in his/her own small way!
  5. Engage with Business Academia: Business organizations must emphasise on the social quotient as an import employability criteria for students and therefore engage with business schools to make necessary changes in curriculum. A well-partnered initiative on this can help in developing a new pool of bright minds that could carry out the purpose agenda and be called “Social Value Merchants”.
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