Three years since the Companies Act, which enabled essential reforms in governance, transparency and accountability – the landscape of Indian development sector is changing. Many corporate organisations falling under the ambit of the CSR law have taken the necessary steps to adhere to the guidelines. The potential investment in CSR from Indian Inc annually was expected to be about INR 15,000-20,000 crore by industry experts. However, while CSR in India is yet to reach its maximum potential, there has been a consistent increase in CSR spend. Statistics reveal that Indian companies spent INR 8,345 crore on various CSR activities in 2015-16, against INR 6,526-crore spent in the previous year, which is a 28% jump in total investment made by Indian firms on CSR.
While corporates are looking for NGOs with requisite business skills, which include strong finance, strategy and communications, they are yet to learn the functioning of NGOs and how to partner with them. The differing set of expectations from Corporates and NGOs hamper the formulation of successful partnerships and hinder efficiency. Also, lack of definite industry standards (implementation, monitoring and impact evaluation) obstructs productivity of both.
CSR has greater potential to tackle social issues rather than traditional corporate philanthropy. The CSR initiatives undertaken by corporates have created opportunities for NGOs and have major scope for advancement in terms of creating impact. But, the lack a common platform for knowledge sharing leads to a reinvention of the wheel.
Being the only country with legislated CSR, India needs a more cohesive and supportive ecosystem to overcome these challenges. It is essential to bring together major actors in the development sector (corporates/corporate foundations, NGOs and government agencies) and proactively facilitate knowledge-sharing and development of replicable and scalable solutions.
Synergistic partnerships between corporates, NGOs and the government could enable better transparency and maximise their social impact. Government data can be beneficial to guide CSR agenda towards areas where they are most indispensable. NGOs possess grassroots experience and knowledge of marginalised areas, which is critical to developing impactful social initiatives and corporates could leverage their business skills/acumen to further streamline these projects. These partnerships would also channelize CSR and government funding into the development sector and strengthen the ecosystem as a whole.
Not only would an interconnected and supportive system enable interaction among key stakeholders of the development ecosystem, it would also facilitate the creation of standardised frameworks to enhance the effectiveness of CSR. Through regular convening, research and dialogue between key CSR decision makers from leading corporates and corporate foundations, major concerns in the effective implementation of CSR can be identified. Valuable insights from members could lead to the development of innovative solutions to these challenges and also simultaneously assist in policy advocacy.
Similar communities of NGO leaders and NGO support organizations are important to bring NGOs across the country to share their learnings and experiences. This would reduce time and effort cost in duplication of programs previously optimized by other NGOs.
There are several corporates and NGOs that have started such platforms. However, these initiatives are localised and at a nascent stage. There is a need for more actors to step in, share best practices and create frameworks on a national scale to strengthen the ecosystem.
A symbiotic relationship among the actors of the development ecosystem will lead to socially responsible programs with maximum impact and scale for the social development of the nation.
Prerana Langa is the CEO of Yes Foundation, social development arm of Yes Bank. She developed YES! i am the CHANGE, a mindset transformation project, innovatively using the medium of films to ignite the spirit of driving positive social change amongst the youth enabling them to become agents of social change.
Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.
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