In today’s socially conscious world, the purpose of corporate social responsibility (CSR) stands beyond merely being a legal obligation. It cannot be denied that CSR regulations mandated by the government of India opened a gateway for businesses to interact with agencies working on-ground and enabled a plethora of opportunities for them to formulate welfare programmes for the betterment of the communities.
Businesses have usually designed social interventions and calculated probable impact by standing at one end of the spectrum. CSR in the country is no more about compliance with the laws and regulations, it is now more about how businesses can transition beyond the mandate and efficiently engage with the communities.
The way businesses perceive communities needs to undergo a monumental shift. The traditional approach of taking a bird’s view of communities affects the impact created on-ground. Communities can no longer be considered as the end-of-line beneficiaries. They would have to move up in the pyramid not just as stakeholders but as participants of businesses’ inclusive growth plan.
Businesses have the option of setting up their own philanthropic arm. However, not all of them are equipped to do so and for those who are, geography is no more a limiting factor because the advent of CSR advisors and consultants has eliminated it. The genesis of these advisory firms or consultants is a direct result of the popularity of CSR adoption in the country.
These firms offer a platform to NGOs, foundations, researchers, corporations, PSUs and multilateral organizations to interact and achieve their goals and make informed decisions that translate into purposeful action with large-scale impact. They help communities and businesses by forging a symbiotic relationship between non-profit organizations, those who are working on the ground and those who have the means and resources to enable that change.
Equipped with a vast network of NGOs spread across the country, they can efficiently reach out to the bottom-of-the-pyramid market. Through their array of services, such as designing social initiatives, advising efficient ways on community engagement, assisting and providing support for implementation of social initiatives, measuring impact created, and providing opportunities to NGOs for raising funds and resources. They have effectively and efficiently brought businesses, NGOs and communities closer in the CSR paradigm.
Hence, the “gap” that is so vehemently talked about between businesses and communities exists because we allow it to. The current COVID-19 crisis has torn apart the socio-economic fabric of the nation and has exposed its inadequacies and vulnerabilities. The contours of CSR in the nation have changed owing to the disruption caused by the pandemic.
During these unprecedented times, it becomes absolutely necessary and imperative that communities are placed not at the end of the line, but at the beginning. They need to be lifted from the grassroots level to the top of the pedestal. The “gap” is the by-product of our prejudice of treating the communities as outsiders, as not part of the spectrum.
The moment communities stop from being perceived as those for whom social interventions and impacts are designed, and become units that can become active participants of effecting the change, the entire process of social welfare becomes homogeneous in nature and the gap dissolves.
Any system cannot work efficiently if all associated units are not in unison and do not perform complementary functions. Mind the gap. Social welfare in the country can no longer be linear but has to become circular in motion.
Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.
The author is an ex-aviator and the Founder of Fiinovation, a research and advisory firm that offers expertise in the CSR and sustainability domain. It is focused on enhancing quality across the organizational value chain through innovation. Dr. Chakraborty has put together ‘Asia’s First Proposal Design Laboratory’ on CSR and Sustainability. Backed by rich sectoral experience, he also translated his on-ground knowledge to academics and obtained his PhD in Sustainability and leadership.
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The CSR Journal Team