India is the seventh largest country by area, the second most populous country and the most heavily inhabited democracy in the world. India’s democratic dividend is at its best and is potential to aid in economic development with abundant availability of workforce for global services. However, social parameters are not very encouraging even after nearly seven decades of independent rule. There is immediate attention to enhance human development indices. Not all children going to school would finish their high schooling. Health care is neither universal nor affordable. There are cases of malnutrition and infant mortality. Cleanliness is not a priority for majority of the population. There are regional disparities. Migration to urban areas is a big concern. Indiscriminate deforestation is already a threat. Urban water bodies are on the verge of extinction. Natural disasters and calamities are part of annual calendar.
The list is unending given the vast and diverse size of the country. There are many priority areas that need immediate attention to strengthen the social and economic fabric of the nation. However, Indian political system and policies have been very positive with focus on social welfare. One such policy is amendment to Companies Act 2013, to mandate to certain stipulated sizes of companies to spend 2% of their net profits towards social development projects. The cumulative 2% spend is a minuscule of government social development budget allocations, nevertheless, it complements existing government welfare projects. It would also infuse corporate best practices to improve government services for greater good. The compliance is also known as Corporate Social Responsibility. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) expects companies to undertake various social welfare projects listed under Schedule VII of the Act either independently or own trusts or through development agencies, typically, non-government not-for-profit organizations.
Over the last three years CSR Act has evolved significantly and influenced growth of not-for-profit agencies, increased funding social development interventions and caught attention of the media. However, there is tremendous scope to improve from the current standards and practices to address the long pending social development issues to create an equitable society. No doubt, there are significant number of projects that have been undertaken by corporate, be it supporting existing education system, strengthening health infrastructure, investing in technology incubation projects or supplementing government initiatives such as Swachh Bharat or Clean Ganga initiatives.
However, there are only few success stories and limited islands of excellence to speak. Given the significance of social development and mammoth size to reach, there is huge scope for large scale collaboration for company to company partnerships, execution agency collaboration and co-funding and co-execution of social development projects. It is important to understand, explore and list out enablers that make these into a reality. The aim of the current article is understand various enablers that encourage collaboration among cross-sector and business collaborations in creating significant and long lasting social impact.
One of the biggest enablers in facilitating collaboration is availability of credible platforms that encourage discussions, debates and deliberations in the CSR space. There are far and very few platforms in the existing time frame. Therefore, it is important that government, industry associations and large philanthropic houses invest in building as many platforms to encourage sharing, appreciating and recognizing good work. These help establish connect among companies and implementing agencies.
It is important to note that an individual effort, either by a single corporate or agency, would not achieve the vision for a better society on its own. The community needs are too big, numerous and society’s problems are too complex. These platforms help aggregation of all partner efforts under one roof and help in understanding various interventions, information on funding and execution partners, share best known practices, assess capacity of other partners and seek government support. These platforms also give access to new resources, expertise and skills to build visibility and capacity. Therefore it is important to strengthen existing platforms while building and nurturing new platforms at regional and national levels.
These collaborative efforts under various platforms help raise the voice and the voice is heard loud and clear. It is important to note that collaboration is essential to advocate for policy change and to build public support for national causes. The cross-sector and business collaboration would evolve over the long run and there several key issues that influence for successful collaborations. There are largely three challenges that need some thoughts prior to embarking the journey of collaboration in undertaking social development projects.
First, understanding and embracing differences, company to company or company to execution agency or co-funding of a larger cause. All partners have different points of view and all points of views are valid. One of the biggest challenges in building successful collaborations is embracing differences. The partners have to recognize and value their differences and agree on common operating principles. It is no rocket science to understand that the partnerships and collaborations are complex and challenging and but benefit mutually. It is ideal to approach relationships carefully, structure thoughtfully and development as it evolves.
Second, collaborations evolve over time. It is critical to note that quick success is like quick sand. It is important to note that scaling up of successful social projects need considerable amount of experimentation and calibre. The partners have to invest in time and efforts to give new partnerships the best chance of success. It also helps in assessing and combining the unique assets of each partner to deliver best evolved solution to address the social need. It’s a mutual success and certainly adds to existing deep social, cultural and environmental value of the corporate.
Third important aspect in evolving successful collaborative partnership is open communication and transparency in decision making. It is important to have clear understanding of roles and responsibilities for each partner and agree on process for dealing with disagreements and conflicts. Given the magnitude of social problem and complex challenges involved, partners have to prepare and brace for unknown eventualities.
Therefore to evolve successful collaboration among cross-sector and business collaborations is to have multiple credible platforms that create enablers to address large social issues successfully. It also means visionary leadership, effective planning and a clear focus on delivering a tomorrow with better economic, social and environment to live.
Nirbhay Lumde is a Corporate Social Responsibility professional and writes on current social, economic and environmental trends. He is an alumnus of IIT Bombay.
Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.