The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted education and employment severely. This, in turn, is extremely harmful to the country’s growth and development because by causing damage to employment it has directly shrunk the size of the economy, and by impacting education, it is set to affect its future. At this point in time, there is an extreme need for CSR intervention in these sectors to revive and rejuvenate them. Intuit India is engaged in this activity.
In an exclusive interaction with The CSR Journal, Saurabh Saxena, Intuit India Site Leader & VP, Product Development, Small Business & Self Employed Group talks about how Intuit is providing education support and career guidance through employee referrals and partnering with NGOs.
1. Education can play a significant role in defeating poverty. But for that to happen, the availability of quality education for all is essential. How can India standardize the quality of education for all?
Education is the key to shaping society toward progress. Education provides empowerment and gives a choice in making decisions confidently, raising the standard of living for entire families and children, also generating more employment options, and bringing change into the society.
As we continue to progress and improve our educational system, governments should strive to develop strategies with the goal of creating a healthy pipeline of talent. A good way to standardize this would be to incorporate a tailored structure to evaluate our educational practices, focus on modern and unconventional ways of education, provide adequate practical knowledge, and make sure that we have future-ready workers.
The National Education Policy, digital revolution and teaching innovations can propel Indian education to global standards and create new benchmarks. Technology-based learning is not new. But the last two years have made it immensely popular, more accessible and has accelerated efforts in finding successful solutions as governments and leaders create various actions to accomplish the Sustainable Development Goal 4 objectives. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation are ushering in a wave of disruptive innovations related to school-level learning with a twin purpose to scale up quality education and augment the learning of each learner through a personalized approach.
2. Please elaborate on the initiatives taken by Intuit that have made a difference in society.
We launched Intuit Rise: Girl Child Education Program in 2017 with the goal of empowering young girls, from low-income families who do not have access to education, through a comprehensive education assistance program, such as after-school education, life skills training, and career counseling. We are doing this through employee referrals and collaborations with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) dedicated to the same cause.
In addition to financing girls’ education, our Intuit Rise initiative focuses on their holistic development. It contributes to the cost of school, after-school tuition, transportation, books, uniforms, and other essentials for girls to succeed in school. We also assist with transportation issues.
We’ve also expanded the program by partnering with two non-governmental organizations to give even more support to the program’s participants. The Foundation for Excellence and Buddy4Study work with the girls in the program to help them prepare for competitive tests, apply to STEM colleges, and examine important documentation. Following the completion of their tests, the girls will be awarded a second scholarship from Intuit Rise to continue their STEM studies.
We started the employee referral program under CSR Indicatives in February 2021 to ensure that every employee who refers a deserving student will be a torchbearer for the child, encouraging her and her family to be achievers. Every employee who recommended someone to this program and is now a member of it is a change agent for a better society.
Under this initiative, we have six key initiatives that seek to provide a safe, structured, and holistic learning and growth environment for all the girls enrolled in the program. This includes sponsorship for girl children, sensitization of parents, after-school programs, aptitude tests, monitoring of attendance and academic performance, self-defense classes and awareness sessions, and counseling sessions for both parents and children. To date, about 362 girl children have been beneficiaries from at least 13 states pan India since 2017, and we’re determined to support even more.
Globally as well, we’re working to address the disproportionate impact of the digital divide on students in underserved communities through Prosperity Hub School Districts. We’re partnering with 21 school districts in nine countries to help provide equal access to educational tools for all students. In Fiscal 2021, Intuit supported over 510,000 students and educators with a goal to better prepare 3.6 million people for jobs by 2024.
3. How have you ensured the sustainability of these initiatives, so that the social impact isn’t reversed when the company retreats?
At Intuit, we’re passionate about making sure that everyone has the opportunity to prosper. Our purpose is to advocate for and inspire young girls, from low-income families who do not have access to education to realise their full potential by providing them with a platform where they may explore, learn, and grow without fear. Intuit Rise – Girl Child Education program takes a holistic approach to making a difference in the lives of girls and the society at large.
This year, our goal is to sponsor 277 girls, including 50 women engineering students. We are only going to scale this program further and the reason for this is because our employees are the driving force behind Intuit Rise and will continue to be an integral part of making this a success. We’ve rolled out new ways for our team in India to get involved. We’re encouraging employees to refer girl children from low-income families in the community around them to the program. We also launched a mentorship program where our employees will mentor these girl children and be a part of their success. As part of our recent volunteer drive, we donated 50 repurposed laptops to give the girls easy access to academic resources and create better learning experiences.
Our goal is to provide the opportunity and the tools for these young girls to thrive, creating a positive impact on their lives by making them responsible for their own dreams and aspirations. As a company that promotes equal opportunity and hires the top women talent, Intuit Rise is our contribution to growing the pipeline of women talent for the future.
4. The issue of unemployability of jobseekers in the Indian labour market is very prominent. How can this be resolved?
Education is the most powerful remedy to any problem in the world. However, according to data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, India has 53 million unemployed individuals as of December 2021, with many of them being women. The education system should be enhanced on all levels, from equitable educational opportunities to skill-based and computer knowledge. Job seekers who are having trouble deciding on a career path should seek advice from a career guidance expert.
By attracting more investments from the private sector, providing assistance to self-employed people, expanding employment exchanges, giving access to quality education, career guidance, skilling and practical learning opportunities, India can look to tackle its unemployability crisis. Additionally, sustained collaborations, strategic partnerships, and effective cooperation between organisations and stakeholders are critical to ensure quality with scale in skill development. A good example of effective partnerships is The National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and their strategic partnerships resulting in the Impact Bond for Skilling – the target group includes 60 percent women and girls to equip them with skills and vocational training and provide access to wage-employment in Covid-19 recovery sectors including retail, apparel, healthcare, and logistics.
5. Having worked extensively in these fields, in your experience what are some of the best CSR practices that can be followed for promoting basic education and literacy?
In my experience, the more you engage the community in creating a larger impact the stronger the program and bigger the outcome. That is how we have been running our Intuit Rise: Girl Child Education Program as well. Some simple practices that we’ve found effective include
– Identifying a purpose that is close to your organisations mission and what it stands for and implement it with fidelity
– Give your employees the ownership to make sure that your efforts are a success. For us, our employees have been the major drivers every step of the way whether it is through referrals of potential beneficiaries or providing mentorship to these beneficiaries, to help them with their growth
– Asset Support. Make sure that you have the right kind of support whether technical or otherwise to make your programs a success. The right kind of infrastructure goes a long way in making the whole journey seamless
– Use external and internal benchmarking to measure the success of your programs. Remember all stakeholders should understand the areas of opportunity, scope of improvement and what is already working well for you
– Celebrate achievements and share the knowledge with employees and other stakeholders as a way to showcase your impact, inspire change, and also as a way to scale your efforts
7. What role can CSR play in empowering women in India?
Previously, women were not sure about career opportunities or growth for myriad reasons – access to the right kind of education, family support, work-life balance and most importantly, the confidence to lead and have professional success.
Empowering women requires a committed effort and collaboration. Giving girls the services, safety, education, and skills they need in everyday life would enable them to fully grow and contribute to India’s progress. As per the Global Gender Gap Report 2021 published by the World Economic Forum, India is ranked at 140 out of 156 countries. Girls have a more tough time getting quality education, knowledge, and social networks in their daily lives. Millions of girls can benefit from access to programmes designed expressly for them, with an emphasis on education and life skills development, reducing violence, and taking into account the needs and contributions of girls from vulnerable groups, such as those with disabilities.
8. What are the future plans for Intuit CSR?
As mentioned before, we only want to grow this program and make sure we continue to provide supportive measures and infrastructure to make this program a complete success. Our goal is to sponsor 510 girls by the end of the next academic year.
We plan to further expand our ongoing education programme to include more employees and beneficiaries of our Scholar Mentoring Program designed to ensure the student / scholar is equipped with necessary life skills for future success in the workplace. A complete online platform will be created to connect our Volunteers / Employees with young and aspiring scholars along with a subject matter expert. This online platform will have a self-learning and video conferencing in-built feature which helps us to track the program success and how it is impacting the lives of students. We’re also collaborating with our We Care and Give Back (WCGB) team, an employee community, to source volunteers for the Mentoring program.
As schools and colleges have switched to online teaching methods in response to Covid crisis, many students from marginalised communities face challenges in accessing the right technology to be part of the learning process and end up being left behind, increasing inequality in educational outcomes.
To combat this urgent need, a total of 100 Repurposed Laptops Donation will be provided to our beneficiaries from our Girl Child project with minimal criteria. Having a laptop for a student means a lot more than easy access to lessons and assignments, also creating a better study space ensures overall development. Our staff recently donated 50 repurposed laptops to our project recipients as part of one of our latest campaigns to guarantee that we are boosting equity by offering greater possibilities.