With the advent of globalisation, the need to connect the entire world with each other arose. Companies such as Cisco facilitated the same. However, virtual connections are highly relevant today in the COVID and Post-COVID world, where a major chunk of population is and will continue working from home.
In absence of seamless communication, the world will go at a standstill. Virtual communications have allowed the world to conduct international relations, education, judicial and legislative functions and many of the other essential functions required in day to day functioning of countries in a global order.
Cisco has pioneered the technology that connects everything. The company believes that connections have the potential to create opportunity for everyone and to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Therefore, it uses its technology, expertise, and resources not only to provide value for customers, but also to make a positive impact on people, society, and the planet.
Approach to Corporate social responsibility (CSR) at Cisco
CSR is core to the purpose, culture, and the investment model of Cisco. The company focuses on the issues that align with its business strategy, and where it can have the greatest potential for global impact, including inclusion and diversity, supporting local community programs, and reducing its environmental impact.
The company’s success is built on a Conscious Culture, where trustworthiness and ethical conduct are expected and supported among employees, suppliers, and business partners. For Cisco, Conscious Culture is an inclusive and diverse environment, moulded by its beliefs, behaviours, rituals, and principles and how employees experience this through their work and teams.
The company believes that in order to create new possibilities for people, society, and the planet, Cisco needs to take a holistic approach where CSR and social impact are integrated across the business. Therefore, the company uses the power of its technology and the expertise of its employees to accelerate global problem solving and advance social and environmental benefits.
CSR of Cisco in India
‘Reflecting Cisco’s global CSR efforts, our purpose in India goes beyond profits to benefit our employees, communities, and the planet,’ reads their website.
‘We have always prioritized providing individuals and communities access to opportunities, to help individuals meet their basic needs, gain skills, or find employment in a digital economy. Our focus is also to build digital capacities of professionals which not only have an immediate impact for their beneficiaries but a long-term impact on the entire ecosystem. In partnership with nonprofit and nongovernmental (NGO) sector players in the country, we aim to drive greater outcomes, creating a more inclusive future for all,’ Harish Krishnan, Managing Director & Chief Policy Officer, Cisco India & SAARC mentions in his blog post.
India Cash Grant program
The India Cash Grant program aims to identify news ways to solve challenges by partnering with civil society agencies and key stakeholders. With the help of their partners, Cisco creates technology-based solutions to improve lives and enable an inclusive future for all.
Their focus areas for funding include
1. Critical human needs and crisis response
2. Economic empowerment
1. The community partners for critical human needs and crisis response supported through Cisco’s India Cash Grant Program (IGGP) are mentioned below.
Akshaya Patra Foundation
Cisco says that they have helped Akshaya Patra Foundation reach more than 250,000 students cumulatively over several years of partnership and also supported the team in digitizing seven kitchens and two offices across the country through a one-time grant. The ICGP program supported the provision of 600,000 cooked meals during the first wave of COVID, as well as providing grocery kits to 36,000 students and student families during the second wave of COVID.
ActionAid India – Tamil Nadu
To support COVID 19 vaccination in Tamil Nadu, Cisco announced partnership with ActionAid India—an organization that has been working on vaccine delivery to vulnerable population. In Tamil Nadu, the efforts are focused across Villupuram, Tiruvannamalai, and Dharmapuri. The project aims to administer 260,000 doses to individuals over 18+ years of age by March 2023.
Piramal Swasthya – Assam
Cisco’s partnership with Piramal Swasthya is through ‘Niramay’. This is a collaboration between the National Health Mission, Assam, Piramal Swasthya and Cisco to strengthen public health care in Assam. This project aims to enable telemedicine interactions, rapid diagnostics, maintenance of patient health records, and data collection at the grass-root level in three aspirational districts in the state. The program is currently entering its second year of implementation.
Save the Children – Uttar Pradesh
Cisco’s partnership with Save the Children titled ‘Project Pratiraksha’ aims to strengthen COVID-19 vaccination in the districts of Balrampur and Shravasti in Uttar Pradesh. The focus is on marginalized communities who often show hesitancy for vaccination.
United Way Delhi – Delhi, Noida, Gurugram, and Bengaluru
Cisco partnered with United Way Delhi after the second wave of the pandemic in India with the aim of providing critical medical equipment to hospitals treating COVID-19. CISCO says that their grant has helped augment medical equipment availability in up to 15 hospitals across Delhi, Noida, Gurugram, and Bengaluru. This project aims to support over 20,000 people directly, including patients and hospital staff.
2. The community partners for education supported through Cisco’s India Cash Grant Program (IGGP) are mentioned below.
Akshara Foundation is working for equitable access to quality pre-school and elementary education for all children. Over a three-year partnership, the team at Akshara Foundation developed Building Blocks—an app-based solution which provides access to mathematical practice and learning for children in grades 1 through 5 via interactive games.
Center for Networked Intelligence
In partnership with premier research institute Indian Institute for Science (IISc) Bangalore, Cisco has set up the Centre for Networked Intelligence. The project proceeds from the premise that, when every object is connected within a networked system and is easily accessible, the value of the object and the system to which it is connected increases many-fold, thereby better fulfilling to the promise of networked intelligent systems. The purpose of the center is to enable the creation of the intellectual capital needed to realize this promise.
Gooru India Foundation
Via a multiyear partnership, ‘Navigator Disha’ was created to contextualize an existing offering by Gooru—the Learning Navigator Platform and its various apps—with offline features in India, thereby better supporting all types of learners in technologically challenged environments, especially those with intermittent or poor connectivity. The project is currently in its second year of funding and implementation.
Cisco embarked on a three-year partnership with Indus Action through project ‘Eklavya’—supporting the effective implementation of the Right to Education Act, 2005. Cisco’s grant supported the development and maintenance of the Management Information Systems for state governments, helplines for different streams, and an in-house tool known as the Campaign Management System (CMS).
Leadership For Equity – Maharashtra
Leadership For Equity is an organization working towards systemic change in the education sector. They partnered with Cisco to launch the Leadership Enhancement & Academic Development (LEAD) program. This is a government-certified blended learning course for officers in the education department in Maharashtra. Offered in regional languages, the content consists of field-based examples and case studies focused on program design, implementation skills, and organizational skills, such as team management for the middle-level management of the education department.
Meghshala Online – Manipur and Sikkim
Through a two-year partnership, Cisco supported Meghshala Trust—a program designed to reach and impact students in the states of Manipur and Sikkim in partnership with the education department. Meghshala’s digital teach kits provide access to contextualized pedagogic practices in everyday classroom learning with the use of images, videos, activities, and strategies—helping convert the classroom into an active learning space. The grant additionally supported the development of an offline content box to help communities in remote areas with limited connectivity.
Pratham Books’ platform Storyweaver offers books for young readers in over 300 languages. Cisco partnered with Pratham Books to increase the number books focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) for young readers. The grant also funded the set-up of physical libraries in schools for underserved and low-income private schools.
Sikshana Foundation – Karnataka
Cisco supported Sikshana Foundation over a three-year period to develop and implement ‘Prerana 2.0’—an initiative aiming to address foundational arithmetic skills in students with needs across government-run schools in Karnataka. The program is designed to address student needs through a customized Learning-Achievement Path (CLAP) and provides an experiential learning module for students to strengthen their skills through Project-Based Learning.
3. The community partners for economic empowerment supported through Cisco’s India Cash Grant Program (IGGP) include:
CISCO and Villgro’s accelerator program for women-led climate solution startups
Social enterprise incubator Villgro and Cisco India Cash Grant Program in November, 2022 announced the launch of TVARAN, an initiative that will support the growth of India’s women-led social enterprises in climate action. The program aims to expand the market presence of women-led start-ups innovating in renewable energy, water and waste management and climate-smart agriculture. Through the acceleration program, Villgro and Cisco jointly announced that they will deploy support mechanisms in the form of financial support of INR 1 crore (up to INR 20 Lakhs per start-up), as well as support the capacity building, business planning, mentorship and peer learning.
Cisco Agri Challenge
Announced in December 2020 in partnership with the Principal Scientific Advisors Office, the Government of India, and The Nudge, this challenge was designed to identify solutions that can create impact at scale for small and marginalized farmers. The challenge mobilized agriculture startups working towards income generation and sustainable livelihoods for underserved farmers, while delivering positive economic, social, and environmental value. The goal was to identify solutions with a potential to impact 10 million lives over 5 years. S4S Technologies was selected as the winner, and Bioprime Agrisolutions emerged as the runner-up.
Launched in 2021 in partnership with Social Alpha, Krishi Mangal is a scale-up accelerator to support startups working on solutions for smallholder farmers. In the first cohort of the program, five in-revenue startups were selected and provided support through the year to scale their interventions. Primary outcomes included increasing incomes, creating jobs, and promoting micro-entrepreneurship along agriculture and its associated value chain. Cisco also funded the development of an open innovation platform for the Agri sector.
Cisco’s partnership with Quest Alliance has impacted government-operated Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) across Gujarat, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Bihar, seeking to equip students with employability skills and placement opportunities. Cisco is also an anchor partner of the Future Right Skills Network, along with Accenture and J.P. Morgan. The network is supported by civil society organizations and state governments in partnership with the Directorate General of Training (DGT) under the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. The purpose is to empower young people in technical and vocational training institutes with employability skills for the knowledge economy.
An initiative conceptualized within Cisco, thingQbator helps students in universities learn about digital technologies in a hands-on environment, turn their ideas into working prototypes and curate local solutions to local problems. The program is being implemented across 30 universities in the country by Cisco’s program partner, Nasscom Foundation. The learning material is most relevant for young entrepreneurs. Industry experts have been recruited to provide mentorship and guidance.