It is from the leaders in the Corporate world that we expect innovations in wp as they have prior experience of corporate philanthropy, community engagement and sustainability measures. For the rest of the industry regardless of the ownership patterns and structures, there are lessons to be learnt from these leaders. If a corporation sets up a primary school in a village it is not translating itself automatically into a wp product; unless the good teachers are recruited, trained, adequate infrastructure is provided and literacy improves, then only a positive wp outcome can result. In the more contemporary times we have Wipro, and Lupin laboratories who have demonstrated social leadership of a unique kind in the primary education and health care sector. WIPRO clearly recognized the limits to corporate level wp which is very specific and explicit as it deals with the community development; and they set up the Azim Premji Foundation to undertake macroeconomic and social projects in the education sector.
[creativ_alertbox icon=”sitemap” colour=”blue” custom_colour=””]The Azim Premji Foundation Foundation works in 8 states which together have more than 3,50,000 schools. The Foundation has State Institutes in the capitals of select Indian states and several District Institutes within these states, each having dedicated teams. These Institutes work at the grass root level, closely engaging with the government education system. The range of work they do spans capacity building of teachers, head teachers and other functionaries at the district level and state level. It also involves work on curriculum, assessment, educational leadership and management, policy issues and advocacy at the state level. At many of the District Institutes, schools have been established for the specific purpose of demonstration. These schools provide quality free education to the local community, at costs and constraints similar to that of rural government schools. [/creativ_alertbox]
The advantage of the Foundation route in promoting product and process innovation is that it has no boundary constraint; it operates across India and in social sector projects in which corporate level wp will have a very nominal presence. For instance, a corporates level wp effort cannot engage in inclusive growth, whereas through a corporate Foundation a promoter of an enterprise can engage in inclusive growth.
The very objectives of corporate level wp and Foundation based social sector engagement activity are different; their methodologies and funding patterns are different. Their strategic directions are different. This is very fundamental reality to be appreciated, as wp is not a social welfare measure, welfare traditionally is produced by the government and the public sector. Social welfare issues like Sati, farmers’ suicide, dowry deaths, human rights violations (economic, cultural and social) etc require specific laws and regulations which only a Government can provide; industry cannot do so. Industry can help government by way of public-private partnership process, but it cannot supplant the government.
In Corporate level wp only a minimal and basic community engagement activity is possible – the companies do not have expertise and experience in developing a wp policy and practice. But when a corporation sets up a special purpose vehicle- a Corproate Foundation to explore alternative social sector agenda there is scope for product and process innovations. For instance, Bharti Foundation which runs primary schools in several states across India, recruits and trains teachers for these schools; this is a valuable contribution. But for many companies setting up primary schools is only adding to civil and social infrastructure with hardly any innovations in education delivery.
Another example where we find a complete lack of innovation is adoption of Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), which were set up for skill development by the government. But when we examine the working of ITIs after adoption, the question arises as to whether there was a different business model for reorganizing such ITIs?
[box] If corporations are to merely take over ailing institutions at the state level because the government is not able to run these schemes then there cannot be any social innovations. It is sheer duplicity and scarce capital and institutional resources are thus frittered away and therefore, this is an anti-wp activity.[/box]
The need for innovations in wp becomes all the more crucial as in most companies the HR and Corporate Communication departments take hits as they have to take on additional role and function. In many organizations wp is treated in a routine manner; since budget is allocated to plant more trees and provide ambulances to heath centers. This humdrum treatment to a very serious concept is a consequence of managerial mindset in which operating managers find this “soft” excess baggage unacceptable.
In conclusion we may suggest that only when companies integrate wp with their business model, corporate strategy, train their personnel, and create strategic partnerships with the NGOs and community; there can be potential ground for wp product and process innovation. One of the key sources of innovations is knowledge management; in more than one way even without formalizing wp in the past, large corporations have contributed to society but this is not well documented and wp communication has not received its due recognition. wp is developing social, intellectual, and human capital of a country and this calls for appropriate design and content interventions by the boards and top management of large corporations.
Professor C V Baxi has more than three decades of academic experience at MDI Gurgaon; his areas of teaching and research interests are social economics (wp and Sustainable Development), Strategic Management, Corporate Governance and Business Ethics; presently he is a visiting faculty to MDI, IIM Ranchi, IIM Kashipur and FORE Business School. He has been a trainer in the field of wp for public enterprises on behalf of SCOPE and designed and delivered management development programs for public and private industry including the MNCs.