The World Is Going Digital, Maybe It’s Time CSR Does TooYolandaAD
Volunteerism is commonly pictured as people physically assisting a community – building a house, cleaning up a park, reading to a child. But lockdown restrictions and the changing work environment means that this image may need to change as well. Companies are now confronted with the challenge of maintaining their CSR goals with limited face-to-face engagement. The greater challenge is that amidst the limitations of physical contact, the pandemic has left countless communities in even greater need of assistance. Donating food parcels, Covid-19 PPE, school materials and monetary donations may help a great deal, but during these unprecedented times people find themselves needing more.
This raises questions of how we can reach out from the safety of our own homes? How do we create equally impactful CSR initiatives during a time when being physically present in the community can do more harm than good? Social responsibility experts are quickly realising that similar to other business practices and structures, the success, impact, and longevity of CSR campaigns are dependent on the successful navigation to online spaces, even when the recipients are in a non-online world.
However, whether online or face-to-face, the heart of CSR remains the investment and involvement of all stakeholders for societal outcomes. CSR professionals are therefore having to find new and creative ways to extend their CSR activities in a manner that is just as impactful while not becoming impersonal and distant.
How can this be achieved? Indirectly, employees are encouraged to volunteer their services and time to worthy causes that still align with the company strategy. Companies with a passion for education may have their employees participate in online tutoring programmes for school kids. Fintech companies could assist small businesses by getting their employees to volunteer their professional skills to SMMEs that would otherwise not be able to afford them.
More directly, companies are integrating online CSR management systems using ‘hub-and-spoke’ project management. This is where the ‘hub’ community member liaises with the company via online tools, and then engages face-to-face with the ‘spoke’ community members while adhering to Covid-protocols. Although this type of project management is done remotely using cell phone or online technology, the measured impact on the ground is still unaffected.
The mode of CSR delivery may have changed, but the quality and impact need not be compromised. Enterprises can still maintain the familiarity and warmth of giving back, even in the midst of social distancing. All it takes is a little innovation to create maximum impact.
About the Author:
Yolanda Gossel is the Founder and Programme Director at Five Tulips, a South African based sustainability and corporate social investment (CSI) consultancy. Five Tulips forges partnerships between communities, public and private sectors and individuals for social upliftment and preservation of our planets resources and ecosystems.
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