Beyond Dole-Out: the Beyond CSR Journey

BY BERNADEE UY, society programmes manager

The Dilemma: Traditional CSR

A CEO who has a huge heart for development once told me that his company is looking for two things in their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes: impact and engagement. Impact means a real, long-term and sustainable positive effect that the corporations bring to their communities, and engagement means looking at CSR as an employee benefit; devising a way for employees to give back utilising their expertise and creating a sense of fulfilment as they contribute to permanent change.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Traditional corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes in the Philippines are usually one-off events and dole-outs. This model would predominantly mean that (1) corporate employees get involved in activities that are completely different from their skillset: tree planting, mangrove reforestation, play therapy and outreach programmes; (2) programmes are not embedded within the value chain of the corporation and (3) the impact does not last.

You can imagine how pleasantly surprised we were when Integrated Micro-electronics, Inc. (IMI) approached us in 2015 come up with a programme that would enable communities to be more self-sustaining and to help them graduate from the dependency mind-set caused by donations.

The Answer: Social Enterprise Leadership

Thus, the Beyond CSR programme was born. IMI, along with Laguna Water Corporation (LWC) and Ayala Foundation Inc. (AFI) identified 15 communities (and 30 community leaders) in Laguna province that they have already been helping. The goal was for these communities to transition from a dole-out model to a self-sustaining social enterprise model. The idea behind the programme was that when the corporations withdraw their support, the community leaders will take the lead and ensure that there are means to make the community sustainable. 

The programme uses the Active Citizens methodology with emphasis on social enterprise leadership. In the five-day workshop, we focused on helping the community leaders articulate their values and identity, their relation to their community and finally, the ways by which they can achieve what they aspire for.

Traditional corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes in the Philippines are usually one-off events and dole-outs. 

 

To complement the leadership module, we solicited the help of employees from the aforementioned corporations to come up with modules on hard core business skills. These employees were experts in their respective lines of work: financial management, digital marketing, legal structures, supply chain and other fields. They shared tips and stories, and more importantly, and they answered the questions of community leaders based on their specialised experience of running a big enterprise.

The Stories: Engagement and Impact

The programme was well-received both by the organisers and the communities. The employee-volunteers of the IMI, LWC and AFI said that they learned a lot and had a wonderful time preparing for the lectures and modules they shared with the participants.

There were also corporate leaders who served as panellists in the pitching competition and mentors during the small group sessions and they were able to draw on their extensive experience to suggest improvements to each enterprise, and inspire them to dream and plan bigger.

More importantly, the programme allowed us to engage with an audience that was usually out of our scope of work. Our target for capacity building programmes under the social enterprise strand of our work is usually the young, upstart entrepreneurs.

This time, we engaged grassroots and community leaders. This was an entirely different sphere of learning for us – because it allowed us to see that community leaders, in fact, create a bigger impact because they know what the community needs.

Take, for example, Nanay Coritz, a senior citizen fond of ballroom dancing. Her business in atchara-making has helped over 500 mothers from 20 barangays (small villages) earn an extra Php100 per day. 

Another example is Mr. Anthony Rebenque and Mr. Jason delos Reyes, both differently-abled and wheelchair-bound, both prominent management team members of a bake shop also run by persons who are differently-abled.

The Way Forward

We awarded the top three pitches with a small grant amount of Php10,000 as opposed to the original plan of Php100,000. We all decided that we will allocate the remaining money for awarding during a three-month monitoring and evaluation phase.

This phase will allow participants to apply for a grant based on their specified needs – be it in funding, equipment or capacity development. Monitoring and evaluation will be done through tracking of the social action plan and business plan of the entrepreneurs as well as community visits.

This is just the beginning. We are looking to work with more corporations who want sustainable solutions: in the company’s value chain, in its employee programmes and especially in the way it interacts with communities. If you are one of these companies who want to go beyond CSR – reach out to us. Let’s talk long-term.