Strengthening Ecosystem: The next big things for CSR in India

These wouldn’t happen unless enablers infuse CSR ecosystem. It is important to note, why are we talking about ecosystem and why do we need it in the context of CSR?

Rusen Kumar
Rusen Kumar

By Rusen Kumar

It’s a fast moving world, be it world of technology or medicine. The world is moving at a much rapid pace. The same is true for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in India. The good CSR gets nurtured in good ambience. But it is true the other way round as well. It needs eco system to grow better, bigger and faster. It is also about improvement in social indicators.

These wouldn’t happen unless enablers infuse CSR ecosystem. It is important to note, why are we talking about ecosystem and why do we need it in the context of CSR?

Ecosystem is a network interconnected system that helps its components to grow and grow stronger. The components are equally important as the ecosystem. In the context of CSR ecosystem, NGOs, private enterprises and government are primary stakeholders. The secondary players that fuel CSR ecosystem, mostly intangible, are technology and innovation.

The third and more important enablers are communication, media and platforms. The biggest among these enablers is an interconnecting agencies, institution of par excellence, act as think tanks.

It is important to speak about primary stakeholders, NGOs, private enterprises and government. The role of NGOs as implementing agencies is extremely critical for three reasons; first, they are shouldering corporates’ responsibility on behalf of thousands of corporates, second, NGOs have the know-how and third, they are biggest partners in success of the programs.

The private entities are pivot as a source of funding and keeping the system well-oiled. The third biggest partner is government, enabling NGOs and corporates to execute the programs. There is always space for improvement with respect to government in making the CSR Act more inclusive but there are no complaints. It is a good beginning and a good beginning is half done. These will evolve over the years but government could do more by adding couple of more ‘think tanks’ through promoting academic, research and management institutions. ‘Think tank’ aspect would be discussed at a later stage.

The secondary players that fuel CSR ecosystem, mostly intangible, are technology and innovation. These are in the form of making the space more interesting with their innovation in program implementation, addressing unique problems and reaching the scale. It is critical to leverage the role of technology in scaling up of programs. Technology has to be ingrained in every aspect of the program to retain the flavor and pass on the learning.

It is important to note that innovation is must as enough of social development experiments have been conducted in India and it is time to show some result oriented frameworks. It is important to note that most of the corporates worthy of spending millions of rupees under their CSR have constantly innovated and invested heavily to reach their current levels.

Therefore, corporates would do wonders by pushing implementing agencies to innovate and invest in technology for addressing social issues. It is also important that enterprises work closely and pass on roots of innovation and technology to NGOs.

The third and more important enablers are communication, media and platforms. Communication is soul of CSR and every effort has to be taken to improve the efficiency in communicating the updates, best practices and success stories. There’s immediate need for media houses is to invest heavily on speaking about CSR, even more, positively to have as many enterprises come out to publish stories.

India CSR Cartoon Award Special Prize Winning Cartoon by B. Manoj Chopra, Jammu. Copy Right: Cartoon Watch & India CSR Network.

There’s fear of negative reporting and it is holding back enterprises in taking bold steps. Media can help in building corporates’ confidence to invest heavy on social projects. It is equally important to make use of social media platforms and encourage employees know the good deeds. Good always helps positively for business.

Creating, nurturing and strengthening showcase and recognition platforms is next big enabler in making CSR space more vibrant. First, such platforms help aggregate private enterprises under one roof. Second, it helps private enterprises and implementing agencies to showcase their work; and third, it validates and authenticates the good work among peers and subject matter experts. It is important that government encourages such showcase and recognition platforms as these help immensely and motivate keys players of CSR invest in such platforms.

Reward and recognition are best ways of acknowledging someone’s efforts positively. There’s always scope for improvement but that should not hinder celebration of small successes. Celebration of success adds zing to the CSR ecosystem.

As discussed in the earlier part, the next biggest enabler is establishing ‘think tanks’. These are institutional support systems that connect all the above three interconnected network. Institutions along with platform play a significant role in fortifying learning and formalize learnings. These need equal investments from the government and private enterprises. It is important that these ‘think tank’ survive in the short run to make big in the long run.

It is high time all stakeholders in the CSR space believe that vibrant CSR ecosystem is critical for survival and strengthening of CSR. Therefore, it is critical to get all relevant stakeholders under one roof, be it government, public and private enterprises, academic institutions, and media in strengthening the CSR ecosystem.  The need of the hour is to get the entire ecosystem together and focus on making CSR ecosystem a more vibrant place. A robust CSR ecosystem gives level playing field for everyone and every size of enterprise. The role of the India CSR Network is to nurture such platforms and forums.

(Founder of India CSR Network, Rusen Kumar is a CSR think tank in India. He has been writing on CSR for last 9 years. Rusen Kumar has been conferred with the prestigious ‘CSR Person of the Year Award’ for his outstanding contribution to the promotion of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in India. Dr. Paul Dhinakarn– Chancellor of Karunya University and Dr. Chandan Mitra – Former MP (Rajyasabha) and Editor and MD of Pioneer Newspaper honoured him at India International CSR Conclave & Awards this year. India CSR Network is the largest CSR Network and newswire in India.)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the article are solely of the author in personal capacity and do not in any way represent views of any institution, entity or organization that the author may have been associated with.

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