From Company to Community : Taking CSR to the grassroot

The article talks about the best practices which a corporate can adopt to not only enhance the effectiveness of its CSR strategy but also to strengthen the relationship with the society.

Local meeting at the village in Rajasthan. Source- Author’s own photograph taken during field work

By Priyanka Chhaparia 

Corporations cannot function in isolation. Their relationship with the society needs to be nurtured and maintained both for sustainable business and inclusive development. Over the years, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become an important aspect of Indian corporations, more so since the enactment of the CSR law in 2014.

There are various ways in which the community can be integrated for the effective and efficient CSR strategy. Through my field work undertaken as part of my doctoral thesis, I was able to identify few practices which not only makes the community an integral part of the decision making process but also acts as a catalyst for growth of the business.

Following are the few ways in which business can approach the community it is working in:

Need- based intervention

The companies have started realizing that the activities under CSR cannot be formulated in the board room solely by the management. The community has to be engaged at every stage to ensure the success of any sort of intervention. The bottom up approach and decentralized planning are the need of the hour. The selection of intervention sectors should be done on the basis of village needs. Moreover, the company or the foundation should not follow a rigid and uniform CSR plan. Rather it should have room for modification and updation of the programmes as per the need of people at the grassroot level.

Parallel Gram Vikas Panchayat

In order to ensure successful execution of the company’s need-based programme, a village level committee can be constituted. This committee would work closely with the village people and communicate the need of the village to the company. This sort of parallel Gram Vikas Panchayat has been experimented with and has proved to be a successful model. It ensures the participation of community at all levels- from planning to implementation. It also provides villagers with a sense of ownership which in turn ensures sustainability and accountability. The committee can be composed of 10-11 members to be selected internally among the villagers during local village meetings.

Community Participation

Any successful social intervention relies heavily on active and fruitful community participation. The company/foundation can adopt innovative ways for the community to participate and take action together for their own development. One such example is Prabhat Pheri wherein the villagers go around the village in the morning singing and humming devotional songs. The company/foundation can provide them with musical instruments and other support that they might need for this. This activity helps in promoting brotherhood, solidarity and harmony in the village community.

Local potential

The CSR interventions cannot be uniform across different regions. A company/foundation should design area specific plan based on the potential of the village and its dwellers. The range of activities have to be diverse and updated according to the demand of the villagers and the market. While doing the field work, I found out that a particular activity was running successfully in one village but was a failure in another village. There were socio-economic factors at play here like religion of the beneficiaries, the average age of the villagers, the accessibility to the market etc.  The company/foundation should be able to identify the different factors that might interact with their CSR strategy and then plan the interventions accordingly.

Model Building

The company/foundation can builds models for its different set of activities to promote a healthy and sustainable way of living. The models which show tangible and visible outcome act as the

motivator for other villagers. These models like model organic farming unit or dairy unit have to be work of the beneficiaries themselves who have excelled in their work. The interested beneficiaries can visit these models to learn and get inspired.

Collaboration and Partnership

The collaboration and partnership with different kind of institutions should be an integral part of any company’s CSR policy. Collaborating with government, non-governmental institutions, local organizations, at all levels would help deliver the best of solutions to the village problems.

The above few practices would go a long way in strengthening the relationship between business and society and would benefit the relevant stakeholders in the process.

Working with the community in a village in Goa
Source- Author’s own photograph taken during field work

(Author Priyanka Chhaparia is Ph.D. Scholar (Sociology), Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT Kanpur.)

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of India CSR.

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