It is quite understandable that companies compete with each other for business. Therefore expecting them to ‘collaborate’ sounds misaligned with their objectives and messages they are hearing internally. However, when organizations, governmental agencies, NGOs and implementation partners focus on gaining brownie points for CSR and to build a ‘reputation’ it leads to ‘up-manship’, defeating the very purpose of doing what’s right for the communities we serve. While there are positive signs and influences that nudge organizations to partner with each other on corporate social responsibility, it is limited in its intent and action. For example, in India, while the CSR Act has spurred organizations to act through giving the preference is to go about funding on their own rather than look at the broader need of society and engage together. Getting organizations to collaborate takes more than just rhetoric. Here are some pointers which can get the most out of inter-organizational collaborative initiatives.
· Partnering beyond transactions: Having an eye on the larger picture and not getting caught in transactional engagement can enable like-minded entities to come together for the common good. We mustn’t worry that some entity in this engagement may take undue advantage of the partnership leading to mistrust and dissonance. Sooner or later it will catch up – so don’t let it weigh down your effort. Sharing of best practices, technology, data, resources, implementation experience, tools, and training can lead to better focus and lesser duplication of effort. Build sustainable plans and involve entities who have their heart in the right place.
· Matching ideas and implementation: There are ideas and then there is status quo. To be socially responsive organizations need to not just have great ideas but find ways to make them work. Most ideas fizzle out due to lack of foresight and implementation expertise. Marrying these two gives organizations that ‘sweet spot’ propelling initiatives forward. Bringing givers and doers makes a world of difference to initiatives where focusing beyond near-term goals and personal interest matters. Which means when organizations hire for such roles they need to consider how oriented individuals who champion causes are towards collaboration and giving.
· Thinking of the other: An interesting study called the Good Country Index qualifies countries based on their contribution to the world. It isn’t about funding but how they have added value to the world beyond just their own people. By changing from the inside out, Simon Anholt, a policy advisor for many countries, believes that we can be better organized as species. When you think ‘good’ for others, you also become competitive. This applied to corporations as well. Going beyond meeting quarter results or reporting to stay compliant with government regulations can steer meaningful motives to a whole new level. I encourage you to watch his TED talk on what makes a country good vs selfish.
Leading with knowledge and insights: The good news is that collaboration among companies, NGOs, governmental bodies and implementation agencies is on the rise with the common intent of CSR outcomes. Many companies are open to collaboration, though there is uncertainty on how to go about it. Themes like environment, education, and healthcare continue to get focus from organizations and innovative solutions for complex challenges are the need of the hour. Trends indicate that cleaner environment, renewable energy, focus on water and being net positive will gain interest and attention.
· Learning to be led: There is a feeling that if you aren’t leading then you must be doing something wrong. There is, according to me, very little truth in that. You don’t need to head an initiative to demonstrate your leadership. It can happen at all levels and in the most inconspicuous situations. Be it preparing a plan, charting an agenda or preparing a roadmap for partners to direct their joint effort. Often egos come in the way of great work. When it is about score keeping and getting the visibility you ignore why we are even doing social responsibility initiatives. Humility plays a big part in getting ahead with meaningful community work. Companies must learn to appoint representatives who are givers rather than takers, build a culture of giving within and recognize those who contribute to causes beyond their teams. Following a good leader or a concept doesn’t make us any inferior.
Collaboration is a force amplifier and when partners rise above differences and tap the collective power of ideas we can achieve shared success. How do you think collaboration can improve the value corporate social responsibility adds? I invite your ideas here.