Technology as a game-changer for CSR
Business objectives and social responsibility for a corporate should be two sides to the same coin in the interest of the society as a whole, and the business in the most efficient and sustainable manner. Corporates across the world agree that their business objectives and social responsibilities aren’t watertight compartments, the later has a significant impact on the former. For this relationship to be further strengthened in a win-win situation, there’s only one way to go – leveraging technology.
There is a huge potential of technology in strategizing, planning, managing and reporting their CSR (corporate social responsibility) programs, thereby propelling their journey towards greater impact. For companies who wish to break away from the traditional way of doing and managing CSR, technology is going to be the game changer in the long run.
The vicious circle of the social development ecosystem today has various nuances. Data driven intelligence is at a dearth in the sector which makes it challenging for corporates to strategize the usage of their funds for business responsibility initiatives. Existence of comprehensive and relevant data points about a CSR program is extremely crucial to draw any actionable insights. The data can only be gathered in an efficient and streamlined manner if the program monitoring frameworks are well thought through and is executed well leveraging technology.
Many stakeholders of the ecosystem – not only companies but NGOs too – struggle to break this vicious circle. To undo this vicious cycle, relying on technology is inevitable. On the foundation of technology, a virtuous cycle of goodness can be built that can pump in efficiency, accountability and transparency in the CSR ecosystem. Each step in the process is crucial for the success of a programme. Technology can be seamlessly incorporated in each step that is critical in a company’s CSR lifecycle.
The critical aspects of a company’s CSR journey are a very important aspect to know before we see how data and technology can be instrumental in delivering impact at speed and scale
- A Strategic CSR plan can help companies to break the vicious cycle. These plans and strategy have the rationale for choosing the causes to support, beneficiaries and locations to focus on and modalities of monitoring and reporting based on their previous learning and data analytics.
- A robust plan with an efficient program execution is smooth, with few or no unforeseen and unwanted surprises
- The larger program goals should be made keeping all stakeholders aligned in a transparent manner. This can be achieved by following reporting best practices by on ground partners and designing of comprehensive monitoring frameworks.
- Companies can draw meaningful and actionable insights from the program data. This can be achieved by maintaining strong processes and aligned stakeholders These insights feed for the next phase of planning
Let us now explore how data and technology can catalyse a company’s efforts to achieve desired impact from its CSR programs:
#1 Good execution
Technology platforms for the social sector can bring greater transparency in implementation by bringing all the relevant stakeholders on one plane. Technology can help in prioritising CSR expenditure by aligning them with the needs on ground and helping choose the right partners at the planning stage. These steps iron out any potential risks by laying down the plan of execution for every stakeholder to refer to and manage on-ground activities accordingly and thereby, completing all the CSR activities in the lifecycle.
#2 Good monitoring
The planning stage of a CSR programme is a crucial step, it’s a step that lays down the foundation of a programme. Thus, strong planning is a very important step which can be done by introducing technology platforms can be leveraged to agree on monitoring frameworks across NGO partners irrespective of their geographical location. Tech based monitoring of CSR programs provides eyes on the ground and direct access to last mile beneficiaries which paper-based monitoring cannot.
After the frameworks are crystallized, the NGO partners can feed in data on a real time from ground zero for donors / companies to refer to at any point in time.
Once the frameworks are finalised, standardization of these monitoring frameworks and its standardisation saves a great deal of subjectivity, uncertainty and thereby wastage of invaluable resources.
#3 Good reporting
A pivotal activity which if not undertaken can wash away any impact created by the CSR programs is reporting. Donors should understand how their CSR funds are being utilized, for which activities, for which beneficiaries and at what time intervals. Any gap in this communication between the company and the NGO partners can lead to a strong possibility of the program failing to make any impact.
In the current situation, mobile phones and internet are almost an omnipresent phenomenon. CSR sector must also leverage this opportunity to encourage their NGO partners to communicate in real time with the use of technology.
A clear business case in CSR is evident in contemporary corporate atmosphere, from the fact that today CSR discussions are elevated at the board-room level. Tech based program management platforms allow companies to not only get regular reports from their NGO partners but also draw clear value statements for the board level executives.
#4 Great learning
Learning comes from facts, data and experiences. Technology facilitates intelligent skimming of data to understand what went / is going right and wrong during the program tenure.
Apart from prompting any requirement for mid-course corrections, tech platforms help in analysing large data to map trends, issues, successes and failures and any activities requiring urgent attention. These insights act as the building blocks of a strong edifice of community impact that CSR aims at.
#5 Good strategy
A good strategy stems out as a direct output of learning-based planning. A long-term vision for a conducive on ground programme cannot be successful without factual support and planning. Past experiences and support can be a learning point with evidence that with data can aid to build a robust CSR strategy for the next phase of the programs.
Human technology is evolving at an unprecedented rate to complement human efforts to make this world a better place for everyone to live in, lets together ensure that it also brings a balance between doing well and doing good.