Thursday, 13 January 2011

CSR Practitioners -some insights

As more and more Companies embrace CSR there is a corresponding demand for competent professionals in the field. On the supply side, many young management and development professionals are keen to take up a career in corporate affairs. However, after joining they find the tasks ahead daunting and more so when their peers and managers do not recognize the work they do in the communities.The young CSR professionals in large MNCs /corporates do not have anyone to turn to. Sometimes even their reporting managers with a Communications or Marketing background may not understand what exactly they do.This makes them wonder what went wrong. They think they may be a complete misfit.

I find many development professionals who have built up a good career in NGOs coming to me and asking about switching to a career in CSR. Without trying to sound like I am putting them off, I often urge them to study the company that they plan to join and understand the CSR traditions within the company. Another suggestion is to network with CSR professionals, read CSR articles and develop their understanding of the challenges and constraints before venturing into CSR as a profession. If you are attracted only by the 'corporate tag' then you will not be ready to face the challenges ahead.

A recent article in CSR Asia - confessions of a CSR Practitioner brought out this very succintly. The author - a CSR manager - says: "I think one of the most challenging parts of my job is internal misunderstanding of what I do".  My thoughts are resonated exactly in the above quote. It is a fact that CSR practitioners do not do enough internal stakeholder engagement.

Aspiring CSR professionals must be prepared to engage with internal stakeholders, top management in the long haul for their own good. If they are not prepared to take the initiative in educating their peers and managers within their respective companies  -  they may have to re-assess their decision.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

NEN -1st Dot showcase for Student Startups

The other day I was at the National Entrepreneurship Network's first dot showcase for student start ups. Sponsored by IBM and The Wadhwani foundation, the showcase provided a forum for student start ups to well, showcase their business model and interact with mentors and experts.

I had the daunting task of mentoring 2 student start ups. Mentoring techno-savvy youngsters of the digital generation should be challenging and I geared up by brushing up my 'techno-skills' by interacting with my son and daughter - who are way ahead and up to date on matters technical. Brimming with giga-bits of information disdainfully fed by my "i kids'  I felt confident of not getting stumped by my prospective 'mentees' (whoever invented this word needs mentoring!)

After few minutes into the mentoring session, I realized I need not have gone through the troubles of 'updating' my technical knowledge. The 'studentrepreneurs' are very clear that technology is important, but they are not going to 'depend' on it. They were more concerned with how their technology will actually benefit the people.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that both the teams expressed genuine concern for the country, its youth and how their venture could play a part in improving lives of people through technology.

These young start ups are not chasing dollars blindly or just geeks fanatic about their gadgets. These are real social entrepreneurs who wanted to make a difference in society. I liked their motive and conceptual clarity. I returned from the mentoring session with the reassurance that the future of India has its mind and heart in the right place!