South Africa’s socio-economic state clearly defines that every business in South Africa needs to contribute to the community or environment they trade in.
Corporate Social Investment has become a strange, expensive and non-influential exercise to many companies and SMME’s and now seems to hit confusion after analyzing the impact in our “Rainbow nation”.
After two weeks of evaluating the impact twelve different CSI projects had in twenty-four different communities across South Africa, it was surprising to experience the loss of impact due to basic needs not identified and the education of changed perspectives that currently form a huge wall between communities.
The Rainbow nation brand concept subconsciously still manifests the difference in race, culture and even geographic boundaries that naturally form barriers when sustainability is measured after the completion of a corporate social investment project.
What do you see when you read or hear the term “rainbow”? A multicolor, bright spectacle of different colours? Each colour perfectly divided with a thin line to form one idealistic goal, to (metaphorically) find a pot of gold?
Today’s South Africa needs to be colourblind and have to reach out to one another.
Communities need to take hands and appreciate each person’s role, contribution, resource and impact before any investment can be made.
We need to manifest an ownership principle in order to build sustainability and growth in this important process of integration to ultimately improve social economic development.
Our research outlines the following important steps when planning a businesses’ corporate social investment strategy.
STEP 1: EDUCATE THE CORRECT LANGUAGE
Communities and even people inside the micro-environment are not educated to use correct terminology when they refer to certain groups of people. This can lead to automatic tension and barriers before your business even invests financially or using the voluntary method of contribution.
Educate your staff and all role-players not to use words that classify colour (black, white, coloured etc.), religion or culture (Afrikaner, Muslim, and Indians etc.) or even geographical labeled terms (rural area, less-fortunate community, location etc.). You need to set an example of integration in the way you talk.
Your brand will earn respect and you will be able to base any CSI project on sustainable values that can change the lives of people with economic empowerment as core result.
STEP 2: IDENTIFY AND PRIORITISE INSPIRED NEEDS
Is your project based on what you think the community needs, or is it based on in-depth research that identify and prioritise the community’s needs in relation to economic development?
The ownership principle can only have an effect if the involvement of the invested CSI project relates to the real needs of the community. The solutions to these needs can sometimes be simple like time, forums and support or advice rather than money or capital.
Listen and prioritise – before you invest.
STEP 3: UTILISE MAXIMUM ROLEPLAYERS
Successful CSI projects are projects that mobilise the entire community. All role-players (households, government, community leaders, schools, clubs, business sector and your employees) must be identified and listed against their skills, assets or value added contribution offered in participation.
Recognition of these role-players skills and value towards the project give them self-respect and a sense of ownership that will multiply the sustainability factor.
STEP 4: STRATEGISE AND IMPLEMENT SUSTAINIBILITY
Ask yourself the question: Will this CSI project grow and be socially sustainable even after withdrawal as partner to the project? If your answer is not a confident, YES – re-align and develop a more effective creative project plan and strategy. The idea of social growth is the transfer of skills and implementation of growth to mobilise a community to sustainable economic contribution.
Allow enough space for education in your project plan and set clear and realistic KPI’s to all role-players in order to reach outcomes and guaranteed community empowerment.
STEP 5: IMPLEMENT A DYNAMIC BRAND- AND MARKETING STRATEGY
The importance of brand awareness and integrated marketing strategy must not be underestimated in a CSI project. Creative brand strategies and brand awareness build client relationships and build hope and dreams for all role-players that participate in the project.
Captivating branding and a creative marketing strategy energizes participation and builds awareness for extended contribution and sustainable execution.
Translate your project into a marketable product that your brand can align with and that inspires to change the socio-economic environment of our country.
STEP 6: MONITOR, EVALUATE AND ADJUST
Identify clear timelines and measurement tools to monitor and evaluate each contribution and phase of execution.
Continuously adjust the project guidelines in order to meet outcomes.
Report the identified measurement tools to your actual investment, calculating all values from volunteer work to all monetary values invested.
Spend time and effort in holistic reporting in order to educate your internal and external client. This report will serve multiple resources and will play an important part with decision-making when planning or analysing future CSI projects.
Our current economic situation urges (more than ever) the implementation of clever and well planned, monitored and evaluated corporate social investment.
We need CSI projects that are colourblind and speak the correct language.
We need an inspired language that builds respect, hopes and dreams for a united better South Africa.