Conference Recap: Evolving Dynamics of Corporate Philanthropy and CSR

by Akhtar Badshah, Chief Catalyst, Catalytic Innovators Group — @akhtarbad

There is a serious crisis brewing. Even though the economy is on the uptick, around the world there are over 300 million disengaged youth, says Blair Taylor, chief community officer and executive vice president of Starbucks Foundation.  Solutions are not coming from the government, we all have to be engaged – “creating jobs is the endgame”.  This set the tone for a lively session with a packed audience that conversed around the issues of corporate philanthropy, partnerships, and making lasting impact.

Over 90 minutes Taylor, Liz Warman (Director, Global Corporate Citizenship, Boeing) and Lori Forte Harnick (GM, Citizenship and Public Affairs, Microsoft) raised issues ranging from moving the paradigm from philanthropy for social good it is the morally right thing to do, to it is a business imperative to investment as the future of business depends on a healthy and thriving society.  Each company has its own focus on creating opportunities for youth, employee engagement and mobilizing their large corporate networks to ensure the right level of investment, partnerships and impact.

What was highlighted is that corporations have several assets that they leverage – financial resources; employee acumen; products; and their ability to amplify the issue and be an advocate.  It is important for any nonprofit or any organization that wants to partner with corporations to study the company and its focus areas and make sure their mission is aligned to what you as a nonprofit may want to accomplish.  The key is to be aligned closely rather than broadly in terms of the outcomes. Blair said it best: “fish where the fish are!”

As a group the panelists were clear in their message, this the time for us to make large bets and invest in the future.  And if the focus is economic growth and empowerment corporations have to be at the table right from the beginning. 

On the whole the issues discussed in this panel dovetailed with some of the other conversations throughout the duration of the conference. Participants were grappling with hot issues of sustainability, climate change, employment, poverty alleviation to just name a few.

With all of the challenges that the conversation focused on what also became clear is that there is enormous opportunities.   There is wealth that is being generated, and significant wealth transfer will take place over the next decade – this investment will be very different and as a community we have to be ready for that.   Further information technology has also been a game changer and yet we all seem to be struggling how to effectively utilize the digital dividend for the underserved community.  Speakers at the conference emphasized that progress has been made and there has been impact.  But the opportunities presented by the new resources need to be capitalized on especially new forms of investments, new tools and other resources that can become a game changer in effectively scaling programs that have impact on creating sustainable living conditions for the majority.  

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