The Need for Corporates to Focus on Integrated Community Development

0
56

Ratish Jha

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has changed drastically in the past decade. What started as a voluntary initiative by several companies has now become obligatory. Most organisations view CSR as an integral part of the business as it shapes the brand perception that leads to employee, customer and investor retention.

Gone are the days when CSR was a part of a long checklist to showcase in the annual reports. Companies have now recognised the importance of CSR and are incorporating integrated initiatives that make a real difference to communities around them. CSR initiatives are and should focus on the sustainable transformation of society. To do so, it is crucial to consider the holistic community development approach. These kinds of initiatives enable opportunities, protection and prosperity of the community. The key principles that corporates focus on are proper community development, including effective and culturally relevant community consultations and building trust among the company, community members and other stakeholders. A growing number of corporates understand the importance of contributing to India’s socioeconomic development. They aim to bring positive change by doing meaningful work that will significantly benefit underprivileged sections of society. 

While contributing to any school or institution, corporates must be cognizant that only constructing classrooms or providing water purifiers would not solve the issues. It is vital to analyse what is keeping children away from attending school. Analyses show that simple infrastructure issues like proper seating arrangement and sanitation facilities (especially for female students) can be prime reasons for low attendance. Basic well-furnished classrooms, outdoor grills for safety, and well-maintained toilet facilities with a water supply can contribute significantly to bringing children back to classrooms.

Areas that corporates can focus on to bring about a significant change:

Education: Education is the basic right of any individual, but even now, there are many rural areas where primary education remains a luxury. Millions of children attend government-run schools however, only a portion succeed in finishing their schooling because of poor infrastructure, lack of sanitation facilities, learning materials, unsafe drinking water facilities, etc. Problems like these result in a high rate of absenteeism and school dropouts. Corporates recognise these problems and many have contributed towards education in their CSR mandates. When we discuss integrated community development in the education sector, we must consider various aspects that will make any institute or school an ideal place to learn. 

While contributing to any school or institution, corporates must be cognizant that only constructing classrooms or providing water purifiers would not solve the issues. It is vital to analyse what is keeping children away from attending school. Analyses show that simple infrastructure issues like proper seating arrangement and sanitation facilities (especially for female students) can be prime reasons for low attendance. Basic well-furnished classrooms, outdoor grills for safety, and well-maintained toilet facilities with a water supply can contribute significantly to bringing children back to classrooms. Every school must have a high-quality water purifier to provide access to safe drinking water, leading to a decrease in instances of water-borne diseases. The world is moving towards digitalisation, and a complete set of eLearning solutions projectors, computers and smart class hard disks must be available to the school to facilitate smart education. While there are talks about education for all, this far-fetched dream will only be realistic once the private sector companies come together and work towards it as a team.  

Healthcare is a global agenda, and every citizen must have access to better medical facilities. The complexity of global health concerns is escalating rapidly. There is a lack of global funding to address these issues. While resources are limited, health requires constant attention. It is essential to develop universal, sustainable healthcare systems, and there are various areas where corporates can focus to do so. 

Skill Development: Children belonging to economically disadvantaged households face the highest vulnerability. While several corporates initiate and provide the infrastructure, the focus should also be on giving these children technical know-how. Language enhancement training, IT training, art and craft workshops, youth leadership training programmes, vocational skill development programmes, etc., can be organised for skill development. Efforts will be fruitful only when the students can utilise them fully. Another aspect of this can be when organisations sponsor children with exceptional skills, for example, children who excel in sports and encourage them to participate in international tournaments. This can give them a global platform to be noticed and carve a niche for themselves. 

Rural Infrastructural Development: Several corporates have shown interest in the infrastructure development of rural areas by constructing sanitation facilities. They have identified that toilet construction will not solve the problem of sanitation. They have addressed this at the grassroots level by providing a proper water supply and drainage system. Another challenge faced is the maintenance of these facilities. Thus, promoting toilet etiquette and healthy habits becomes unavoidable.

An integrated community development brings transformation to every section of society, directly and indirectly impacting the living standard of the community, and affecting economic stability, health conditions and literacy. Corporates can be the main catalysts for holistic community development when they work towards a common goal – building the social-economic development of the nation. 

Health and Hygiene: Healthcare is a global agenda, and every citizen must have access to better medical facilities. The complexity of global health concerns is escalating rapidly. There is a lack of global funding to address these issues. While resources are limited, health requires constant attention. It is essential to develop universal, sustainable healthcare systems, and there are various areas where corporates can focus to do so. 

Preventive healthcare significantly enhances the health, happiness, and productivity of a community. It includes a variety of public health initiatives with an emphasis on disease prevention, wellness promotion, and system strengthening. Another area where corporates must focus is on addressing women’s health and hygiene issues. They can organise awareness training where they share insights on the difficulties faced during the menstrual cycle and how one can overcome them. Medical services, medical allied services, diet supply services and ambulance services will make a relative change in the healthcare facilities. 

It is important to consider all the pieces of the puzzle that lead to a better society and well-being. Working in isolation on a single issue will not resolve the larger development objective. An integrated community development brings transformation to every section of society, directly and indirectly impacting the living standard of the community, and affecting economic stability, health conditions and literacy. Corporates can contribute to sustainability while simultaneously increasing their brand credibility amongst stakeholders. They can be the main catalysts for holistic community development when they work towards a common goal – building the social-economic development of the nation.

Ratish Jha is the President of HR at Hikal Ltd. He has an enriching experience in talent management, culture change management, capability building, learning and OD interventions, performance management, capability building, employee relations, employee engagement and retention programmes.