“One does not need money to create change. Build partnerships for sustainability”.
The CSR team at Moser Baer believes in making a difference by collaborating core competencies of institutions. Pool in resources for the larger good!
Ranu Kulshrestha, who is heading the Moser Baer Trust (MBT) at Moser Baer India Pvt Ltd believes that community development initiatives undertaken by corporations through their CSR, can help with reaching out to a wider population, especially in a developing nation where the governments are not able to provide for the basic amenities. Having worked with the grassroots in Punjab and the refugees, during her stint with the UN, she is determined that a lot can be done if one has the right intent, perspective and approach, and the will to make an impact. It’s just a matter of “how we look at CSR”.
Sustainability seems to be the core theme on which the Trust runs and Ranu has managed to create relevant models around it. While Moser Baer is running with a lot of projects currently, one of them is doing extremely well and has been integrated extremely well with Moser Baer’s business strategy, The Digital Literacy Program.
Through this program, the trust imparts computer education to the school children and teachers, under a unique private public partnership with schools and Gram Panchayats. Started with just one centre in 2008, the Trust now runs 7 centers, which are completely self sustainable. According to Ranu, this was only possible due to their ‘collaborative’ model where they strategically partnered with NASSCOM Foundation who provided for the equipment, partnered with the local schools to provide for classrooms where the sessions would take place, while the Trust itself looked after the delivery of the course and the overall quality of services being provided through the program. To make the students accountable for the program, they devised a model where the students would have to pay a nominal fee ranging anything from Rs 20 to Rs 100, which would also cover the cost of the instructor.
This synergetic partnership model is one where each partner is, in fulfilling its goal, also extending its expertise to the others operational domain.
The other project that the CSR team at Moser Baer is extremely proud off is Aakar. It’s an innovative mechanism where MBT has established a direct link with the export houses to create livelihood opportunities for the people, eliminating involvement of contractors and promoting fair trade practices, thereby creating conducive work environment for the community people.
This also seems to be a highly replicable model where for Moser Baer the investment is relatively less; where the infrastructure in terms of working space, is provided by the Village Panchayat, and the level of coordination is also low, once the initial contract with the export houses has been negotiated. As for the beneficiaries, its flexible for the women as they now have work at their doorstep and can bring their children along as well, and they are assured a fair wage at the end of the day. This model is also highly sustainable because they train the women from within the community to take ownership of the centre, thereby empowering them as well.
Even while working in the field of education, through ‘Taleem’, Moser Baer ensured that they don’t entrust a state of the art education system into the community where its viewed as a mere handover. The focus instead was on making the people understand and assert their rights, right to education in specific, which would help in making the existing system work well and deliver quality education.
The focus remains on education, through “enlightenment and empowerment”.
As for the key challenges that one faces in this field, Ranu expressed that companies even today are very traditional with their approach towards CSR where their approach gets limited to fundraising, where they are not open to the idea of offering their expertise/core competency. Collaboration and partnership is the most practical way of moving forward, for sustainable development. way of moving forward. This unfortunately is a need that has not been addressed well by Corporations.
Being an expert of sorts in this field, I asked Ranu to give us a few tips, to which she said:
- Take baby steps and learn from every milestone
- Don’t fall into the ‘fund raising’ trap… Everything doesn’t need money
- Focus on empowering people, that is the only sustainable way to move forward
- Link the spirit of charity with the needs of the people
- Try to look at development as a whole
Collaboration leads to opportunity and the private sector needs to slowly move away from models of ‘isolated impact’ and toward new models of ‘collective impact’, to be truly effective. It can all be done in a strategic and coordinated way, where the biggest needs on the ground converge with the best skills and assets that businesses can bring.
Ranu hopes someday that businesses become more socially and environmentally centric, so as to have a “better, cleaner and a more human world for the future generations” and hopes to accomplish that through Collective Responsibility!