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Ambuja Cement Foundation and Samhita Social Ventures launched CSR Café – a unique breakfast forum for CSR leaders.

CSR Café is envisioned as a space for senior corporate leaders and decision makers to convene, discuss and debate freely on ideas to develop the CSR sector, and issues that concern companies, their CSR investments and intended impact. Given the exponential growth momentum of the CSR sector, such a forum is critical for creating meaningful conversations around building the CSR ecosystem, solving challenges together and learning from peer experiences.

These forums will take place every two months, and between sessions we will continue to engage this community of CSR decision makers on topics and themes relevant to CSR in India.

The  inaugural session was held on July 4, 2018 and at Cafe Zoe, and was facilitated by Luis Miranda, Trustee – Collective Good Foundation, Chairman – Centre for Civil Society and Chairman – CORO, The session was focused around the ‘The Five Ways CSR Heads Can Create Lasting Change.’

Participants shared their insights and experiences on managing multiple mandates as a CSR Leader, the struggle with engaging stakeholders, the need for more sectoral research and the potential for collaboration among themselves and with the government. The following is a summary of themes explored:

  • The role CSR plays in addressing social issues has evolved. CSR leaders, the board and other stakeholders must now re-assess their definitions and approaches to CSR, and explore how it can play a role in inspiring change and social action in the wider ecosystem. This re-alignment must become part of both strategy and implementation for CSR to become an effective catalyst for social change.
  • Effectively communicating about CSR can build engagement with internal and external stakeholders, and keep them invested in the organization’s CSR activities.
  • Many articulated the need for continuous, rigorous research that analyzed what was going right, and how to manage what was going wrong. Forums such as CSR Café and a seminal industry publication, are required to share research and explore areas that need research while identifying relevant tools, models and resources.
  • Collaboration is the way forward for many. Of the many forms of collaboration, the following were the most commonly articulated:
    • The Government while being the largest delivery agent for social welfare, struggles to deliver effectively to the last-mile. Companies could bridge this gap by using their expertise and CSR funds to help the government deliver its solutions to the end beneficiary; and help beneficiaries access the government’s social welfare pool.
    • The sheer jump in the number of CSR interventions has led to replication of efforts with little cross pollination or dialogue. Companies, by working together, could increase the scope and scale of their CSR and impact. For instance, small companies can scale up effective solutions, while larger companies can create and sustain stronger grassroots network & linkages.

The next edition will be held on September 7, 2018, centered around ‘Creating Impact through Government Partnerships’ a pressing need articulated by the participants. We will be joined by Dr. Anand Bang, Advisor – Health to the Chief Minister, Maharashtra. Dr. Bang is also Advisor – Health at Tata Trusts, and is involved with Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health (SEARCH), Maharashtra, since 2006.

Follow us on social media to keep updated about the valuable learning from this formidable community of CSR leaders. If you and your company are interested in participating in this forum, do reach out to us.