Effective communication is crucial for fostering an organisation’s positive public profile. Companies often prioritise the marketing and advertising of their products and services, but struggle to communicate their CSI work. The last Trialogue CSI forum for 2016 interrogated the appropriateness of and need to communicate CSI.
A social enterprise is broadly understood as an organisation that seeks to address social issues using sustainable business models; is involved in trading activities, with profit always or mainly reinvested into the enterprise; converges social and profit missions to create social value; and is impact-, rather than profit-driven.
South Africa’s challenging socioeconomic context, coupled with reduced donor funding, is a prime environment for non-profit organisations (NPO) to transform into social enterprises to ensure their sustainability. However, since it is not possible to commercialise all services, not all NPOs can be social enterprises.
The Revised BBBEE Codes of Good Practice require companies to spend 6% of payroll on skills development in order to obtain the 20 points assigned to this element (there are also five bonus points), compared with the previous 3% of payroll needed to obtain 15 points. The revised Codes also allow for training and education of unemployed black persons, which many companies currently do through their CSI programmes.
A Trialogue CSI Forum considered how the Codes might lead to a shift in the nature of corporate support and the manner in which contributions are internally categorised for skills development and education.
Corporate involvement in advocacy programmes and development research, from a funding and collaborative working perspective, can bring about social change. A Trialogue CSI forum in 2015 explored the extent to which this type of involvement can promote systemic change.
What is meant by systemic change in the CSI context was unpacked and presented as two case studies of initiatives in the education sector. One was an international example (Northern Kentucky Education Council) and the other was South African (National Education Collaboration Trust).
One of the most significant ways to scale the impact of a CSI programme is by working with, or influencing, government. This topic was discussed at a Trialogue CSI forum in 2015.
CSI can play a highly influential role, for example, by investing in pilot projects or developing lead practice. Corporate social investment budgets are typically less than 1% of what government is spending on health and education, for instance, but CSI departments can tap into other corporate resources, such as skills, processes, products and tools that can be used to good effect. Deliberately aiming to influence government was the topic of the forum discussion, which was considered in detail.