Can we really take big business seriously when it comes to the SDGs?

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Gaza, May 2017 – https://definitelymaybe.me/2018/05/11/money-is-power/

It was during a Business in the Community event in the summer of 2006 that I first met Carol Monoyios, CARE UK’s Marketing Director, and responsible (in part, at least) for the fact that I spent the next 13 years working for CARE International.

Carol and the organization’s then Programme Director, Raja Jarrah, had hatched a plan and it was to be my fate, attending that July event, to end up playing the role of their main protagonist.

Their plan was, and remains, a simple one: create a multi-functional team inside of CARE to work with businesses and markets in a new and more impactful way.

What various colleagues across CARE’s system had determined, the year before at a conference in Nairobi, was that there were many ways to work with business and markets, with the purpose of supporting CARE’s mission of empowering women and girls, but these were not being centrally coordinated very well.

Inside of the NGO sector at that time, most agencies who took money from business were using this largely as a means to fund projects. A separate department would then typically manage the organisation’s “market development” programmes – the result being that these two functions were not collaborating.      Continue reading “Can we really take big business seriously when it comes to the SDGs?”

Partnership musings at 33,000 ft

Photo credit @saigonsays
Photo credit @saigonsays

Over the last couple of months I’ve spent time at various “partnership” themed events. Bangkok, Singapore, Hanoi, even the leafy outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, many thousands of miles away from the hustle bustle of Saigon. Different venues, but similar take-away recommendations about how, if we are truly to tackle social and environment issues and bring about change in the future, for the future, we must join forces with others.

In some cases, forming alliances which might seem oxymoronic: for example, big business in partnership with local communities; municipal governments working with large NGOs.

Previous case studies on this blog site (where CARE is partnering with companies in the region, including GSK and Diageo) are backed up by hundreds more out there, many of which are breaking new ground and offer hope for replicating models which others can adopt, adapt and improve. Continue reading “Partnership musings at 33,000 ft”

The Future of CSR?

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Hong Kong’s imposing skyline just before the typhoon

The sight of Hong Kong’s vast oblong buildings, stood proud and squashed in front of a backdrop of dark green mountains and low lying clouds, never ceases to take my breath away.

That McDonalds and Starbucks franchises exist in great numbers, alongside century old tea houses, underneath these imposing corporate towers, makes the city one of the ultimate “East Meets West” urban epicentres.

There is a constant shuffling of life to be found at street level in Hong Kong, a happy human beat of old and young, rich and poor, foreigner, tourist, and the local shoe-shiner, all jostling through their everyday tasks, zigzagging between narrow alley and subway, the Kowloon trams and the famous Star Ferry.

I have been in town this week to speak at the annual CSR Asia Summit, holed up, as these things always are, in varying degrees of 4 or 5 star hotel finery, glacial air conditioning and windowless rooms. Continue reading “The Future of CSR?”

Brave new world (of uncertainty)

"Only by embracing uncertainty, will the way forward manifest itself" (Jo Confino)
“Only by embracing uncertainty, will the way forward manifest itself” (Jo Confino)

When I was last in Bangladesh, in November, a factory fire broke out in Ashulia, near the capital Dhaka, killing over 135 factory workers.

Like others at the time, this event prompted me to write – http://saigonsays.wordpress.com/category/travels/bangladesh/ – to raise awareness, to express sadness, and to describe CARE’s work in this particular arena.

It’s selfish writing in many ways.  Such an unnecessary event, needlessly taking lives, and a sense that you can respond in some capacity by simply writing a narrative.  Although, at the time, I don’t remember it making me feel any better about what had taken place in Ashulia.

And now it has happened all over again, once more in Bangladesh, this time just north of the capital, in Savar, after the total collapse of the Rana Plaza building, last Wednesday.  Rana Plaza was eight-storeys high, housed four garment factories, 6,000 workers, and should never have been open last week, after factory inspectors had ordered the building be evacuated having declared it unsafe. Continue reading “Brave new world (of uncertainty)”