Engaging Corporations - Some suggestions on how to engage corporations based on stories of network members

Examples of CSR Frameworks

Two WINGS members, Grupo de Institutos Fundações e Empresas (GIFE, Brazil) and the League of Corporate Foundations (LCF, Philippines), shared their CSR frameworks during the PLEs on "Effectively Engaging Corporations.” GIFE members are predominantly corporations and corporate foundations while LCF members are corporate foundations and CSR units of corporations without foundations.

GIFE, also the leading Brazilian network of corporate and family social investors, developed in the 2000s the Social Investment Typology, a tool that classifies philanthropic institutions into five different types, as shown in the diagram below.

  1. Charity or social assistance is the more traditional type of philanthropy and remains to be the prevalent practice. It deals more with the symptoms (lack of food, shelter, etc.) than with the causes of social problems. According to a 2005 survey by IPEA, a federal government think tank, about two thirds of the businesses in the country undertook some kind of philanthropic work; and two thirds of these have very incipient, more charity-like practices. With the level of misery still encountered in Brazil, this kind of philanthropy is fundamental but not sufficient to change the root causes of inequality. Brazilian sociologist Herbert Jose de Souza (known as Betinho, 1935-1997) tried to bridge this approach to community with more complex social programs, declaring that "one cannot educate a hungry child.”
  2. The multi-project social investment is very visible in larger institutions that develop many projects and programs without much alignment between them. For example, an institution may start working with street kids, which subsequently leads to a program for the families of those kids; a new CEO devoted to the arts develops a museum; and so on. Foundations, institutes and businesses usually contact GIFE during this second stage of their social investment. Their initial requests are for tools to evaluate the effectiveness of their programs, but the need for evaluation in this phase is a misguided hypothesis in most cases. One cannot evaluate a multi-project institution whose activities develop organically, without measurable goals. What multi-project social investment organisations often need is thorough strategic planning.
  3. The third type of philanthropic institution is transitory from the second to the fourth and involves a search for focus in the institution‘s activities. For larger institutions this can take months or years. It usually causes a kind of "identity crisis” in the organisation: what do we do and why? This crisis is aggravated by having to concentrate activities in fewer, better-planned programs, at times resulting in the closure of traditional activities and the dismissal of pioneer staff. The main symptom here is the tendency of the organisation to allocate most of its energy and resources inwards, not outwards.
  4. When there is a clear vision, mission, group of objectives and action plan, and an adequate, specialised staff to deliver this, the practice of the institution becomes strategic or professional. In business there is also a greater alignment in these cases between private and public interest: information technology corporations build global digital-inclusion programs; food companies develop nutritional education methodologies; telecommunication groups train teachers to use the internet in the public schools they wire.
  5. The fifth type of social investment relates to strategic organisations that endeavour to scale up their impact and outreach. Due to their relatively small investment power compared to governments, many of these organisations adopt a research and development (R&D) approach, building methodologies, training programs and social technologies which, once tested, can be scaled up through public policies or disseminated through governmental or non-profit institutions like schools or hospitals.

A scheme like this is always limited. This typology considers the fact that these types do not represent a linear evolution (first to the last), but rather that all the five types are important. The first, for example, has the potential to develop social capital in a community. Many organisations, especially larger institutions, have characteristics of all 5 types. Depending on leadership and other variables, a strategic organisation can very quickly become multi-project, or an R&D program can have difficulty in scaling up impact. Also, this typology is helpful in understanding day-to-day operations of foundations and institutions.