Current CSI initiatives are no longer about taking allocated funds or second-hand equipment and “gifting” them to pre-selected causes, then walking away with the belief that you have made a difference and invested in a community.
That methodology is outdated and not sustainable.
Corporate Social Investment (CSI) is currently anchored in triple bottom line reporting, making CSI part and parcel of the accountability and sustainability trend, and hopefully, a long-term trend. CSI is now driving the ethos of Social Enterprise Development; this movement is gaining momentum in delivering on CSI objectives. Corporate South Africa now understands micro-economics at a community and environmental level. Whatever terminology is used, supply and demand or give and take, the effect and results are the same.
You cannot take from a community or environment, changing the nature of its growth, development and sustenance and then sell, in the form of produce or services, back into that community without investing in that community and environment to ensure sustainability. The investment does not have to be monetary: in fact it is often better if it is not.
CSI vehicles such as the MTN SA Foundation must first understand the nature of their parent company, the impact it has on the community at large, the social and economic construct of the country and the various communities within which the company operates. Then, they must unobtrusively observe the communities and identify their needs so as to remain relevant. The result is a simple first step, knowing who to approach for the illuminating and educational conversation on how, what, when etcetera do we invest, in order to create sustainable socioeconomic wealth in communities.
This then develops into an on-going dialogue that results in a well-thought-out, planned and worthwhile investment for the organisation, community and country.
For MTN this new era and approach to CSI embraces a vision for corporate citizenship that seeks to digitally enhance the capacity of communities to achieve self-reliance. To deliver on this vision, the Foundation is utilising innovative information and communication technologies (ICT) to empower communities.
The three areas of intervention where there is the greatest need and where the Foundation team felt the greatest social impact would be attained was driving ICT-related projects in the following three areas of need: education programmes, community programmes around health and small business/enterprise development, and special projects.
To ensure the relevance of these interventions, MTN SA Foundation has worked hard to create distinct partnerships with its stakeholders, most notably the department of social development and the department of basic education.
Extended teamwork with nongovernmental organisations in the careful trialling of new solutions has become a regular feature of our work. This we believe is a better way to invest in the future, and we will keep looking for innovative ways to meet our community and stakeholders’ needs.