Fostering social ecosystems to support societal needs

Fostering social ecosystems to support societal needs

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by Zheng Ying Chong  zhengying.chong@csr-asia.comTraditionally, corporate community investment focuses on meeting societal needs through supporting individual organisations that work to tackle issues companies have selected to invest in. While this can still be strategic and impactful, looking beyond supporting individual organisations to foster general capability, capacity and scalability of a selected field can prove to be an area of high impact for corporate community investment. Corporate support in building and fostering the capacity of innovative concepts that seek to address social issues or community needs have the potential to create change way beyond support for causes through individual organisations alone.Support for concepts for change is usually required when ideas are in their nascent stages and consolidation and capacity building is needed to build the field. Examples of such concepts include social business or social entrepreneurship, impact investing or specific issues such as financial education and capability or support for small and medium enterprises to achieve environmental or larger sustainability goals. Supporting an ecosystem would include providing support for research, consolidating efforts in the field and creating and sustaining networks that help facilitate sharing of best practice. A piece of research commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation, an example of an organisation that strongly supports the fostering of the ecosystem for the impact investing space, identifies four stages of evolution for such ecosystems.
Corporates investing in supporting and pulling together promising innovations in the stage of ‘Uncoordinated Innovation’ can accelerate the formation of centres of activity that characterise the stage of ‘Marketplace Building’. Supporting capacity building and the nascent infrastructure that starts to form in the stage of ‘Marketplace Building’ is also a strategic area of investment as corporates can invest in ways that leverage corporate influence and capabilities.
The language used by the Shared Value concept to describe this concept of creating value at an ecosystem level, is the support of ‘cluster creation’, a company’s effort to improve framework conditions which spills over to other participants and stakeholders creating a multiplier effect that goes far beyond the impact of meeting societal needs through individual organisations.
A strong example of corporate support to foster the growth of a specific field is Citi Foundation’s support of Financial Education through the Citi-Financial Times Financial Education Summit (FE Summit). Running for the tenth year this December, the FE Summit has seen significant transformation in the field of financial education in the last decade. What began as an activity limited to a small number of NGOs and philanthropic institutions working in low-income communities has today expanded to service a range of beneficiaries with specialised activities for children, young adults, women and the elderly.
The annual FE Summit provides the financial education field with:
•    an important networking platform across the public, private and grassroots practitioners sectors
•    a place to showcase and share ideas
•    capacity building for smaller not for profit organisations who receive scholarships from Citi Foundation to attend – CSR Asia

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