People form the backbone of any successful project implementation, and the same applies to corporate CSI in its various forms.
Each CSI company function or department varies, as does its role and importance to the rest of the company. However, no matter the size of the budget or team, CSI requires a degree of professionalism, especially when dealing with beneficiaries. Getting the right people, with the right skills — and in this case, clear-headed passion—to do the right thing is imperative.
Knowledge and character
Doing good needs more than just the right attitude. Grantmaking and best practice CSI requires system support, financial acumen, research, administration and record-keeping. It also needs managerial, negotiation, project management and organisational skills. These things are usually more important than qualifications.
Knowledge of key social investment sectors, local languages and people skills are an asset to the CSI team, as are people who are comfortable with the nuances and complexities of CSI, and the corporate world.
In terms of structure, within any team, there needs to be a leader or manager, supported by a strong administrator and financial person.
In support of delivering and reporting good CSI, this core team can be supported by a community liaison and good communicator to facilitate M&E and reporting.
If necessary, a company sponsor at managerial level (if not the team leader/CSI manager) will ensure CSI stays firmly on the company agenda and CSI in line with the company’s strategy and business activities.
Internal skills development
In a sense, CSI practitioners often take a generalist role albeit in a specific field, and need support, mentoring and career development like any other employee. Project management, leadership, an innovative mindset (that is often required to solve and drive CSI solutions), ability to listen, understand, communicate and articulate are all skills learnt in the CSI arena that can often be an asset around the boardroom table.
If these skills don’t exist within the company, or the capacity or resource budget of such is restrained, external consultants are a good option. They will have the expertise, connections and perspectives to offer an objective service in which they have a vested interest.
- Paul Pereira, WHAM! Media. This article is extracted from Nation Builder’s “The Good Partner Guide for Business”, available at https://proudnationbuilder.co.za/resources/