CSI: Things to avoid

We can start with pet projects, grand solutions, and funding fashions.

Pet projects

These are projects and causes thrust on you by colleagues, especially senior ones, based on emotional whims and fancies rather than sincere developmental considerations.

It is important to remember that the positive effects of social giving can be undermined when based on emotion and might not be in the best interests of either your company or your partner NPOs. Avoiding ‘pet projects’ is also a sensible way to avoid the pitfalls of these changing as your company’s staff changes. It is clearly not in the interests of effective CSI for a company to flip between projects being supported.

Avoid grand solutions

CSI is not government development; it is not the primary agent of change in a community. So don’t try to take on all issues simultaneously. Rather support what is already budding. Avoid the grand solution and realise that big isn’t always best.

Accept that a hand-pump might work better right now than solar-generated technology imported from Sweden. Support a small safe house for abused women rather than try to solve the issue of domestic violence across the county. Be realistic — nobody likes failure. Grow roots before you grow trees. It’s better to achieve small targets consistently than none at all.

Funding fashions come and go

Being swayed by ‘causes of the day’ runs the risk of finding your company left holding the can when fads change and other donors go off to chase after them, leaving you with a project that may face collapse or be otherwise overly dependent on you.

Funding fashions rarely make true developmental sense, are damaging in their diverting of monies away from other more worthwhile things and are rarely the stuff of long-haul developmental success.

Things that are flashy and promise the earth

Do not be dazzled by project size or claims of quick success. Go with things of consistent, incremental progress.

Assuming you have the solutions

Work with what already exists and don’t presume to know better than the people who have been at the coalface of a local challenge for longer. Share ideas and suggestions with the organisations you are looking to partner with, but be wary of imposing solutions on people who have had little say in identifying their own local needs, strengths, and ability to carry the project through to conclusion.

  • By Lauren Henning and Paul Pereira. Henning is Public Affairs Director at Nation Builder and Pereira runs WHAM! Media. This CSI introduction is extracted from Nation Builder’s “The Good Partner Guide for Business”, available at https://proudnationbuilder.co.za/resources/.

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