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CSR, Education And Skill Development – A Perspective

Posted: August 23, 2019

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CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility – what does this mean to us as a society, as an individual, as an organisation, as a beneficiary – it is different for different people depending on which step of the ladder they are standing on. We read a lot about CSR initiatives of big conglomerates, business houses, banks – everybody is talking about it; for some this is a way of giving back to the society, for some this is a new business proposition, for some this is a way of telling the world how big-hearted they are and for some this activity is linked to a nourishing meal, warm clothes and medical assistance.

So what does this mean to me as a trainer? In recent years, I’ve had a chance to work with quite a few organisations who are involved in imparting education & working towards skill development of young adults as part of their CSR program. I’ve also mentored trainers working in the skill development sector. My experience has been not less than the colours of a kaleidoscope. Some organisations want to really work with underprivileged youth and help them gain new skills so that they can live respectfully and then there’s the other side of the coin. I personally believe that having education and skill development as the focus of CSR activities should mean making a real impact, not in numbers, but the lives that are transformed through that initiative. And this would mean that the teachers, trainers and facilitators that are involved in that project are also capable of bringing about that transformation.

Is this really happening? If you’ve ever had a chance to talk to the teachers and facilitators working in this sector, you’ll know what I mean. Despite the huge budgets that are allocated for CSR activities, the real people who are working with children, students and young adults; the mentors & guides, are grossly underpaid. The remunerations offered are at times even less than what a semi-skilled labourer would earn in a day. Emphasis is laid on getting the highest number count possible and not on the actual impact of that training. Trainer’s KRA looks something like – every student should complete the registration without fail, don’t forget to take attendance every day, sometimes even twice in a day, videos and testimonials of students you feel are the best of the lot and so on. When it comes to the content for such sessions, it’s left to the trainer’s discretion. There is no uniformity in what is being shared with students because every trainer has his/her own content. Can a trainer managing a class of 50-60 students for 2-3 days really bring about a visible transformation in their communication or presentation or confidence levels? Yes, there would be 5-6 students who would show signs of improvement but then is this the target? From a class of 50, 5 would mean a meagre 10% and for a program targeting 10,000 students, a mere 1000. This is a poor ROI considering the amount of money that is spent on CSR activities by any big organisation. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

When an organisation invests in its advertising or marketing, the most important parameter in that equation is ROI. Why is this then not a determining/success factor for any CSR activity? Why do we focus more on the number of lives touched than the number of lives transformed? CSR is Corporate Social Responsibility but does the responsibility ends with great numbers on paper or should it go beyond? There are organisations and people who are doing real work and making a difference but it is not enough. The focus has to shift from numbers to results. I’m a staunch supporter of skill development and I believe that everybody has the right to education and respectful living. But I feel helpless and powerless when I interact with students, participants, trainers and teachers who are a part of the entire skill development ecosystem.

Trade pundits would say that I don’t have the clear picture or exact numbers but my question is – if the same thing is happening in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, isn’t it time to raise a Red flag?

Image via Pixabay

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