TeamLease Education Foundation conducted an interesting webinar on 9th September 2021. The topic of discussion was ‘Scaling CSR initiatives during an Economic Downturn’ to shed light on how times of crisis encouraged companies to find new ways to reach their CSR goals. The discussion was graced by three esteemed panellists, Jyoti Shresth, Lead - CSR, Cyient Ltd, Vinodh Kumar - Senior Project Manager (CSR & Sustainability) at L&T Infotech (LTI) and Fuzail Ahmad, Sr. Manager, and Head CSR/R&R, Sasan Power Limited (Reliance Power), and I, Joel Fernandez, Business Head - CSR, TeamLease Education Foundation moderated the session.
COVID-19 has been a global pandemic affecting the entire system of humankind and has disrupted the socio-economic circumstances of the planet. Extended lockdowns worsened economic troubles. The population and a lack of awareness (or say lack of education) added to the problems.
Here come CSR and its strategies, which played a crucial role in the times of pandemic, to let people try their level best to get through the challenging times. Let’s hear from the panellists, what their initiatives were to carry out CSR activities in the education, employment, and healthcare industries during these uncertain times.
No doubt the pandemic gave a tough time to organizations and their policies to carry out their regular CSR programs. And the Healthcare sector took the driving seat, and the safety and security of the people became the primary need. Jyoti Shresth shared the initial struggle of reaching out to not only students but also staff members and teachers. And that’s when volunteers took the important step of training teachers and helped in the efficiency and efficacy rate of the overall program into the educational sector. Talking about the skilling programs, Cyient Ltd was always technologically inclusive to skill underprivileged youth. Physical classroom sessions were transformed into virtual classes and constant support from the learning and development team was provided.
Organizations worked on new strategies and policies to implement the methods using the technology and carry out the programs smoothly. The transformation needed for the adaption according to the changing environment was easy, as 70% of the existing programs were running on technology, said Vinod Kumar. NGOs adapted to the new norm and started to work on the execution of the online classes with the schools. Similarly, for the people who lost their jobs, and had to return to their villages, several environmental and farm-based projects helped them to create a mode of employment. Additionally, their NGO partners reached out to TV broadcasters to stream recorded sessions for kids who couldn’t afford smartphones or tablets. They were able to reach 10,000 students through this program. They also trained 30,000 youth virtually and helped them get placed in various industries. One more sector that got added after the pandemic was health and sanitization. Basic amenities like masks and sanitisers were provided to the children along with COVID awareness sessions.
Furthermore, Sasan Power Ltd prioritized national projects. They shifted their CSR budget to the COVID relief fund, in order to help the nation. Very soon they were able to bounce back to their old programs, especially providing free education in rural areas. The pandemic was definitely a bad phase but it brought a new dimension to the rural communities to function. Buyers and farmers were exposed to video conferencing to connect with experts. They connected with 40-60 farmers every day to keep a check on their farm projects and assessments. This pandemic made them realize that small measures and efforts can really help the community. Fuzail Ahmed prompted the idea of career counselling for schools in rural areas, to help kids make profound decisions about their future. At the 10-12th level, the government should advise getting two to three sessions of counselling for children to pick a career stream according to their interests, capability, and job opportunities.
Strategies to scale CSR initiatives after bouncing back from the pandemic
- Students are the backbone of our country. For children in rural areas, practical career options should be provided like animal husbandry, agriculture, horticulture, sports.
- Sustainable livelihood projects should be continued with components like organic farming, cross-breed development, vermicomposting, resulting in additional income to the family.
- CSR is no longer a charity, it has become a business now. That’s why most of the environmental projects are linked to the neutrality plans.
- Leveraging technology to promote farm-based goods and services. Enabling the purchase online and keep updating various stages of the supply chain model.
The session ended with us thanking the panellists for their contribution to making the webinar a success.
The webinar is going to be a part of a bi-monthly event, giving insights on creating social consciousness and social resilience across the rural as well as urban sectors.
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