Start your successful CSI programme today!

| March 29, 2019 | 0 Comments

Title: Corporate Social Investment: A Guide to Creating a Meaningful Legacy
Author: Setlogane Manchidi
Publisher: Tracey McDonald Publishers

Last year, Independent Education magazine featured an unprecedented number of ISASA member schools that are developing praise-worthy transformation programmes.

At this point in time in our national history and indeed in the history of the world, sustainable, transformed schools must become part of, and contribute to, larger communities. It is generous, to be sure, to offer soup to “the poor”, or to visit old-age homes or orphanages, or knit squares for blankets during winter, but if that is the extent of your “outreach” programme, then you are not doing your duty, no matter how big or small your school.
In his comprehensive book, Corporate Social Investment: A Guide to Creating a Meaningful Legacy, Setlogane Manchidi, the CSI manager for Investec, outlines exactly how to go about thinking, planning and implementing corporate social investment (CSI). His timely advice applies equally well to big business as it does to schools.

What is CSI?
I have yet to read a book on the subject of CSI in one sitting, but in this case, I was more than happy to. Manchidi’s guide had a powerful effect on me. It’s not a long book, but it’s densely packed with ideas that come from Manchidi’s own experience in the CSI field. He speaks humbly of his own journey, and one can sense that he is a man who considers all angles before reaching a conclusion. He is not a man to be rushed and he’s thrilled when other people share their breakthrough discoveries that could, potentially, change the ways in which we interact socially and economically in this country.
Manchidi has also looked at “labels”. Instead of the dubious term “outreach”, (which to my mind suggests a school that tentatively extends a tentacle outside the school gates), he debates the merits of the terms “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) and “corporate social investment”; explaining that to him, CSR is an overarching value-based framework with ethical and socially responsible components, while CSI is only one way in which schools can drive their philanthropic endeavours.

Understanding alignment
Manchidi provides the reader with eight essential aspects of CSI practice. He starts with the question “Why?”, putting forward this argument:
We have to acknowledge… in the South African context, that the environment has been moulded by our past, and that we have an obligation, as part of broader society, to participate in the reconstruction of our country… Many hold deep expectations that government should be leading this socio-economic transformation. But, as the past 20-odd years in South Africa have so clearly shown us, the task at hand is simply too large and too complicated for government alone to tackle.
Manchidi suggests that enterprises can find the answer to the “Why do CSI?” question by exploring values alignment. He says: “Understanding alignment starts with a deep knowledge of your business’s purpose and footprint”. For Manchidi, those who adopt some sort of CSI for compliance purposes only, are only ticking some boxes. There is no real humanity or longevity there. Moreover, CSI and marketing are not necessarily natural bedfellows, and embarking upon a CSI initiative just to keep up

with the school down the road, is equally reprehensible. Instead, he says:
What is vital… is ensuring that the “why” is embedded in the organisation’s structure at every level. This ensures that anyone within the organisation will know why the company approaches CSI in the way in which it does… when you approach CSI in this manner it becomes another way of embedding the core and key values of an organisation among its staff and stakeholders.

What next?
Limited by space, I cannot share with readers every golden nugget in this book, so I am going to mention the last chapter, which prompts the reader to ask, “What next?” (In between, Manchidi has dealt with “What?”; “For Whom?”; “With Whom?”; “How?”; “When?” and “How are we doing?”, making it clear that all of these questions are intricately interlinked.) When you get to “What next?”, says Manchidi, “It is the key to either salvaging a shaky initiative or intervening in such a way that the programme is restructured in order to have improved prospects of making a difference”.
The sensible thing to do is to restructure and define, before throwing in the towel, Manchidi advises. In the process, you may turn “a pedestrian programme into an industry trail- blazer”. However, if you do decide to shelve the project, Manchidi assures that “This is also an acceptable outcome”, if approached in the correct manner.
“What next?” could additionally prove the time to, says Manchidi, “Go big or go home”. Drawing in like-minded new partners and carefully restructuring the programme to scale could usher in fresh creativity and countless possibilities. “What Next?” could also be the moment when your school starts sharing its experiences on various platforms such as at conferences and in journals.

Whatever shape “What next?” takes for you and your school, Manchidi urges you to be adaptable, saying:
If you start asking, as we did in the previous chapter, “How are we doing?”, then we need to stand ready and to attention [because] this questioning will inevitably start to open up the next thing on our agenda, and the next thing, and the next thing. Such examination forces us to look at the effectiveness of our programmes.

Always act with intent
This book creates an exciting opportunity for schools to become part of local, national and global social responsibility movements. But, says Manchidi, beware:
Be careful how you define the “why”. It is the foundation upon which your CSI initiatives will be built. The “why” is perhaps the most crucial element in building an effective CSI strategy. If you haven’t got this aspect right, then don’t read further.”

Category: Autumn 2019

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