How can companies today express solidarity with local communities and NGOs in practical ways? What forms can this commitment take at grassroots level? To find out, we visited India, South Africa and USA.
“COMPANIES ARE KEY PARTNERS IN LOCAL DEVELOPMENT THROUGH THE GRASSROOTS SUPPORT THEY PROVIDE FOR COMMUNITIES AND NON-PROFITS.”
“By working together, non-profits, local communities and companies can succeed in some of the major challenges facing humanity; challenges such as employment insecurity and professional integration of young people without training or jobs. Companies have the ability to help non-profits raise their game: they understand the areas we operate in, since these are their markets, they have links to key players in the ecosystem and are committed to implementing long-term activities. To scale up the impact of our operations by a factor of ten, the challenge is to build win-win partnerships with companies as equals. Non-profits and companies identify those things they have in common - such as a geographic area or sector - and things that have the potential to unite them over time, such as a convergent strategy that could include winning new markets for the company or reaching more people for the non-profit. Because their expertise and understanding of local development issues are complementary, they need each other to move forward. So, for example, the company could give its people the opportunity to get involved with a meaningful initiative, while the non-profit could gain access to the technical and specialist skills at work in an expanding business sector. Financial support remains crucial, because it provides the leverage needed to access a wider range of funding options. But companies have other opportunities to take action that are equally powerful. This puts them in a position to innovate and take more risks by committing themselves from the pilot phase onwards, as the Bonduelle Group has done by working with us to co-construct a highly innovative partnership in Cameroon, one of its major producing countries. Entirely focused on creating value locally, this initiative has opened up new opportunities for small farmers by enabling them to develop a short supply chain. As well as initiatives like this, the expertise available in companies is a guarantee of strict standards and professionalism for non-profits, while their high profile makes it easier to involve other key stakeholders. So if we are to succeed in the huge challenges we now face, connecting non-profits, companies and local communities remains a major issue, because it is crucial that we get to know and understand each other better.”