Measurable Value Key To Business’ Sustained Participation In Social Objectives
By Ajay Ohri
“Social welfare initiatives that try and involve the private sector need to look into analyzing cultural concerns from the business.”
“We can send a mission to Mars and the Moon. Why can’t we send people to our villages though a more scientific approach.”
Businesses come from a culture of transparent spending, actionable metrics, responsibility for nonaction and focus on the return of investment. Social welfare initiatives that try and involve the private sector need to look into analyzing cultural concerns from the business. Economic objectives and social objectives’ alignment are a secondary phase. The first phase has to be defined metrics for social initiatives, the creation of data for social initiatives return on time, and tracking those metrics across time. Peter Drucker (Management consultant and author) said: “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Do the recent comparative announcements in corporate social responsibility (CSR) take into account cultural differences in metrics between non-government organizations (NGOs) and companies? Every CSR director has to report results to their funders, the shareholders and every NGO has to be transparent on value created per rupee by aid donor.
The following things can help align social objectives of social welfare organizations with economic objectives of participating private businesses.
- Technology Enabled Transparency- Technology can help with transparency on how funds are being spent, and how much actual effectiveness is being achieved on the ground. Smartphone apps that are customized for social welfare organizations can help with both field tracking of social workers as well as help move to a paperless way of capturing data. Data quality is further enhanced by cross referencing with GIS (geographic information system) data capture. Is it possible to connect fund givers to fund spenders in the field through the internet and social media without interference from the middle layer of NGOs or aid agencies? More transparency thanks to technology can also help lift the cynicism that accompanies mass philanthropy in India and can also enable the middle class to start participating in social initiatives.
- Video can be a low-cost solution to help with transparency, messaging and data capture too. This is due to higher penetration of mobiles and smartphones. It can help with creating powerful imagery for ground realities for social welfare intervention as well as a test control case for effectiveness post-versus–pre-intervention. Mobile remains an underutilized marketing channel for social welfare organizations.
- Internet of Things for automated capture, remote monitoring and transmission of data. It can be used for aligning the Make In India, the Digital India, and the Swach Bharat campaigns. Sensors can help capture data for monitoring sanitation, ground, and air quality, and usage of portable toilets. Using the internet, these logs can be transmitted and analyzed for actual remote monitoring and analysis.
- Portals For Volunteers to increase involvement. Instead of centralizing social initiatives through CSR departments of corporates or through NGOs, a portal for causes can increase volunteer participation and morale by aligning people to causes. For this a database of NGO’s and causes and geographies has to be made online, the digital experience needs to be seamless and social media needs to be enrolled for slick marketing and branding. Peer to peer social welfare projects has much better chances of high involvement success. Here the focus should be to minimize the time overhead for a private person to get involved in social welfare projects. Time is money. If a person says I have two hours per week to give to social welfare and that is all I can spare based on my job and my family life, the digital portals should help find a cause and social organization close to his place of residence minimizing his time costs. Connecting volunteers to welfare recipients through The Internet – is it possible?
- Making Connections Between Social And Economic Metrics- Peter Drucker also said, “If you cannot measure it you cannot manage it.” Translating social objectives into social metrics that can be translated to economic metrics and economic objectives can help manage the inherent tension between profit maximization and welfare maximization. The following connections need to be made-
- a) Connecting Disease to Health Care /Sanitation and Productivity to Disease – What is the level of sanitation in an area? What is the level of healthcare in an area? How can we correlate this mathematically to the level of disease in an area? What is the cost to the economy due to lost productivity through disease in an area?
- b) Connecting Education to Employment and then Economic Productivity to Skills – What is the level of education in an area regarding quantity and quality of skills imparted? What can we do through online education for increasing education quality? How can we correlate spend on education to education quality in an area? What is the benefit of a better-educated workforce economically?
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Good intentions alone have failed to lift hundreds of millions of poverty-stricken people from India. We can send a mission to Mars and the Moon. Why can’t we send people to our villages though a more scientific approach? The struggle between aligning social objectives to economic objectives is best done through a technology-enabled, metrics driven analytical approach. Perhaps technology can help Narendra Modi (Indian Prime Minister) succeed where Jawaharlal Nehru (India’s first Prime Minister) failed.
The author is a data scientist with expertise in R Python and SAS languages.