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Imagine a country with no working telephone infrastructure, completely skipping the 20th century's land-line telecommunication stage and jumping straight into the 21st century's world of smartphone and mobile communications. This is Myanmar.
To gather intelligence from these massive streams of data that are now informing public policy, public health, and government, Myanmar is working with the data visualization company, Tableau, to leverage Tableau's employee knowledge and data visualization power, harness this mobile data, illuminate new findings, and improve the social welfare of its citizens.
Around the world, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) teams like Tableau's are taking the lead, uniquely positioned to bring their company's products, agility, volunteering, and employee knowledge to address the social challenges of our time.
Corporate Social Responsibility first grew in prominence in the 1960s and emerged as corporations sought to demonstrate their commitment to social good (as well as the bottom line) and back up this commitment with programs specifically designed to serve society. Today, CSR programs at leading technology companies reflect the diversity, agility, and innovation seen in the larger sector.
CSR programs include employee giving, donation matching programs, STEM outreach, youth outreach and hubs, security awareness, and product donations, to name but a few. Come explore the work of some of TechSoup's more recent CSR partners:
At Box, the CSR program resides under Box.org. Box is seeing more and more grassroots organizing for community good by its employees. As a result, Box has recently put more infrastructure in place, including an employee leadership committee at all of its offices and employees portals (VolunteerMatch for volunteering and Bright Funds for giving). At the core level, the Box CSR program allows organizations to become more efficient and effective in the areas of resource generation, program execution, and administration.
In Myanmar, Tableau has worked in partnership with the Myanmar Book Aid and Preservation Foundation, which supports thousands of libraries around the country. Libraries have become places in communities where the people of Myanmar learn about civil society and technology.
As Myanmar has emerged from several decades of military rule, the program has centered on building the local capacity to analyze and use the data for tackling Myanmar's challenges. The project partners are the Myanmar Book Aid and Preservation Foundation (MBAPF), Enlightened Myanmar Research (EMR), and the University of Washington. Together with Tableau's CSR team, a unique collaborative approach is being developed and is being applied in other regions and countries.
A collaborative approach is also found in the Refurbished Computer Initiative (RCI), which recycles and distributes donated computing equipment. Begun by TechSoup, the program's recent donors include Blackbaud, Symantec, The Nielsen Company, SingleHop, and Dolby Laboratories. Each of these companies has donated their used but useful IT equipment to TechSoup so that it can go to charities and libraries across the country, a collaborative, environmentally conscious effort that serves the larger nonprofit sector.
Gayle Carpentier, TechSoup chief business officer shared, "The vast majority of CSR teams come to TechSoup to expand both their capacity and reach of their programs. Without having to add a single staff member or take on extensive marketing and other outreach, they can leverage TechSoup's services to make sure their CSR goals and initiatives have the greatest impact across the widest possible nonprofit and charity audience."
Bryan Breckenridge, executive director of Box.org, shared that companies are well-suited to keep their CSR programs aligned with the technology they offer. As collaboration becomes a key to success, a need arises for continued, greater, in-depth communication amongst nonprofits, tech companies, funders, and recipients.
Bryan added the importance of convening as much as possible and finding a common language, because "as tech fluency lifts … so too will the effectiveness and efficiency [that] nonprofits can realize, which will positively impact their ability to generate, scale, and maintain the creation of impact."
If those leaders committed to CSR rededicate themselves to further collaboration and communication and to a search for this common language, it is clear that a period of robust, dynamic CSR activities, fueled by new technologies, will be limited only by our imagination.
Tomorrow at 10 a.m. Pacific time, we'll be exploring the partnership between CSR, technology, nonprofits, and civil society. Join us on Twitter at #NPTechChat.
Image 1: Beyond Access / CC BY-SA
Image 2: Beyond Access / CC BY-SA
Image 3: Beyond Access / CC BY-SA
Lewis Haidt Senior Manager, TechSoup Online Community and Social Media @lewisha
Nice piece, team! Box.org was happy to share our views for it. :)! Bry
As an aid worker, I've seen first hand the impact CSR initiatives can have in developing countries. Yes, it can be very positive. But one of my frustrations is how hard it is to get companies to *collaborate*, rather than just say, "Here we are, and here's what we think you need, so here's what we're going to do." Trying to get various businesses to understand the implications of tech use for women, for instance - it could avoid a lot of issues later if companies would sit down with various stakeholders and find out more about the culture, political landscape, and other challenges. Also, it's frustrating that so many CSR initiatives won't talk about FOSS options. Another frustration are events like hackathons, where lots of apps are developed to help people in the developing country - yet, months later, the apps aren't actually being used. I'd like to see a lot more evaluation of these tech projects six month and a year down the road - as much evaluation as press coverage of the launches. Again, I think CSR is great, I'm a fan, I love them - but I'd like to see tech companies do a lot more *listening* before they launch their initiatives.
Bryan, thanks for insights into Box.
Jayne, it is critical to hear the experience of aid workers on the ground. With social media, there's certainly a better chance that CSR will listen more, as there is a cost/risk if they don't.
The FOSS is obviously mixed for CSR, in the sense that some FOSS tools may directly compete with proprietary ones. So here, it's probably most realistic that non-tech CSR programs and the Foundation world be encouraged to consider FOSS more.
Overall, your point about listening more to the needs is huge. Thanks for sharing.
Nice to see this article on some fine product solutions from TechSoup and our partners. See what the community is saying about Tableau and join the conversation forums.techsoup.org/.../37455.aspx and check out our SoupChat with Box.org from earlier this year forums.techsoup.org/.../40159.aspx - lots of great info from the Box team!
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