Perspective is Everything
Perspective is Everything
It is inevitable that we are biased by our experiences, passions and interests. This week we will write a series of Blogs identifying how that plays out in the world of CSR, Community Development and Leadership Development – the three core areas of The Acacia Group.
Let’s start with this little exercise…go on, humor me. Look at the ceiling, now with your right arm – draw a circle in the air – your arm must move in a clockwise direction. Now….while your arm is moving, slowly lower it and keep making circles until your hand is below your knees. Your arm is now moving in a counter clockwise direction. You would have bet a lot of money that your arm was moving clockwise…this was your truth. I think it was an article in Fast Company years ago that stated…”We all fall in love with the things we think are true”. This simple act illustrates the value of perspective – your hand does not change direction of course...your view does. First you look at it from below and then from above. Same movement – different view.
How Bias Plays Out with CSR
First of all, let’s be clear the bias from a company exists…it is bound to. Fritz Redl a prominent psycho-educator commented on the “value system that oozes from our pores”. Our speech, our manner of dress, our offices, are all manifestations of our respective value systems, and by default you will judge those who are different from you in some way and vice versa. So, understanding this when speaking to an NGO that you wish to do business with is a key factor for success. Let’s list some fundamental, but sometimes overlooked, aspects of establishing the connection between
Understand that your need is not their need
Just because you have the desire and the resources to contribute does not mean that you understand how to create the biggest impact. Showing up to a program with a pre-conceived solution to an ill informed notion of a problem is a sure way to create a gap between the NGO, the end beneficiaries and your own organization. Such an approach can breed hostility and resentment and can sabotage a potentially positive relationship. So…..
Understand that the time lines are different
Business thinking has to be adjustable, responsive and at times quick to respond to environmental events. Programs that focus on the environment and social change require a great deal of time and commitment to create the change. – Be aware of your time horizon and how that meshes with the needs of the organization you are wishing to work with. If you are looking for a quick win, declare that, but also understand that effective CSR is about strategic alignment of all programs and is not just about a dose of reputation management or good PR. NGO’s are more likely to engage with you and take you seriously if you can illustrate a longer term commitment of ideas and resources. So….
Be Prepared to Invest in Relationships
Increasingly post-modern organizations are wising up to the idea that business is better through the development of relationships. The time commitment allows you to actually create chemistry with your prospective NGO or community partner and allows them to get to know you too. (It also allows them to rid themselves of their biases of you). So…
CSR is still a business proposition, (yes, it may make you feel good) but the need for clarity of roles and outcomes is fundamentally important. The NGO or community probably does not want to be part of an unhealthy dependency on the work that is being discussed, and you should not end up being responsible for the success or failure of that particular NGO. In sum, make the implicit-explicit.
Perhaps the biggest bias of all is that organizations wishing to grow their CSR presence may perceive that they are the driver in the relationship. New CSR is shifting this however, and in reality the for-profit corporation may need alignment with anl NGO more than the NGO does. The power imbalance is disappearing and organizations seeking to jump on the CSR bandwagon would do well to check their ego and biases at the door.