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Fall 2012 Roundtable on Civil Society & Social Responsibility

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Maha Neouchy
November 19, 2012

During the Roundtable on Civil Society & Social Responsibility, TWC welcomed a special keynote speaker and 4 expert panelists to discuss the topic of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the role that it plays in civil society. The fall Roundtable focused on a range of partnerships and in-progress CSR initiatives to provide fall interns with the opportunity to become more aware and sensitive to the challenges facing our society at a community and global level. After the panel, fall interns joined the various experts, who represented all three sectors, for guided roundtable discussions exploring the evolving range of partnerships, alliances and collaborations impacting local, national and international priorities.

 

TWC Discusses the Meaning of a True Civil Society

 

Linda Cotton, TWC's Senior Director of Foundation Relations, introduced the main topic of the event: civil society. Fall interns learned that in the world of CSR, civil society is made up of partnerships between "the public, the private for-profit, and the private non-profit sectors in which each sector brings resources and expertise to a project or program trying to achieve a particular and shared goal." A concrete example of this type of effort was one made by Kaboom!, a non-profit organization based in D.C., which builds playgrounds in low-income neighborhoods. Ben & Jerry's developed a new ice cream flavor called KaBerry KaBOoM! Overall, sales of the limited edition ice cream flavor skyrocketed, enhancing the image of both Ben & Jerry's and Kaboom! while raising money for disadvantaged children.

 

Today, there are many issues and topics that corporations, non-profits, and governments entities are addressing within the realm of CSR including:

 

  1. Realization that the government cannot be the sole problem solver, which has triggered a very massive movement of social functions from federal level to the local level and from the public sector to the private sectors
  2. Mandate for fiscal austerity and a balanced budget
  3. Magnitude of social and economic changes around the world
  4. Multitude of positive payoffs for companies, foundations and nonprofits that partner to solve problems

Keynote Speaker

 

Kelly Eaton, TWC's Chief Academic Officer and moderator of the event, introduced Suzanne Basalla, featured keynote speaker and Executive Vice President of the TOMODACHI Initiative. From March 2010 to September 2012, Suzanne served as a senior advisor to Ambassador Roos in the U.S.-Embassy in Tokyo. She has been involved in the creation and development of the TOMODACHI Initiative, a public-private partnership established in cooperation with the U.S.-Japan Council, created as a result of the Japanese "mega-disaster inflicted by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster." Although the U.S. was able to step up and provide a lot of temporary relief, there was a need in Japan for something much more long-term. That is when Suzanna Basalla and her colleagues reached out to the U.S.-Japan Council to lay the groundwork for what would eventually become the TOMODACHI Initiative. Through a network of government officials, the media and corporate leaders, both countries realized the importance of investing in one specific area: programming for the next generation of young people.

 

Today, the TOMODACHI Initiative has become a public-private partnership between the U.S. government and the U.S-Japan Council, which focuses their programming and funding on three categories including:

 

  1. Education and Academic Programs
  2. Cultural Programs
  3. Entrepreneurship and Leadership Programs

Symposium Panelists

 

5 panelists, including Suzanna Basalla, were invited to speak at the Symposium. Each panelist has been involved in a distinct kind of partnership within the nonprofit, corporate or federal sector and provided a brief introduction of what they did in the past and currently:

 

Herbert R. Tillery, Executive Director, College Success Foundation

 

  • Main Role: Providing leadership in the establishment, development and management of all aspects of the DC Achievers Scholarship Program

Matthew Blakely, Director, Motorola Solutions Foundation

 

  • Main Role: Directing foundation grants, business contributions, employee volunteerism and engagement

Jessie MacKinnon, Chief Operating Officer, National Youth Transition Center

Vice President, Programs & Partnerships, The HSC Foundation

 

  • Main role: program and partnership development as well as directing the grants program for The HSC Foundation

Donna Woodall, Citizenship Director, Microsoft Corporation

 

  • Main Role: Developing the citizenship strategy and driving local corporate social responsibility programs for major markets on the East Coast

Q&A Forum

 

Samantha Lane, International Affairs intern and student at the University of Cincinnati, directed her question to the panel: "Can you speak about the differences between the non-profit and private sector?"

 

Herb: I've been in a military academic environment and I've also been a deputy mayor, so I've served in the local government and I am currently in a nonprofit. I find that my time in the nonprofit world is the most rewarding and probably the least personally profitable. You tend to find people in nonprofits that are doing it because they are passionate and trying to help others, not for their own personal advancement. You balance whether you want more money or whether you want to help others. That's the major difference that I've noticed. For private sector jobs, it tends to be more personal while nonprofit is more passionate and about giving.

 

Matt: It used to be that the corporate sector was much more rigid and your skills tended to be based on your technical skills and background. Now the corporate sector is changing, they're recognizing that people, power and the ability to think outside of the box is so much more important, especially as you develop processes, programs and solutions to very complex problems. The non-profit sector has always kind of realized that. The NGO sector never sunk a lot of money into their infrastructure but rather into their people. Now non-profits are waking up to cheaper infrastructures and ways to get the word out. And the private and non-profit sectors are almost converging, so while there are still some differences, it's more about the person and their ability to learn rather than do they have skill x, y or z.

 

Donna: I've never worked in a non-profit environment before but I work with non-profits every day. I do think lines are blurring and there is more philanthropy and CSR for corporations. We feel it's our responsibility to do more and do better in the communities where we live.

 

Anisha Sequeira, Ford Motor Company Global Scholars intern and student at the Loyola Institute of Business Administration, directed her question towards Herb Tillery: "If you don't measure potential of children on grades, what do you measure it on?"

 

Herb: We measure it on their non-cognitive skills and the ability to handle difficult situations. Perseverance, grit, how they process and think through an issue, leadership skills, networking skills, all skills that would help you to succeed in college if you had the right academic remediation. We measure that and then put them through summer academic enrichment that immerses them in improving their English skills, math skills, financial literacy skills and financial skills. Then we work with them through college and look for universities around the country that have similar support systems in place to help them work through difficult courses.

 

Megan Currier, Law and Criminal Justice intern and student at the University of New Hampshire, directed her question to the panel, asking about the recent economic downturn in last 5 years and how it has impacted corporate giving: "Has it been more of a strategic based effect where funding and giving has become more agenda-based?"

 

Donna: It has absolutely impacted how we manage corporate giving. Not that we're doing less but in lieu of cash we're finding other ways to give. We tend to give back in time or by donating software.

 

Herb: There has been an Increase in the accountability of funds. In the past some funders would provide money because corporations or foundations felt it was a good cause. Now there has been an increase in measuring the return in investment, which is great for the nonprofit community.

 

Jessie: From a foundation perspective, we don't award any more grants unless its collaborative.

 

Matt: For us, because we have a foundation that was invested conservatively, we were able to maintain giving despite the downturn. A lot of private foundations were not able to do that. We are combining cash, giving with in-kind donations, employees volunteerism and talents of employees to assist the NGO sector.

 

Jean Storsberg, Advocacy, Service and Arts intern and student at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, directed her questions towards the entire panel" Can you provide more insight on how you create partnerships, how you get in touch with each other, what's your first step in general?"

 

Jessie: As a foundation, we have an advantage because we give grants. We work with potential partners for one, two or three years before we decide whether they will be a vital member of the national youth transition collaborative. People have often asked me how we know if an organization will be a good partner. We actually have the advantage because we work with them in small ways. If they don't return phone calls in a timely manner or receive a small grant but cannot report on it, they are gone.

 

Herb: My first thing is Google. I search for the education folks in DC. I look for what pops up and start doing research: who's on the board, their reputation, etc.

 

Matt: Any number of ways. Our employees will suggest NGOs to partner with, my team will stumble across teams, and we measure their qualifications based off of giving guidelines. But they probably did exactly what Herb did and googled the organizations, networks and corporations.

 

Suzanna: One of the large advantages is the U.S. Embassy. Both during a crisis and after a crisis, people come to us and ask how they can help. There is a process of vetting to ensure that you have good partners. We also had the support of both the U.S. and Japanese governments. Because both governments put their backing behind the TOMODACHI initiative, people can see credibility and put their confidence in the mission.

 

[View photos of the event on our Flickr channel]

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