No longer is CSI seen as a charitable donation, an enhanced corporate image, a tax write-off or a solution for the corporate conscience, but rather as contributing to the real needs of the community in which you operate. More sustainable growth could be delivered if management could see CSI as part of their strategic environment, contributing to real social development and economic progress.
A popular approach to CSI is mentoring – affording previously disadvantaged individuals the opportunity to develop skills and an understanding of how best to manage their careers, how their actions impact on their success and how to improve on the things they are good at, to grow and to make their mark in the world. Anyone can be a mentor – regardless of current position – as there is always someone who is less experienced or just starting out who is looking for guidance.
Konrad Laker, CEO of Gold Travel, believes that it is imperative for any business operating in South Africa to be a part of the solution and not the problem in contributing to Corporate Social Investment (CSI) and to look at other ways of giving back, and not necessarily just with the focus of improving your bottom line.
Under Laker’s guidance and support, young entrepreneur Tendai Chawasarira, a qualified Barista, was able to open his own coffee shop, Bean@Beuna, in their office block and he is enormously grateful for the opportunity. “I am able improve my skills and work experience, which has ignited my passion for coffee again; the ideas for a bigger menu are flowing, and with our client base growing I am about to hire extra staff.” The potential of uplifting the community has improved, and employee morale is also enhanced with the buy-in and support of everyone in the office and the corporate park.
Laker believes CSI is a give-and-take scenario – you give to plough back into the community and take to identify potential contributors for your own business, from a pool of beneficiaries. He is committed to spending more time on mentoring and once this model has proved to be working, would like to start using it as a template for other qualifying individuals.
Mentoring is an enriching process both for yourself and for the mentoree, as you will be making an important difference to someone else while at the same time refining some of your own personal and work practices – the gift that keeps on giving.