Nagrik Dialogue

CSR Changemakers Series – Asim Khan Interview with Nagrik Dialogue

As we read CSR Leaders #ChangeMakerscontinue their work throughout the country, to assist those needing immediate relief and support during the current pandemic .

  • What is CSR for you & how has it changed post Covid .

CSR for me has been the platform where Corporate and CSOs can learn from each other ,work together for the betterment of the society. CSR for me has been the transition from pure Charity/Philanthropy to strategic intervention which helps the underprivileged in the long run .

For last over 15 months the professionals in the sector haven’t been able to meet physically which seems to have affected the work on ground .All these factors have impacted in exploring new partnerships ,new interventions in the sector.

  • How do you think your work is impacting lives.

As mentioned earlier, CSR has helped people think beyond quick/short-term Charitable/Philanthropic actions , they are now moving towards long-term interventions to help the society. ThoughI realise the importance of quick short-term interventions when needed in such times but on a more sustainable level, strategic CSR would always serve better .

  • How do you see future CSR projects unfolding ,what will be key theme priorities .

Uncertainty loops large over this question. There is only one certainty that there is no certainty. It’s like you just can’t commit to a long term plan due to Covid.

I guess for the sector at large, healthcare would be a boom at least for the next couple of years, both CSO and Corporates will be comfortable in doing the same. But I am just worried about the CSO staff members ,volunteers &experts in thematic areas, if all this can be done virtually then still a chance but otherwise onemust think upon how they can contribute on ground and justify safety of staff on ground which is a huge challenge .

  • Your learnings in the CSR landscape which you would like to share with readers .

CSR has opened doors for people from the academic Social Work background to enter the corporate sector without changing their domain and making their presence felt on ground .

As a social work student (before the CSR law came in), we were always taught to work in NGOs and our course curriculum/field work/internships where designed accordingly. But post the law, we have got an opportunity to work in corporate which is altogether a different work space and culture.So now, the horizon is slightly widened and one can work across sectors like telecom, I.T. , hospitality etc.

I also got to learn how the Corporate sector perceives the NGO sector and its work. The idea is to also become a bridge so that the NGOs can learn from corporate and vice-versa so that the perceptions can break, and we can come together for the larger social good.

  • Your suggestions how sector can look up to improve .

I still feel that for CSR it is still early days. With the recent amendments coming in, I am hopeful that many corporates will step-up and start getting involved in their CSR activities and promote strategic interventions rather than pampering egos of a few. Many grassroot NGOs have to step-up in terms of compliance & reporting. Taking into account the COVID factor, it would be a challenge to implement non-healthcare related projects on the ground as we may experience the start and stop mode throughout this financial year and may be the next one too, so we should make our project plans accordingly.

  • What are your key learnings from the COVID-19 crisis, both from a business and social perspective .

This is certainly a unique situation and probably the world has never seen such a phase. My key learningshave been change of mindset of people now its no more free project site movements but with all safety measures& precautions also maintaining contact with ground via our partners. My constant endeavor during this phase has been to virtually remain in contact with the project communities we serve in the era of social distancing .

Talking about our sector, I think Covid prompted many of us to think about our project interventions in a much more innovative ways .

  • In light of social distancing and remote work, what tools or practices you plan to implement to make sure ground work is smooth and communities are supported well.

Even during the era of social distancing and remote work, thumb rule remains the same i.e. you need to communicate and build rapport with stake holders ,beneficiaries  even though the medium of communication has changed .

  • What kind of NGOs would you prefer to work with.

Many NGOs (if not all) have the temptation of implementing diverse thematic projects on ground. But I would prefer to work with NGOs who work on a specific theme in multiple ways.

  • Is there possible collaborations you look at in future with like-minded corporates for more impact, more scale to also avoid duplication of efforts on ground.

I have always liked the idea of consortium projects. It certainly helps scale the project and there is value add by different project staff of the implementing agencies also their core theme expertise . Many corporates do work together for business related work, then why not CSR?

  • Brief comments on the new CSR amendments.

It is comprehensive but requires clarification on certain points and some points should be relaxed keeping in mind the pandemic situation and the uncertainty over project timelines .

  • What’s one thing that’s key to your leadership success .

Making short term goals and fully committing to it .To identify and build more leaders around me .

  • What impact has COVID-19 had on the CSR landscape, and what is the forecast for 2021-22 also likely themes focus .

Post Covid, the focus has shifted to projects which can be done virtually (to be on the safe side) and projects that are focused on Healthcare (Covid relief) to be precise which certainly impacts the other thematic areas.

Forecast for 2021-22: I was hopeful that things would slightly come on track in FY 21-22 but due to this so called ‘2nd wave has impacted timelines , there is a lot of uncertainty over timelines not only because of the lockdown but also because many staff members all over are being effected from the virus due to which the project suffers on ground too.Fingers crossed for forthcoming 3rd wave impacts so many corporate in the industry are following the wait and watch policy.

However, I believe that the need of the hour is to continue supporting the projects if they are functional instead of diverting all the funds to healthcare .

  • How does this role excite you .

As a CSR professional in the corporate sector you get to interact and learn from the top leadership of the company, I think that’s a huge opportunity to grow while working for the betterment of the society remains imperative in the roleand be part of the larger social good .

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Nagrik Dialogue is the face of Nagrik Foundation’s communication skills that comes in the form of a monthly magazine. It will work as a bridge for those working at the grass roots level and those who support them in any form and manner.