Collaborative CSR: When 1 + 1 = 3

Collaborative CSR: When 1 + 1 = 3

Research by David Hess, Nicolai Rogovsky and Thomas W. Dunfee suggests that companies are more likely to enjoy business benefits from corporate giving when they go beyond making cash donations to offering expertise, access to strategic knowledge and in-kind resources.

It is the corporate giving practitioner's nirvana when the work is done with partner companies that share a vision and corporate giving strategies. As an African proverb puts it: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."


Research by B Kogut and U Zander on company alliances in commercial landscapes shows that each party benefits when the other party brings resources, capabilities or other assets that it cannot easily furnish on its own. Clearly, there are great benefits for businesses to develop deeper, collaborative relationships with other businesses and non-government organisations (NGOs) for the purpose of CSR. In a research feature published in MIT Sloan Management Review, John A Pearce II and Jonathan P Doh examine how collaboration provides the best combination of social and strategic payoffs.


The outcome is clear: collaborative approach to CSR consistently outperforms other strategies. In their research, they have distilled five principles that are key to successful CSR collaboration:

  • Pursue a long-term, durable mission. Companies make the greatest social contribution when they identify an important, long-standing policy challenge and participate in its solution over the long term.
  • Leverage core capabilities. Companies maximise the benefits of their corporate contributions when they leverage core capabilities and contribute products and services that are based on expertise used in, or generated by, their normal operations.
  • Contribute specialised services to a a large-scale undertaking. Companies have the greatest social impact when they make specialised contributions to large-scale co-operative efforts.
  • Get government support. Having this for corporate participation in CSR can have a positive influence.
  • Assemble and value the total package of benefits. Companies gain the greatest benefits from their social contributions when they put a price on the total benefit package.

An example of a CSR project is "18 Days of Giving. A Lifetime of Caring", a collaborative initiative among the National Day Parade (NDP) 2018 organising committee, SG Cares and the Company of Good programme of the National Volunteer Philanthropy Centre (NVPC).

The initiative invited Singaporeans to celebrate the nation's birthday by giving back and caring for others in the community, and was supported by more than 100 corporates, public agencies and community groups who united for the common goal of giving back.

The initiative was originally a CSR initiative proposed by Design Prodigy, a data-driven digital marketing agency which I founded, and was pitched as my "moonshot" action project at the Company of Good Fellowship, a talent-development programme that empowers business professionals to give back, better. The idea came from what I learned at the Company of Good Fellowship, and was in part due to the desire for a platform to give all Fellows the opportunity to work together.

I was in the right groups at the right time. 18 Days of Giving took off in a big way when the pitch to the NDP organising committee, NVPC and SG Cares were successful. It was executed in months. Design Prodigy provided pro-bono cyber platform consulting for this initiative.

It was clear from the initiative that all collaborating parties were committed to the mission, with each contributing from their core strengths. Having the government support added credibility and helped with the successful execution of the campaign.

There are other successful examples of collaborative social responsibility from my peers at the Company of Good Fellowship. These are only possible because of the impeccable design of the training programme that helps us think about CSR more strategically.

More crucially, we see that we are but one part of a larger ecosystem. Working together amplifies our efforts and impact beyond our own capacities.

Jeanette Juay, director of marketing and communications in Deloitte Singapore, said the Company of Good Fellowship has sharpened the approach of the community giving programmes under Deloitte SG Cares, the corporate social responsibility arm of Deloitte Singapore. The knowledge shared during the Fellowship provided fresh perspectives on how to amplify our community efforts with like-minded individuals, non-profit groups and corporates.

Jason Chuei, head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Community Engagement for the Asia-Pacific in the Expedia Group, said CSR professionals have myriad responsibilities and skillset requirements - from events management and marketing to deep stakeholder management and partnership development, to team leadership, strategy and analytics. More often than not, they have limited resources to do good in this world.

Collaboration is thus key to driving change and creating multiplying effects for sustainable and positive impact in the communities we work in. Working with partners from the same industry can drive deep engagement and results in a particular vertical, while multi-functional and cross-industry expertise can build a holistic solution to societal needs.

Benjamin Chua, head of business development at cleaning-services company Spic & Span, said: "Spic & Span works with a number of VWOs (voluntary welfare organisations). We know the social workers and their client profiles. So when a Company of Good Fellow has something to offer, we share the resources and network. There is only so much we can do as a company. But when we work together for the social cause, we can have bigger social outreach, bigger social impact."

I encourage professionals and companies to reach out to each other to make our world a better place.

  • The writer is the founder and CEO of Design Prodigy, and part of the Company of Good Fellowship. He was voted Mr "Steady Pom Pi Pi" by his peers for being the most "collaborative" fellow.


Author: MARC GOH





All, 2018